This series of photos was taken in and around Vancouver over the last two years. Filtered from over two hundred images, I selected these as the core of an exhibition I called "Development: A Pedestrian View", my first solo showing of photographic works which was mounted at Britannia Art Gallery in January 2010.
Statement and Photos by aXo
Upon reflection, I can trace the impetus for this project to a few winter nights in the 1990s when I found myself traversing the newly burgeoning highrise enclaves of Yaletown and Coal Harbour. A long-time pedestrian, it's always been my habit to wander in areas that are at the margins of the functional. It would likely be impossible to disentangle the personal from the social in an analysis of the impressions I received on those occasions. I sensed that these places were speaking to me in their stillness; hinting at the future, as it were.
Around that time, I had purchased my first digital camera for business purposes and began to photograph features of the city that seemed to be addressing me in this newly discovered language. In retrospect, I realize that this language had already been propagated throughout large areas of the world, and especially in the United States, for the last hundred years. My own familiarity with it was a convergence of time and place. Upon reviewing these first attempts to capture something of the dialogue that had begun, I was struck by the potential of the still image to translate the conversation. The photos were not beautiful, nor technically sound, but the ideas were intact. As I began to delve into the history of art photography, I discovered numerous works that contained similar nuances, and though this laid bare the unoriginality of the concept, it at the same time validated it.
Flash forward to the successful bid for Vancouver to host the 2010 Winter Olympics. Mega Projects were rolled out, one after another, and the real estate market morphed into an insatiable creature. More and more, I found the impositions of development confronting me around every corner, in every last marginal space in the city. The private organization of public spaces became ubiquitous and an iconography emerged: massive excavations that transformed views and devoured entire blocks of the past; clusters of tower cranes with their sweeping jibs; a million miles of portable fencing, cajoling and imposing an ordered movement; traffic cones and signs littering every major street in the city.
This constant bombardment by the work of architects and engineers led me to wonder how others were perceiving the same stimulii. Did they gape in wonder at the splendid progress of the city, or did they sense a disconnect that heightened their own insecurities regarding place and survival? Were they content to have their passage through the city confounded and constrained by the numerous construction zones, or did they maintain a silent contempt for the activity as an exploitation of civic life for private profits? Could one be oblivious to these encounters, or was the subliminal effect powerful enough to penetrate the subconscious of any bystander?
- has spent the last twenty years enjoying the local art scene both as participant and patron. He has experimented with many mediums, but believes photography most suits his nature. Taking the stance of a photo-flaneur, he conducts psychogeographic dérives during which he attempts to unveil visual subtexts within both urbanism and suburbanism. These activities have also lead him into the worlds of urbex and interventionist street art. Deeply influenced by the history and philosophy of photography, he mingles contemporary aesthetic concerns with cues from the mediums past in a documentary style that is guided by his humanism. You can see more of his work here.
Since last summer, Vancouver has been home to three performance artists who call themselves The Miss Guides
- Natalie, Katherine, and Sean, also known as Dorian, anna swede, and Kidskid – have been using the downtown streets of Vancouver as their canvas, with the city's storeys and their stories as their inspiration. Not to be confused with other walking tours, architectural or otherwise, regularly put on by the likes of the Gastown Business Improvement Society
and Architecture Institute of B.C.
, a walk with The Miss Guides is a strolling theatre, an insightful performance of wit and revelation, with surprises for both the tourist and local alike.
Review by Sean Ruthen, re:place magazine
As a part of the Cultural Olympiad
for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, this trio of former VAG guides now turned performance artists have delivered to us another clever romp through Vancouver’s urban scenography. Much in the same spirit as last year’s Walking the Ruins: Fragments of Vancouver
(and reviewed by re:place magazine here
), GOLD RUSH! Art, Bars, and Speculation
is a sequel to their former walk through Gastown, as we are led through the vanished meadows next to Maple Tree Square, regaled with stories of Gassy Jack
(and Blood Alley
), and led by the now sanitized Pigeon Park. Further on we visited Woodwards and Victory Square, reminded all the while that it was gold that paved the streets - or at least paid for the cobblestones. TMG are not without some subtle irony, as Team Canada likewise was on its quest for gold during the Olympics, and would strike it rich as it turns out.
This time out, however, our destinations were not as obvious as before, as the previous walk featured visits to the observation deck of the Harbourfront Centre and the Steam Clock. This time it is a clever behind-the-scenes bricolage, visiting one art gallery (W2
) and another soon to be art gallery, as well as a visit to a stunning new artwork in an equally as impressive new public plaza on Hastings Street. If a soundtrack could accompany the Miss Guides walk, it most certainly would be the Wizard of Oz, as the song Somewhere Over the Rainbow
is suggested to represent the hope of our destitute DTES
. Scrubbed clean for the Olympics, Carrall and Hastings are a strange tourist destination for a visitor on any day, existential or otherwise, but as it turned out during the Olympics (and in the evening to boot), not as unnerving as I though it might.
With a bibliography this time including Italo Calvino
and a citation from a 2009 National Geographic article entitled “The Price of Gold”, the Guides’ collage of modern and historic walking tours ranges from those most likely used by the Canadian Pacific Railway officials in the 1870’s to show around British land speculators, to current tours being given to Olympic officials and delegates. The performance this time out requires the added coordination of a narrative collage fed through each participant's headsets during the walk. This served the important distinction of demarcating the group as an exclusive entity moving through the streets, discouraging panhandlers as we appeared ‘tuned out’ from the streetscape. The narratives themselves provided an audible palimpsest
to the city’s visual imagery, featuring dialogue by the likes of Stephen Colbert and Colin Hansen.
Two elements of GOLD RUSH stand out - the first is the aforementioned visit to the new artwork in Woodwards, the second being a visit to a printing press in one of the backrooms of the W2 gallery on Hastings Street. If last year’s Walking the Ruins
was an epic poem, this year’s offering is an existential aphorism, like Nietzsche’s madman running through the streets, it is a wake-up call for those who have never seen life the way it is exhibited on the curbs of the Downtown Eastside. We are at once confronted with the city’s ghosts of the past, as represented by Gassy Jack and the cenotaph of Victory Square, along with the modern tragedy that is Hastings and Main, complete with homelessness and closed up businesses.
The artwork in question is of course the photo mural by Stan Douglas
in the atrium of the newly opened Woodwards
development, itself a symbol for the hopeful rebirth of the DTES. Nesters is back alongside a new London Drugs and the Arts Department of SFU, with the centerpiece belonging to Douglas’ masterpiece. The choice for Douglas to make this contribution was a no-brainer for those who know the sad story of the forlorn block adjacent to the long abandoned Woodwards. His Every Building on 100 West Hastings
, also the subject of a book of the same name, was a watershed moment for the area, as the world bore witness to the devastation, social and otherwise, the closing of that department store had meant for the neighbouring buildings.
His impossible and literal photo montage of every building on the south side of the 100 block of Hastings Street, on display for a brief time at the CAG
, and the resulting discussion that ensued, would become one of the many contributing voices needed to realize the new development, and hence the relevance of his contribution to the building’s great entry hall. For the mural’s subject matter, entitled A Night to Remember (or Forget)
, he has chosen the Gastown Riots
that took place in 1971, an instance of local insurrection not unlike the Post Office Riots in 1938, otherwise known as Bloody Sunday
, which the Miss Guides featured in their Ruins
walk. Another coincidence is that part of the GOLD RUSH tour is to visit the upper floor spaces of the one of the building’s featured in Douglas' Every Building on 100 West Hastings
mural. Perhaps one of the most compelling images along the tour, the group visits a gallery in which, using the wizardry of digital projection technology, the Guides have lit the second and third floors of the building on fire.
Other highlights of the tour include the demonstration of an old printing press, a stop for tea in the bays of the old streetcar station at the corner of Carrall and Hastings, and a visit to a to-be-revealed location that provides the tour’s anchor to Gassy Jack and his old saloon ‘The Globe’. The headsets are a clever addition this time around, as the audio- imagery fills the gap between the tour’s stops. And the trips into the buildings, rather than just stopping in front to talk about them, elevates the performance to one of engagement with the environment, enabling us to literally enter into one of the abandoned storefronts in Douglas’ photo mural.
With tours running during the Winter Olympics in February, they are also offering them during the Paralympic Games, though unfortunately they have now all been sold out. Not to fear though, as they are sure to return post-Olympics to give us another chapter of their thoughtful and unique performance art.
For more information on The Miss Guides, visit their website
By Sean Ruthen
Sean Ruthen is an architect living, working, and writing in Vancouver.
[caption id="attachment_7008" align="alignleft" width="269" caption="AGO stair overlooking Grange Park"]
With the recent reopening of the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, along with a newly renovated Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton, re:place
contributor Sean Ruthen ponders the role of the art gallery in the city, as well as the future of our own Vancouver Art Gallery here in the Lower Mainland.
Photos and text by Sean Ruthen
In April of last year, people in Toronto lined up for three consecutive days to be the first to see the newly reopened Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)
. The seven year project was the vision of the late Kenneth Thompson, a prominent Toronto businessman and gallery supporter, as well as gallery CEO Matthew Teitelbaum and architect Frank Gehry
, and with the cutting of the ribbon, the $276 million renovation added nearly one hundred thousand square feet to this 100 year old gallery. With a similar project currently set to open in Edmonton - the Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA)
underwent a two year renovation by architect Randall Stout
(coincidentally a former architect at Frank Gehry’s office), adding 85,000 square feet to their existing gallery for the much more modest sum of $88 million - it would seem that many cities across Canada are renovating their ‘cultural infrastructure’, as we here in Vancouver will likewise soon see a major renovation of our art gallery.
But it is without question Toronto that has been the tour de force in its unbridled drive to upgrade its civic infrastructure. In January 2006, I wrote a short essay
on some then new buildings underway in Toronto, including Daniel Libeskind‘s ROM
and Frank Gehry’s AGO additions. I had just visited Will Alsop’s new OCAD
expansion, and was astonished to learn how this was the first of about eight or nine other projects that were underway in the city at that time, including a new performing arts centre, a refurbished ballet school, a museum of ceramic arts, and a good dusting off of the old city hall. Even more projects included a new Times Square-like plaza - Dundas Square
- at the intersection of Dundas St. and Yonge St., as well additions to the University of Toronto.
With the doors again open at the AGO, it is perhaps an ideal moment to survey the results of this flurry of activity in Canada’s largest other-English speaking city, as well as what it means for the identity of that city. We, in the west, have also seen quite a few new buildings built, with a long construction boom that saw a new trade and convention centre constructed, as well as a new LEED friendly community for the Olympic athletes, to name but two projects of several. This has been an unprecedented time for civic and cultural building in both Canada’s east and west at the same time, much as it has been for the rest of the world, including Beijing’s three-ring architectural circus for their summer Olympics, the newly opened CityCenter
project in Las Vegas, and of course, the Burj Dubai, recently renamed the Burj Khalifa
With Christopher Hawthorne of the LA Times already having written
a wickedly sardonic piece on the recent opening of the 2683 foot high structure in Dubai, it is left to ponder how this new unbelievable building height, 1000 feet higher than the last record holder, compares with the depth of the longest drill mankind has created to get the oil that has paid for it. The Burj Khalifa is the yin to the yang of the ‘Bilbao Effect’
, i.e. quantity over quality. And so with the question of quantity definitively answered (insert thunderclap here), it is to back to quality that we must look – most notably to our cultural institutions - to respond if not in perhaps such as overzealous a way as Bilbao, most certainly to demonstrate that architecture can still walk soft and carry a big stick.
[caption id="attachment_6997" align="alignleft" width="253" caption="The new Galleria Italia at the AGO"]
is hence the biggest expectation of them all, a flagship for the industry of cultural upgrades that we’ve seen in cities across the nation, sometimes part of our federal government’s infrastructure support, but more often not. Edmonton is also poised to reopen its new art gallery, upgrading its old seventies Brutalist
structure (not unlike the recent facelift given to our Brutalist CBC building here in Vancouver). The shortlist for the Art Gallery of Alberta was nothing less than astonishing, including Pritzker
winner Zaha Hadid
, as well as Will Alsop
and the late Arthur Erickson
. With the final commission awarded to Randall Stout, the new AGA
appears as little Bilbao on the prairie, and its highly gestural form may be a big question mark for this conservative government city of mostly modernist building stock.
It is precisely that Mr. Gehry chooses not to do the obvious in Toronto that I believe is most admirable here, instead opting to walk soft and carry the aforementioned stick (a lesson that perhaps Mr. Libeskind would have done well to have learned). As we’ve all by now heard the story of how Mr. Gehry’s grandparents lived up the street, his Bilbao-less addition is solemnly respectful – less as it turns out is more on Dundas Street. As those who had visited the AGO before its Gehry renovation will recall, its most recent retrofit by Barton Myers
had taken the centrality of the plan away, something which Mr. Gehry has restored, adding a swooping stair ramp in the newly recovered Walker Court - like a curious and curly exclamation point. Most importantly, the gallery’s extensive Group of Seven
collection has been placed centre stage on the second floor, the crown jewel of the gallery’s holdings, nestled between the Walker Court and the new Galleria Italia, itself a beautiful Douglas fir structure over the gallery entry, with views of the adjacent inner city neighbourhood to the north.
It is a new view to the south, however, which offers a spectacular vantage point from the gallery, and is one of the AGO's new hidden delights. Now up above the trees of Grange Park, as well as Alsop’s table-top OCAD to the east, Gehry has unveiled a new view out of the south of the building looking to Toronto’s central business district, with Lake Ontario in the background, its mid-ground composed of the CN Tower standing between the financial towers to the east and a new collection of residential towers sprouting up to the west. But it is as much where the view is from that makes it a delight, offered up as it is through a glass and aluminum-clad, volute-shaped stair sticking out of a new blue titanium clad, five-storey tower. These two spiraling stairways on the floor plate’s north and south sides are beautiful works of art in themselves, though their execution is not without flaws. Similar to the stair in Mr. Gehry’s Vitra Design Museum
in Germany - a stair which the architect admitted in Sketches of Gehry (2005)
he was never satisfied with - this challenging form appears in numerous iterations at the new AGO, and appears unfortunately to have been as problematic to build now as it must’ve been then.
As it happened, my visit to the AGO was concurrent with the running of King Tut: The Golden King and the Great Pharoahs
, a show which in my opinion would’ve made more sense to have had at the ROM. As it turns out, the playful wheelchair ramp Mr. Gehry put in the lobby of the AGO’s new entry does not lend itself well to line-ups, and so the 250+ people waiting to get into the exhibition space on the third floor of the gallery were left to queue all around the Walker Court and back into the lobby. The result made it very difficult to gauge the contemplative aspect of the gallery, as it was temporarily transformed into a Disneyesque experience. Fortunately, the new fourth and fifth floor galleries were far removed from this calamity, and their modern art content, including the likes of Warhol, Rauschenberg, alongside Vancouverite Jeff Wall among others, were reminiscent of other great modern galleries like the MoMA
and Tate Modern
in their layout and finishes.
[caption id="attachment_6998" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Walker Court spiral stair at the AGO"]
Along with the aforementioned entry lobby, otherwise known as the Maxine Granovsky & Ira Gluskin Hall, the new Dundas Street elevation of the AGO includes a now larger restaurant called ‘Frank’s’ and a much expanded gift shop. As it turns out, a small section of the gift shop is devoted to the architecture of the building, including the architect himself. Neck-ties and wrist watches available in the building’s material palette of titanium blue and Douglas fir brown are available along with small iterations of the architect’s patented corrugated cardboard creations. As for myself, I purchased a new publication on the gallery and its renovation, entitled Frank Gehry in Toronto (2009)
- the product of the AGO and London based Merrell Publishing. Featuring essays by local art critic Robert Fulford
, architecture professor Larry Wayne Richards
, as well as the CEO of the gallery, the book's editors cleverly chose Edward Burtynsky
and his critical eye to depict the construction of the building for the book’s photography.
But beyond the discerning architect’s eye, my impression of the gallery as a user was satsified in regards to the circulation through the new and old gallery spaces, including a new section designed by Tornto-based Shim Sutcliffe Architects
. I was however disappointed that some work from the old gallery had not made a reappearance in the new one. One is also no longer able to photograph any of the art, where once upon a time the gallery allowed selective photography. Back before the advent of digital cameras, I used my SLR to take photos there of a small Bougereau that is still on display, while a Waterhouse and a Monet now seem to be absent. It is surprising in this day and age, with the ubiquitous digital camera always at the ready, that there are still concerns with copyright in art galleries. Even some of the greatest galleries in the world have eased up, at least with non-flash photography, as it is permitted in the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, and MoMA, to name only three of the world’s great storehouses of art.
Now turning some 2800 kilometers to the northwest of Toronto and the AGO, Randall Stout’s provocative AGA expansion is the final puzzle piece of Edmonton’s Churchill Square
, which has more recently included the construction of a new concert hall for the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and a library addition, along with a new amphitheatre for the square itself. With its own architectural legacy of great civic buildings – the HUB Mall at the University being but one of several exceptional examples – the city has always maintained a more no-nonsense approach to building with Canada's winter elements. With the three glass pyramids that make up the Muttart Conservatory
next to the North Saskatchewan River being a part of this legacy, it is not surprising to find the Edmonton City Hall
under two glass pyramids also.
And while the form of the AGA is quite bold, the city has its share of spirited modernism, such as Peter Hemingway
’s Coronation Pool and Douglas Cardinal
’s Edmonton Space Science Centre. The process for selecting the architect began in 2004, when the AGA approached some 40 different architects which they whittled down to four by competition. I was at a lecture Will Alsop was giving at Robson Square shortly after he found out he had lost the design to Mr. Stout, and he could not hide his disappointment. As well, I’m certain either Arthur Erickson’s or Zaha Hadid’s scheme would have most certainly offered its own unique interpretation of Churchill Square.
[caption id="attachment_6994" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="View of the financial district from the AGO"]
The new gallery is stylistically as far removed from the existing building, a 1969 Brutalist structure, as that building was from the neoclassical library building that first housed the city’s art collection in 1940. These three incarnations of the ‘gallery in the city’ have stood as architectural signposts for Edmonton, and the new gallery, due to be open at the end of this month, will surely not disappoint. For a city that has for obvious reasons always celebrated new indoor civic space, the new lobby of the AGA is sure to be a sight to behold, if not a cup running over. With much negative publicity recently having been bestowed on architecture that has sacrificed function for form, one hopes that the curving glazing has been designed to withstand the city's brutally frigid winter temperatures.
And finally, here in the Lower Mainland we have heard about the wishes of our own Vancouver Art Gallery
to relocate to a larger, more up-to-date gallery. About two years ago, Richard Henriquez
gave a public presentation at Robson Square of his scheme for locating a new VAG on the shores of northeast False Creek. Unfortunately, due to the site's high water table it would seem that Mr. Henriquez’s plan will have to be abandoned, to instead be located on the old Beatty Drill Hall marching grounds (currently a parking lot). This 'cultural compund' on the southeast slopes of our CBD could certainly use a kick start, something which precisely a new gallery could trigger. The library square is already there, along with the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, and most importantly, there’s a newly arrived populous – numbering in the thousands – living in the towers at the downtown’s periphery. With the provincial government already having pledged ten million dollars (a modest beginning to say the least), one can only hope a new gallery will be the first order of business when the Olympics have packed up and left town in a few months time.
Many questions about the relationship between an art gallery and its host city remain unanswered - we would do well to ask our ourselves how important such an institution is to our own city? Is a great city synonymous with having a great art gallery, or is this simply an expectation we have now post-Bilbao? It is clear that Toronto and Edmonton see their respective galleries as opportunities to bring culture to the masses, allowing for discussions of aesthetics and opportunities for artists to show their work in new venues. For here is the essence of the city, the spirit and key ingredient that can keep it vital and vibrant - we must prevent the usurption of experiencing art in the world as society seems to be devolving backwards with its fixation on the two-dimensional image. It will now remain to be seen if all this talk about the VAG has at the end of the day just been posturing, or if a new bold statement of contemporary culture may be made manifest as a new art gallery for our city.
by Sean Ruthen
Sean Ruthen is an architect living, working, and writing in Vancouver. In February, he will be a volunteer for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
I've had the idea of doing wide angle, unflattering portraits for a while now. It's an interesting way to see a version of yourself.
Statement and Photos by David Denofreo
These are characters that we all have inside and some of us only see them in the bathroom mirror when you're alone and the door is locked. To get in close and see every pore and hair, every little imperfection is a wonderful thing. People are not perfect and I'm grateful to those who are willing to share that with me.
I hope with these portraits, the subject is able to embraced their own imperfections and find humor in them. I would prefer to capture the awkward moments. The photo that is taken when someone has their eyes half open and in mid spoken word. The worst timing for a photo is what want.
With some faces, I would rather go for the extreme emotion.
The great thing is, everyone has a unique face. With every new shoot I learn what works with their face and who they are. I don't always get it the first round, and Iím really happy that people are willing to come back for a second shoot so I can get it right.
The hard part, and also one of the most enjoyable parts is working with the model. Trying to find that character they have inside is a lot of fun. Sometimes the character is right there and all it takes is for them to stick out their tongue! With other people I have to dig a bit deeper.
Iíve only asked a couple of the people to participate in the beginning to get the ball rolling. The rest of the people in the collection have all asked me if they could participate after seeing the photos.
David works as a 3D artist specializing in environment art at Slant Six Games, a local video game company. Photographing textures to use as reference in his work slowly became a passion for photographing the buildings of Vancouver, "the older and dirtier the better." His photographic interests also include portraits using available light, burlesque beauties, everyday people in and around Vancouver, and occasionally, local bands.
You can see more of David's work here.
A City of Vancouver and VANOC joint release
— Beams of light pointed towards the stars will illuminate English Bay and the night sky in downtown Vancouver this coming February as part of a Cultural Olympiad and City of Vancouver special event for the 2010 Winter Games.
Starting at dusk on February 4, 2010, 20 robotic searchlights will create a quiet canopy of light in the night sky above and on the sparkling surface of English Bay below with designs created by people around the world and delivered via the Internet. Called Vectorial Elevation
, it is the first time the internationally celebrated work of art will be displayed in Canada and over a body of water.
The 10,000-watt lights will move and create patterns silently from locations in Vanier Park and Sunset Beach that cover an area of 100,000 square metres and be visible within 15 kilometres of the city’s downtown core, stretching to Richmond, the peaks of Cypress and Grouse mountains and freighters and boats on the water.
This large-scale temporary public art installation is co-commissioned by the City of Vancouver’s Olympic and Paralympic Public Art Program and Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad, presented by Bell, with support from the Province of Quebec. The installation — considered one of the world’s largest interactive artworks — is by Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and is part of CODE, the Cultural Olympiad’s Digital Edition.
“As Host City for the 2010 Winter Games, we’re happy to collaborate with the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad and the Province of Quebec to bring this amazing artwork to Vancouver,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “Vectorial Elevation is a unique, magical work that local residents, visitors and people from around the world can enjoy. The installation will not only brighten our night skies, but also bring the Games to the world in an unexpected, interactive way.”
More than two million people are expected to view the installation in person in Metro Vancouver, as well as internationally via www.vectorialvancouver.net
. The event runs regardless of the weather until February 28, 2010.
Visitors to www.vectorialvancouver.net
can design how the lights will move, their angles and how they are clustered in timed sequences to create their own patterns for the world to see. A personalized webpage will be automatically created for each participant to document their design. Organizers estimate 130,000 different patterns will be created in the 24 days the project operates from dusk to dawn.
is world-renowned and we wanted to see its majestic choreography unfold over Canadian skies for the very first time as part of the 2010 Winter Games,” said Burke Taylor, vice president of culture and celebrations for the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC). “Lozano-Hemmer’s inspired work manifests the spirit of connectivity that we want to convey through the entire CODE project. It’s about using the power of digital technology to include the world in our celebrations.”
A real-time video stream of the work from four cameras placed around English Bay can be accessed on the Internet. Those who opt to create patterns can also send a personal dedication to friends or a sweetheart anywhere in the world at www.vectorialvancouver.net
. The project was developed in consultation with the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation.
“Vectorial Elevation is a quiet, contemplative display of light sculptures that will connect many countries around the world with Vancouver. When I saw English Bay I knew it would be the perfect spot to create our largest canopy of light to date and for the first time we are also able to use renewable energy,” said Montreal-based Lozano-Hemmer.
Previously, the installation was staged in Mexico, Spain, Ireland, and France where it received accolades such as Lyon’s prestigious Trophée des Lumières.
About the City of Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Public Art Program
The City of Vancouver’s Olympic and Paralympic Public Art Program is an ambitious collection of newly commissioned temporary and permanent artworks for 2010. The program includes more than 20 public art projects, spanning large-scale legacy installations and artist-initiated works. For more information about the Olympic and Paralympic Public Art Program, visit the Creative City
section of the Host City website
About the Cultural Olympiad
The Cultural Olympiad, presented by Bell, is a series of multidisciplinary festivals and digital programs showcasing the best in Canadian and international arts and popular culture. Launched in 2008, the program culminates in the 60-day Cultural Olympiad 2010 (January 22 to March 21, 2010), which begins before and continues throughout the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. CODE is the Cultural Olympiad’s digital edition, a series of programs developed to creatively engage national and global audiences through the use of digital technology.
A visual essay looking at the associations between the physical environment and memory within the West End.
Statement and Photos by Dave Semeniuk
After six years of occupying the West End, I am leaving. This series is the result of a typological study of my travels throughout this neighbourhood. The study is not strictly an investigation of formal architectural associations, but rather an account of the associations between physical structure and memory; it is a collection of postcards I have written and collected for my future self. Accompanying these images are a few brief notes, scribbled, signed, and sent:
We almost hit a baby black bear coming up the Coquihalla.
Kind regards Ganga Sisters.
He left thick tarry prints of his hands and feet on the balcony.
Right then, he jumped.
Today, I quit.
Collectively, the images and notes go beyond the physical relationships of hierarchical typologies. The collection of memories and intuitions I have of this neighbourhood sieve through these relationships, thereby providing a non-physical framework in which the neighbourhood can be reconstituted. In turn, each postcard is received, flipped, and read.
Dave is a big burly bear of a man. He has a large head and hands. He overwinters in his cave downtown, occasionally peeking his head out to forage on nearby fruits, vegetables and espresso. His day job has him sailing across the world doing science. Honest. You can view more of his photographic work here.
Statement and Photos by the Fountainman
Many, if not most, of Vancouver's fountains have their own lighting which can really change their appearance after the sun goes down, sometimes quite dramatically. Even those which do not have their own purpose built lights can catch moonlight or streetlights to show off interesting features unseen during the day. Some of these may be quite obvious to passersby. However, many fountains manage to stay in the background and it is only when you move out of the brighter streetlight, step in closer to the fountain, and let your eyes adjust to the subdued lighting, do you see the fountain. Even in the day, the fountains stay in the background. So, next time you see a fountain, stop and really look at it!
Photos by the Fountainman who is a diehard 'fountain spotter' fascinated by the many fountains, pools, ponds, and water art installations in "Fountain-couver". See more of Vancouver's fountains at www.VancouverFountains.com
[caption id="attachment_4833" align="alignleft" width="290" caption="Modern art or public nuisance?"]
Text and photos by Sean Ruthen, re:place magazine
“…the creative possibilities inherent in repetition, and particular environments and moments in time.”
- from Dorian’s bio
Three innovative artists have arrived on the Vancouver scene, offering up a ‘happening’ in the full John Cage
sense, and they are called the Miss Guides
. Part walking tour and part performance art, guides Anna Swede, Dorian, and Kid Skid offer four profound vignettes of Vancouver’s current scenography in a one hour long walk (book here
), proffering themselves up to the spectacle that pre-Olympic preparation has brought to our city.
Moments along the way poke fun at how traditional walking tours are commercialized byproducts of a recently bygone laissez-faire
consumerism, even using narratives from other city’s walking tours, including the elevator rides up the Petronas
and Jin Mao towers. Other moments make a spectacle of the here-and-now, as the guides use every opportunity along the walk to use the free public hand-cleaning dispensers that have appeared everywhere downtown.
With citations from Robert Smithson
and Michel de Certeau
among others, the guides ask questions about our city as both an aesthetic and ontological construct, with particular attention to each vignette’s unique environmental conditions. Memory and history are presented as the guides’ palette, challenging the complacency with which most of us inhabit the city. A stroll through one particular graffiti-covered Gastown alley reminded me of the East Side Gallery
along the Spree in Berlin, where one of the last standing fragments of the Berlin Wall has now become an impromptu art gallery.
The twenty dollars asked for the walk is modest when you consider it includes a ride up to the observation deck of the Harbour Centre
building, a ride I must admit I hadn’t taken since I first came to the city in 1996. On a sunny day, as it was for the preview offered to re:place magazine, CBC Radio One, the Georgia Strait, and Aha Media
, the view from the observation deck was stunning, and slightly tongue in cheek given the comparison of our new Shangri-La building
with the Empire State
and Jin Mao
buildings in New York and Shanghai.
[caption id="attachment_4754" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="View from the lookout at Harbour Centre."]
For as much as their presentation is a statement of the work of art as a product of its environment, they are equally as concerned with local and current histories in the area, from the 1938 'Bloody Sunday'
at the old Post Office (now Sinclair Centre
) to the infamous City of Vancouver view cones
. They also engage the participant, asking them to observe how they walk around a downtown construction site while shutting out the sounds of the buses and other traffic. Later on, the walker is literally asked to contribute to the compost/culture of the city.
The walk begins with the question of ‘ruins’ in the city. Specifically, are the columns of the Roman forum
ruins, or are the chain-linked blocks along Granville Street at Hastings and Cordova? One of the 25 citations offered up by the guides posits that we build ruins, imagining how construction sites create awe in the same way as Stonehenge
or the Acropolis
. Ultimately, the Miss Guides show an adept skill at pulling out the more esoteric elements of the all too familiar streets around Waterfront Station, confidently guiding the pedestrian participant from the lofty heights of Harbour Centre to the gritty realities of Gastown’s back alleys.
In one of the group’s most engaging moments, a guide sings ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ while walking by the Steam Clock
, oblivious to the diners at the Water Street Café. But foregoing the obvious, the guides lead the group down a road less traveled, to the seam of the city that separates Gastown from the 22 sets of rail tracks disconnecting the water’s edge from Water Street. And you will be surprised to find what grows between the cracks of Gastown’s back alleys.
[caption id="attachment_4758" align="alignleft" width="295" caption="Graffiti as didacticism."]
Walks run Thursday and Friday evenings at 7, and on Saturdays at 2, running until August 1st by appointment only. The guides hinted at the possibility of another tour in the future, but ultimately the work is intended as a finite temporal artifact that is present day Vancouver, including its state of pre-Olympic construction frenzy (a window which grows smaller with each passing day).
In the full spirit of the oral tradition
, these three guides for a brief time this summer will be the modern equivalent of Homer
, and Dante
, guiding the curious through our unique urban odyssey. And with each passing walk, as a new iteration of this urban performance is sure to present itself, the Miss Guides will most certainly rise to the occasion of the divine urban comedy that is Vancouver.
Not to be ‘missed’!
By Sean Ruthen
For more information, you can visit the Miss Guides website.
Sean Ruthen is a contributing editor for re:place magazine. He is presently working, living, and writing in Vancouver.
"...the sectors of the city are to some extent decipherable but the personal meaning they have had for us is incommunicable...we are seperated from the city by our own non-intervention.
- Guy Debord
(Critique de la Seperation: Paris 1961)
You can approach the city as a Flaneur
, capturing images and engaging with the city in a way that places the changes you see in a 'romantic' light. Navigating through spaces with some visual intention gathering 'scenes' to define the city in your own image or you may feel that the city should be understood anonymously as a 'passer-by' creating a visual language that forms a narrative of urban life: As a 'Usager de la Ville' who acts similarly to the Flanuer. Walking
dictates certain choices when navigating a city, hence a 'passer-by' has a choice in how they view/experience urban scenes. Walking
as a physical act is a way to create or appropriate space which similar to writing creates meaning to a text; therefore a photographic visualization of space/place is a "spacialized" text which a 'passer-by' creates with their own body and focused intent.
The French Situationists approached the city through the Derive
, which was described as an aimless walk through the streets following ones whims or instincts or even allowing oneself to be guided and carried by life within these spaces. It was a way for them to break free from a daily routine and explore the city rediscovering places free of any preconceptions. For me, routine affects my experience of space/place within our city. Like most people certain obligations or means limit our capabilities to expand the physical and perceptual depth of our surroundings. Often a change in this standard daily pattern or a new means of direction can alter our sensibilities to be more aware or uncertain of our immediate environment. It is up to our own individual character to determine what we represent and interpret.
I am interested in how urbanized spaces control and designate our daily life. Personally, my aim is to break free from that prison cell of consistant routine which is ultimately informed by space/place. Following the Situationists, I am inspired to be free and open as I walk the city finding common or atypical locales highlighting hidden or productive places in order
to understand my existence within our city..
Ivan Oyarzun was born in Edmonton, Alberta. He studied Architectural Technology at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in 2000. After moving to Vancouver in 2004, he studied art and photography, recently earning an honours degree in Environmental Design from the University of British Columbia. He lives and works in the heart of East Vancouver.
Ivan's work is now available for purchase in Book form, please follow the link below to order your copy.
Statement and Photos by Philip Tong
In Vancouver, we are fortunate to be able to interact with so many diverse cultures and people. There is always something interesting going on in this city.
With photography, I hope to be able to share all these experiences with others and along the way, learn something with them about the world we live in. I have always had the belief that the heart of any city are its people.
- is a longtime resident of Vancouver, BC. With a background in Fine Arts and not liking the starving artist lifestyle, he makes his living as a graphic designer. While he enjoys drawing and painting, photography has become one of his passions. With his images, he hopes to be able to share the beauty and wonder he sees in the world around him with others. You can see more of his photographs here.
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