Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Vancouver Biennale: Meeting

During one of our session on July 15, we had a chance to speak with Gillian, who works for the Vancouver International Biennale. She was a great help and we got to know more about the whole project. Then the opportunity came to present a piece of work from the biennale to the rest of the group on July 20th. Time to use some of our research skills!

The piece I researched on is called Meeting. It will definitely catch your attention as you stroll down Coal Harbour, you can't miss it. Its the eight red figure squatting down on the patch of green grass. From afar, they look almost real.

This piece is by Wang Shugang, a famous Chinese artist. He crafted these eight crouching figures from painted bronze. The vivid color catches the attention of crowds. The striking red has a symbolic meaning to the Chinese culture. For one, the Chinese flag is red, it is the national color. Red is also the color for communism and it marks an important period in history, when China turned red. It can also symbolize the blood lost during this transition in history. For us in Canada, looking at these figures can merely be a creative work of art, but would this mean something different in a different country, different setting?

These Buddhist monks are in a 'meeting' position. In fact, this piece of work was created during the Heiligendamm Germany in 2007 for the G-8 summit meeting. In a way, this work mocks the nature of the meeting. These statues are having a 'meeting' but obviously nothing is going on. In the same way, are the leaders of the world at the G-8 conference having a 'meeting' but virtually doing nothing at all? This work clearly exhibits irony. Something to think about.

Information from the Vancouver Biennale

Laura Lam

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hahaha... I Knew Yaletown Wasn't JUST a High Class, Shopping District :P

Photos Courtesy of: Hiiro Prince

The following information is regarding our session on Thursday, July 22, 2010.

I was very excited to be given a semi in-depth historical overview about Yaletown by the one and only historian, John Atkin. I've spent a lot of my time walking around the urban district enjoying it merely for shopping and I always wanted to know the real story behind this neighbourhood. John met all of us outside the Round House and before we could breathe he dove into his wealth of accumulated knowledge for the area.

I couldn't believe how ignorant I was about my city and how I took certain aspects of the infrastructure, architecture and community for granted. If my words were coming to mind as I write this, believe me, I would articulate them... however something isn't clicking.

I will say though a big THANK YOU to John and everything that he contributed to the group.

Yours Queerly,

Hiiro Prince


Pillows by Liu JianHua

Liu Jianhua, the artist of "pillows", worked in the porcelain factories at 15. After being exposed to the New Wave Art movement, he left behind the traditional practice of ceramics and moved on to the domestic objects in fiberglass. He works with the ideas of repetition and arrangement. In this installation "Pillows", his ceramics training can be seen in the painted fiberglass. The pillow, portrays an everyday object.

The pillows looks soft and inviting with a clean white surface, but are in fact, hard and rigid and are not meant to be functional. Because of the placement of these pillows, the original function is denied. The sculpture is very intriguing and people often raise questions as to why these pillows are installed where they are. The sculptures are in fact heavy in weight and are elevated from the ground to properly interpret the pillows.

-Justina F. Lee, the discovery kid.

Walking Home Projects on CJSF 90.1fm

One of my biggest pleasures in being a part of the Walking Home Yaletown Public Art program is getting to interview the participants.

I LOVE these youth! From their arty shoes to their smart questions, it is always interesting to hear what they have to say.

So, I will shut up this post for now and leave you with four links to two radio shows featuring the Walking Home Yaletown Public Art Program participants. Listen on!

The first installment aired on CJSF 90.1 fm on July 8th. The show actually starts a few minutes late, so you can scan forward till you hear some circus music with the tag "Mouth2Mouth". This show is about the pilot program in general, listening into the program and then asking some participants questions about what they think so far.

Part 1:
Part 2:

The second installment aired on CJSF 90.1fm on July 22nd. This show is all about the participants reactions to specific public art pieces we visited around Vancouver.

Part 1:
Part 2:

The most famous man I had never heard of

Sorel Etrog truly is 'Canada's National Living Treasure'.

This prolific artist is the most famous person I had never heard of... until I looked up a few things about the Vancouver Biennale's Sculpture #12, The King & Queen.

(This awesome shot of the piece I'm talking about was taken by Patrick Doheny, completely separate from me or the Walking Home Projects program and I gratefully found it through wikipedia).

Etrog's The King & Queen is at Harbour Green along a scenic and busy route in Vancouver. (It's #12).

It weighs about 4000 pounds and is painted steel. There are some bird droppings on it and a few well-meant words of graffiti etched into it. You can tell it is used as a seat. It's so inviting to climb up on even though it's made of material that can be seen as hard and calculating.

There's a warmth to it, no matter the material or the regal stance of The King & Queen; maybe its warmth comes from its curves. The way it bends into itself, offering so much to those of us lucky enough to have a few moments to stop and really view it and touch it.

This is one of three of these sculptures. The first "The King & Queen" was made in the city of Windsor, Ontario at Demonte Fabrication Inc. It is a "crowning piece" of work for the city of Windsor, tying together art, industrial labour and the city's history in one 10 foot tall piece. Through the Walking Home Yaletown Public Art Program, I've been learning that Vancouver, has a largely industrial past which is alluded to by public art pieces along the water front and the old steam engine 374 fought for and saved at the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre.

Etrog's The King & Queen fits well along Vancouver's waterfront where not so long ago it was home to the timber industry, cooperage and railway. Much different scenery from the plush green grass and deep blue of the water today. His piece articulates this loss and gain, this difference and sameness.

Which leads me to finish up with "the Betty White factor". On first glimpse it may not seem like 'Canada's National Living Treasure' Sorel Etrog and comedian extraordinaire Betty White have much in common save that they can both get a senior's discount at Denny's. And although their mediums don't touch on the arts spectrum, they are both making incredibly relevant art today. Whether that's hosting SNL at the age of 88 or making a third King & Queen sculpture at 77. We can learn so much from this. From bending industrial steel to crossing five generations in laughter. We need these connections.

The best thing about getting to stop and visit Sorel Etrog's The King & Queen to me, aside from how pleasing it is to interact with public art, is finding out more about Sorel Etrog and his work. It's like this unassuming pair of regal industrial shapes are sitting there, open to everyone, a huge clue to our future and past, connecting us to each other and the materials that have shaped us.

Laurie Dawson

Sunday, July 25, 2010

City and Structure

July 8th, 2010

The day was hot, blue sky and we were at the Downtown Seawall. I enjoyed the day very much.I have been here five years but never been to this part of the city. Every block was surrounded with public art pieces. It felt to me that as if art, daily life and nature came together in this False Creek corner. I loved the piece which stands high end of Davie Street, which shows history of workers and history of the city and back then life. This structure stands strong on it's ground. Looking at this very structural piece it looks very much part of the other modern apartments that surrounds it.
There were many other piece which I found interesting Giant Paint Brush, Red long strip which shows inside of the apartments of the area, Time Top (I love the story of concept developing), I like the beautifully designed place for public or visitor to use.
I am looking forward to more.

Jennifer Sarkar

Friday, July 23, 2010

Walking Home Projects July 19th - Coal Harbour

Today we were happy to again have Brian Newson (Manager of Vancouver’s Public Art Program) join our walk and share his first-hand experience of the city’s public art. This session was in Coal Harbour, a neighbourhood we had yet to explore. The day began at the busy entrance to Stanley Park, where we stopped to interact with a relatively new work, “Aerodynamic Forms in Space” by Rodney Graham, which was commissioned as part of the city’s Olympic and Paralympic Public Art Program, and will be a permanent fixture for many years to come as part of the Legacy Series. At a passing glance the work looks seems abstract, a strange assemblage of pieces and colours, but upon closer investigation one realizes the pieces are reminiscent of an old wooden toy glider plane, that has been enlarged nearly 20 times and completely rearranged. The work has a playful, child-like quality that is intended to reference both the nature of this family friendly park as well as the many planes that fly over it.

One of the interesting things about this artwork – and all of the Olympic and Paralympic Public Art – is that there’s a phone number to call in order to learn more about the artwork. This number leads the caller to a pre-recorded interpretation of the work, often by the artist, who shares about the experience of making the artwork, and gives the viewer a much deeper interpretive insight than the few sentences on the information signs. This seems like an amazing way to engage the public in these artworks; not only does it eliminate the need for large signage (which, as we would later see that day, often gets vandalized), but more importantly, it provides people with an easy and informative way to better understand and connect to the public artwork with which they’re interacting.

The recording about “Aerodynamic Forms in Space” by Graham himself, gave me new a new sense of respect for the work. He expressed trepidation in creating a piece of public art for such an iconic location, explaining that Stanley Park was (and is) so beautiful and present on its own that it would be extremely difficult for any unnatural element to enhance the space. Thus, Graham attempted to connect with the playful nature of the park, something he felt spoke about the space itself. This honesty really won me over. Even though toy glider planes are not my own experience of playing in Stanley Park (or as a child), the artist invites the observer to understand his work as a metaphor for the imagination and life the space inspires. Creating this level of understanding is essential for public art because it enables viewers who may not necessarily love a piece to at least respect it.

Moving back along Georgia Street we passed another piece of public art, “Solo” by Natalie McHaffie[i]. McHaffie created the work in 1986, and it was evident that it had been largely neglected since; many of its wooden pieces were deteriorating, and others were missing entirely. Seeing this work right after Rodney Graham’s freshly commissioned piece made me really begin to think about the importance of not only commissioning costs but the long term maintenance budget for any public art project. It seems disrespectful to both the artist and the public who fund, to allow their investments of time and money rot away.

“Solo” is apparently the victim of “funding misplacement,” by the organization that originally commissioned the work, but has since ceased operations. Because this work was not commissioned by the city, city bylaws do not permit the city to spend any of its Public Art Fund restoring the work. This attitude seems bizarre to me, as this work is on city property, orphaned and yet no one seems to be able to do anything to prevent its deterioration. Obviously, there must be some complicated legalities that prevent this work from being saved, as even Brian admitted his frustration. Brian did assure us that the public art program realizes that there is a developing problem, and that they’ve learned from these experiences. In order to prevent more works from being orphaned, the city makes sure to have better contracts with public art organizers to ensure that artworks will be properly preserved. Learning about this scenario made me aware that successful public art is not only the physical work itself but how the work is organized and maintained; in this way, public art is no different from work in a gallery, which needs a curator and gallery to help it successfully pass through time.

But we didn’t spend the whole day talking about two works! Instead, we moved around the seawall looking at the various fountain designs adorning Coal Harbour’s glossy condominiums, a few pieces from the Biennale that members of our group had researched[ii], and some of the City’s public art projects.[iii]

This session was interesting because I realized the growing sense of ownership I have for the city and its public art. Looking at “Aerodynamic Forms in Space” and “Solo” made me aware of my feelings regarding the roles and responsibilities I think the various stakeholders in public art should have. I’m beginning to look at public art differently. The works are not just dropped into our public spaces but pieces of art that need to be cared for and engaged with.

sam - the notepad kid


[ii] “Ceramic Forms” by Yee Soo-Kyung, “The Meeting” by Wang Shugang, “The King and Queen” by Sorel Etrog, and “Pillows” by Lui Jianhua.

[iii] “Search” by Seward Johnson Jr., “Weave” by Douglas Senft, “Make West” by Bill Pechet, “Light Shed” by Liz Magor, and “Sliding Edge” by Jacqui Metz and Nancy Chew & Muse Atelier

Tiffany the Polaroid Kid

A-maze-ing Laughter

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"Skin of Time" by Choi Tae Hoon

Choi Tae Hoon is a prominent contemporary artist in Korea. Not only did Tae Hoon study in Korea, but he was also a student at the Cité Internationale des Arts Residency Program in Paris as well as at the Vermont Studio Residency Program.

Tae Hoon works with steel sheet which he welds into different forms, working the sheet metal as if it were malleable like fabric. His favourite technique to use when working with steel is the plasma torching technique which uses compressed air to make holes in the steel plate; this is how the installation “Skin of Time” gets its unique texture.

“Skin of Time” is a giant tree laid on its side with punctured holes in its bark and engraved messages and memories that can only be seen at night. Trees represent multiple facets of Korean culture. According to the Vancouver Biennale, in Korea the tree symbolizes such things as the Shinsu or sacred tree, the tree at the core of the world, and the tree of life. The ability of the tree to embody so many different things yet still uphold its significance is extraordinary as though it may contain special values to each individual, the tree is representative of Korea nonetheless.

Tae Hoon’s sculpture represents parts of his life and his race against time. To me, it is as if he is solidifying his existence in the world and etching his memories into this permanent sculpture, effectively carving his life into his art. Lightbulbs have also been installed within the piece so that when the piece is lit up at night, light can shine through the thousands of holes in the sculpture. Light breathes life to the piece and gives the piece some dimension and movement so in this way, Tae Hoon is bringing time and life together through light.

For Choi Tae Hoon, this piece is in stark contrast with his other works from past seasons. Tae Hoon’s previous works included objects such as armchairs and telephones forged out of his signature material but in “Skin of Time’, Tae Hoon has created the natural tree out of a very industrial product.

At first, realizing that the tree was made out of steel warranted some mixed feelings but after some thought, I came to the conclusion that perhaps Tae Hoon is trying to illustrate the reality of society today: we have stepped so far away from our natural environment as to have almost completely immersed ourselves in industrial products for little of what surrounds us today is completely natural.

“Skin of Time” is exhibited in the same place the piece which became known as the ‘upside down church’ used to be. The ‘upside down church’ is still a very memorable piece for many Vancouver residents and I have encountered many who preferred the previous piece through my research. However, as we have been learning through the Walking Home Yaletown Project, perspectives of art change over time and perhaps Choi Tae Hoon’s “Skin of Time” will soon became as memorable to these Vancouverites as the ‘upside down church’.

By Justine Lee

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Walking Home Projects July 15th - It Takes a Whole Village... to make some Art? By Sam Knopp

Today’s session of Walking Home Projects was exciting because we started in a new neighbourhood for the program, the West End! It was also a special day because we had two guests from the Vancouver Biennale, Gillian Wood (Biennale Coordinator) and Dan Fairchild (Biennale Photographer); both of them generously offered to join us and share their firsthand knowledge of the organization and its artwork.

The Vancouver Biennale is a NPO that seeks to bring international world-class sculpture to all Vancouverites. It all started when local gallery owner Barry Mowatt (of Buschlen Mowatt Galleries), who after travelling around the world and seeing an abundance of great public art in the world’s great cities, felt Vancouver was lacking by comparison, and decided that something had to be done! Through a joint agreement with the Vancouver Parks Board Mowatt established a fifteen-year contract, enabling him to have public park space to install sculpture for his organization. Thus the Biennale was born with the first festival taking place from 2005-2007.

Mowatt decided that the sculptures for the exhibition would be selected by a panel of judges made up of artists and curators who would choose the work of important and up-and-coming international artists. We quickly noticed during our walk that nearly all of the work was international – only two of the thirty-eight sculptures coming from Canadian artists. For me, this raised concerns; was this was a benefit or detriment to the Canadian public and Canadian artists? On the one hand, this mandate for bringing international sculpture to Vancouver helps expose the public to artwork from other cultures, but on the other hand, it reduces the opportunity to showcase and support local talent. For Biennale, the benefits outweighed the negatives, but as Gillian later explained, the organization is still relatively new (they’re currently in their second run) and they’re still learning and growing, so it’s possible that an international focus over the first two runs may yield to a focus on local artists in the future.

For this year’s Biennale, the theme of the exhibition is “Asia,” and our first piece of the day “A-maze-ing Laughter” by Yue Minjun was a good start. This sculpture, on the corner of Denman and Davie was where we first met our visitors. Unlike some of the artworks we had previously visited, this piece seemed to attract a lot of attention. There was a constant flow of people coming up to inspect, snap a photo, or even mimic the work for a laugh. The work consists of fourteen massive identical cartoonish figures in the artist’s likeness, cast in bronze and standing nearly 9 feet tall. They all share the same overwhelmingly caricaturized laughing smile, but are differently posed and scattered in a circular formation, creating a maze for the viewer to walk through. I think it’s this seemingly playful expression that encourages this immediate participation, and the maze seems to induce viewers into an inspection of each individual statue. As one approaches the figures they can’t help but smile, the figures seem silly compared to the typical stoic statue to which we are accustomed to. Yet, as the viewer moves through the work a growing sense of apprehension begins to intrude; the smiles are perhaps too unnatural, and could accurately be described as intense, manic, even forced.

Gillian shared that this piece is intended to be a sarcastic work and the artist is a leader of the Cynical Realism movement in China. Minjun used this exaggerated expression to subtly comment on his native country - China - and its oppressive political history. The intensity of the smiles are suggestive of the facade that he and other Chinese have had to participate in out of fear for official retaliation.

Interpreting and observing the artworks was an important part of our day, as we looked at many different sculptures including: “217.5 Arc x 13” by Bernar Venet, “The Inukshuk” by Alvin Kanak, “Engagement” by Dennis Oppenheim and “We” by Jaume Plensa. But perhaps the most valuable information shared was with regard to the processes and procedures involved in implementing the sculptures. It didn’t take long to discover that this was often more complicated and time-consuming than the art itself!

Gillian explained that before any artwork is installed, it must go through a long series of checks with city officials, engineers, lawyers, and even residents. This is an arduous process, which requires one to be persistent and passionate about the artwork because there are often many obstacles to overcome before any piece is approved.

For instance, “A-maze-ing Laughter” was originally en titled “The Path of God”. The figures were to be in two rows facing each other, an overt reference to Chinese after-life traditions. But this title and set-up did not sit well with many people, including the Biennale’s Chinese curator, so Minjun was asked to re-organize the sculpture. When it was time for the actual installation, another series of checks and adaptations were to be had to ensure the safety of observers. Dan Fairchild put it bluntly when he said that the artwork must pass the “two a.m. six-pack test”; in other words, would the work withstand a group of drunks coming home from the bar? For “A-maze-ing Laughter” the supports required to pass this test are nearly 4 meters into the ground and are anchored by large concrete slabs – they are not moving anywhere!

One of the most fascinating things about the Biennale is that much of the engineering, installation, transportation and even photography – complements of Dan – are done almost entirely pro-bono or for very minimal cost. Gillian expressed that this is ultimately what makes the Biennale possible. The number of passionate and giving people it requires to bring artwork to the city is truly astonishing. It was an important revelation that it’s not just the artist who’s responsible for producing public artwork, but instead, the artist in conjunction with a large group of talented individuals working furiously behind the scenes to make this city a better place.

Sam – the notepad kid

Tiffany the Polaroid Kid

These are the polaroids I have been most proud of the past few weeks of sessions. I am proud to announce my final project for Walking Home Yaletown. I will be taking three photos from five installations. These three photos will be from different perspectives in black and white film.

I took the first shot with Justina the Discovery Kid when we decided to go bike along the sea wall after being inspired by the second session! It was the first time either of us had brought our bikes on the Canada Line from Richmond to Downtown! It was so worth it! Not going to lie, we were wiped out! We started our biking journey from Olympic Village all the way to English Bay. We took it slow, enjoying the scenery and we even met a poet and singer/songwriter along the way!

This second shot is taken at an installation that produces sound and steam (!) when the observers step on the wooden planks underneath the barrels. Something about the pressure sends a reaction to the barrels above. I was completely flabbergasted! I love installations that not only are interactive, but seem to perform to their audience as well!

This last shot was taken when I w
as waiting around for a friend around English Bay. Who knew that the next session, we were going to visit this installation and even have the woman that runs the Vancouver Bienalle came and talk to us about this! I must say this is my favorite from the Vancouver Bienalle.

Tiffany the Polaroid Kid

Monday, July 19, 2010

Walking, Thinking, Learning and Sharing

July 19th, 2010

I thought about the walk which I did last Thursday. I was having a small conversation about my final project with Catherine and we came across how our body reacts when we walk, and she told me it will be a good idea to write about it. So, here we go. I am not sure how others feel about walk but with me this summer every Thursday afternoon till almost evening I walk which is for me pretty unusual. I thought about it through this weekend how my body reacts when I am walking while listening and thinking about the conversation we just had about the A-mazing Laughter.

This is what I felt my body and mind was doing during that time: I was calm, my body didn't feel stressed(this happened in the past when I forced myself to walk), I was actually listening, which is sometimes hard for me I can't do two complicated things together however, eating and watching t.v works with me. My brain felt positive and fresh soaking in new and interesting information about installing a public piece.

Reasons I think Walking, Thinking, Learning and Sharing working for me:
Everytime I walked with everyone it was near seawall or water, the whether was nice and fresh, shades here and there, I tend to take very short breaks if I have to. I take two steps back, wear sun glasses, I cover myself very well (I need to) eat and drink a lot before hand and Hydrate myself very well.
Again, I am talking about my personal experience. If it is not working for your body it gives you signals so, please follow them during the walk.
stay healthy and laugh once in a while.

Jennifer Sarkar

Sunday, July 18, 2010

OH! So, that's what THOSE are! - Walking Home with the Vancouver Biennalé

On Thursday the 14th, the founder of the Vancouver Biennalé gave us a tour and in-depth history of the English Bay sculptures. The main photographer for the Biennalé was with us also and he informed everyone about each piece's background and step by step process leading up to its unveiling for the public. I personally hadn't researched anything about what we saw even though I of their existence beforehand; it was fabulous to be given the real depth of their importance and meaning to Vancouver and its public art movement. Can you believe it's already the end of Walking Home Yaletown's 3rd week?!?! I can't, Catherine Pulkinghorn, Laurie Dawson and Bali have been literally the most dedicated and loyal, hardworking women you could dream to lead, guide and educate us about their fields of specialty.

I found there was a lot I gained from the tour, it opened my perspectives about the technical philosophies of art and installation overall. Major kudos to the folks at the Vancouver Biennalé.

Here's some visual proofs of thursday:

" "We" - multi-lingual human form sculpture"

"PRIDE is ever so near, represent!"

"L.E.D. shining brightly as she interviews Ms. Faith- hard at work as always!"

Photos courtesy of: Yours Queerly, Hiiro Prince!

Friday, July 16, 2010

"Freezing water #7," engaging with the public.

Jun Ren: "Freezing Water #7"

"Art’s essence is its ability to engage us fully in body, emotions, mind and spirit, to create beauty and meaning, to cultivate imaginative empathy, to disturb the peace, to enable grief in the face of loss and hope in the face of grief. Trying to explain or demonstrate this with numbers is like trying to describe a rainbow without mentioning color.” – Arlene Goldbard

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Tuesday's meeting was one of the more 'relaxing' meetings we had so far, in the sense that we got to chill and talk beneath the shade accompanied with a nice breeze and sunshine. I enjoyed our talks, when we just share what we know and discuss among the group.

I think Tuesday's meeting made me realize how much I appreciate this group of people I am interacting with. Rarely do I find and connect with a bunch of enthusiastic and entertaining people. Take our talk with Laurie on audio. I realize after I tried out some recording that I am really interested in audio. In this program, we get to experiment with new things, things that normally we would not attempt. Its the little details that we usually do not get to try out that amaze us the most.

As a history geek, knowing that a historic artifact once roam the very land we were standing on blows me away still. I love thinking about what was here before, what IS here now. The shift in eras and trends are well worth observing. It's astonishing to know what life was like centuries before our existence and really, how minimal is our knowledge of this place we call our home. Curiosity drives this program and only experiment can quench our thirst to know more.

Laura Lam

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Walking Home Projects July 13th - Finding Stories

As we walked through the fifth session of the Walking Home Yaletown Public Art Project, it was exciting to see how many of the participants’ gears are beginning to shift from passive to reactive learners, spurred on by the beginnings of their own projects in response to things we've seen and learnt. Laurie Dawson thus introduced the afternoon perfectly by giving us a lesson on storytelling. Laurie gave us some amazing advice on how to engage an audience and successfully capture one's purpose, regardless of the medium (though she did draw extensively on her experience in audio journalism for examples); she shared her tips on how to interview, what makes a captivating story, and for those particularly interested in audio work, shared some of her expertise in the realm of recording equipment.

With many of the participants now armed with recording devices, ready to record our every step – and not afraid to stick the microphone where it needed to be – we walked around the Roundhouse to the glass annex that houses "Engine 347". As we were moving, Catherine told us about the area's social and historical contexts, focusing mostly on the Roundhouse itself. She explained that this area of Yaletown used to be the old railyard in Vancouver and at one time the last stop on the transcontinental railway. Before the railway made it to the Roundhouse, the last stop on the line was the small town of Yale, but when the line was extended to Vancouver, many of the residents of Yale 'extended' to Vancouver as well! Thus, the neighbourhood was dubbed "Yaletown".

Today the Roundhouse is unique, the only building left that was constructed before Expo ‘86. That event precipitated the clearing of every other structure in the area to make room for its pavilions. It has been very interesting to me that Expo ‘86 keeps coming up in our sessions; this relatively short event had a truly enormous impact on our city!

The glass annex was added to the Roundhouse's original structure during the Expo to showcase the CPR steam train, "Engine 347". Upon hearing that this train was the first to cross the transcontinental railway, I started stumbling through the archives of my memory, all the way back to Grade Ten social studies – this was the train that helped to bring British Columbia into Confederation! It was the promise of a transcontinental railway connecting East and West that finally convinced British Columbia to become a province of Canada. It felt pretty amazing to stand witness to this relic of Canadian history.

As we walked around the old locomotive, we all noticed the brick floor engraved with thousands of names. Prior to Expo ‘86 the train was in a sorry state after resting outdoors for nearly fifty years in Kitsilano Park. In 1983 a group of citizens decided to restore the engine to its former glory by raising funds through the Heritage Brick Program, where individuals could purchase a brick, engraved with their name, towards the refurbishing project. These bricks were then used as part of the floor and remain there today, a beautiful testimony to the community’s effort and support.

After discussing this fundraising initiative, we moved back outside where we shared our ideas for individual projects. One project, proposed by Crecien Bencio , was particularly inspiring to me because it looked to reach the larger audience of Vancouver and propose change. Crecien learned about Walking Home Projects through TAG, the Vancouver Art Gallery's Teen Art Program, which recently announced it will no longer be offered. The Gallery apparently wants to put all of its resources – including the meagre $6,000 dollars it costs to operate TAG – towards its campaign for a new art gallery. It’s interesting that the public gallery, whose primary mandate is art education for the public, would remove one of its only programs that tangibly provides that service. Crecien was obviously disappointed by the elimination of TAG – it has been important for his artistic development and connected him to the Walking Home Projects – has decided to start a letter-writing campaign to oppose the Gallery’s decision.

After our discussion came to a close we headed out to the waterfront to look at "Red Horizontal" by Gisele Amantea. This public artwork is made of 63 red porcelain enamelled steel panels which have been installed on the back of a concrete seating wall in David Lam Park. Sequences of the panels depict half tone photographs of the surrounding buildings’ residential interiors, giving the viewer a look into the private lives of Yaletown’s so-called “Yuppies”. We all particularly enjoyed looking at this piece because, let’s admit it, there is something undeniably satisfying about prying into the lives of others. With this natural attraction, as well as the physical length of the work – it extends approximately ninety-one and a half meters – the piece has a strong durational quality and keeps the viewer engaged for a long stretch of time.

Unlike some works, there is no obvious reading of this piece. Instead, it exists on multiple levels, and that led to a great many meanings being presented in our discussion. One of our observations was that the work reveals the private lives of individuals, thus inviting the public into these traditionally private spaces. Yet there are no people present; the viewer only gets one, perhaps contrived, frame of these living spaces, making the perceived accessibility somewhat illusory. Neudis, our colour-loving participant, pointed to the use of red and how out of place it seemed in this neighbourhood of white and grey, suggesting that this infusion was perhaps a conscious reaction to the monotonous colour palate (and lifestyle?) of the area. For me, these different levels of understanding made the piece all the more fascinating. Amantea’s piece was the last for our day and it was interesting to see people slowly head home, some lingering longer than others to reinvestigate this work and the stories it helps create.

sam - the notepad kid


A Foreigner In My Own City

I knew quite a bit about Vancouver's art and culture background before joining the Walking Home Project, but after only five sessions my knowledge has at least DOUBLED. Yesterday (July 14th) I was given the full on history about the Roundhouse Community Centre and how Yaletown transformed from an industrial quarter to the YUPPY community it's now known for. Our incredibly gracious, humble and talented Laurie Dawson gave a small crash course in the art of radio and audio recording.

I love and already journal through image and text, however by incorporating audio as a medium it could enrich the entire process! One thing I also notice is the small changes in how I'm observing my own walking routes outside of the project. In other words, knowing my city pretty well I've taken certain qualities for granted and now I assume that everything my eyes look at is something to be analyzed and appreciated for whatever it's worth... regardless if it's a rock, homeless person, or an impulse materialistic purchase :).

Alongside the radio business, blogging was another headline topic of discussion. It was very insightful to learn about networking, advertising, concept, self-promotion and personal identity in relation to establishing yourself as an artist. Blogs are one of the quickest and cheapest methods to broadcast yourself and what you're representing to the public. It's much harder then it looks, however by the time the project is finished, we'll know more then we ever did beforehand and we have Catherine, Laurie and Bali to thank for that!

Yours Queerly,

Hiiro Prince

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"What do you STOP and think about?'

"The Recording Component"

"I spy- how many works of art?"

"Thanks Terra Bread for the treats"

Walking Home Projects July 8th - Looking at North False Creek with Bryan Newson

Today marked another amazing session of Walking Home Projects Yaletown Public Art! Bryan Newson, the city of Vancouver’s Public Art Program Manager, was present to give us a guided interpretive tour of North False Creek’s public art. Newson is in charge of selecting, approving and implementing public art throughout the city, so it was very exciting to have his first-hand knowledge of the city’s artwork at our disposal. It was also an exciting day because it finally felt like summer in Vancouver! The temperature was a delicious twenty-eight degrees, a perfect day to spend outside exploring and our group definitely took advantage.

Our session started in the sweet shade of a large tree at Cooper’s Park, where we met Bryan Newson and a guest from the Immigration Services Society who was joining our group for the day. Bryan started by explaining the history of public art in Vancouver and the city’s Cultural Services Public Art Program. Apparently, prior to Expo 86’, public art in Vancouver was very limited in scope and there was no official program set up to curate it. It was only after the Expo – when participating countries wanted to leave large artworks they had brought in as part of their pavilions – that the city decided it needed to develop a program and criteria for accepting and promoting public art. This was to ensure that the city’s public spaces were protected and preserved from artworks that may not merit long-term placement. Perhaps more importantly, the city also decided to take a more proactive stance on accumulating public art; rather than simply accepting donations, they would begin commissioning work specific to Vancouver. Although I already had some idea of the importance of Expo 86 before today’s session – large developments like the Skytrain, Science World, BC Place Stadium and the Plaza of Nations are all still a big part of Vancouver today – I was unaware of the extent the event shaped our city in the area of public art.

After this historical introduction, our busy afternoon of walking was underway. In total, we looked at twelve pieces: “Time Top” by Jerry Pethick, an untitled fountain by Al McWilliams, “The Copper Mews” by Alan Storey, “Lookout” by Noel Best & Chris Dikeakos, “Street Light” by Bernie Miller & Alan Tregebov, “Welcome to the Land of Light” by Henry Tsang, “Glass Umbrellas” by Don Vaughan, “Brush with Illumination” by Buster Simpson, “Collection” by Mark Lewis, “Footnotes” by Gwen Boyle, “Password” by Alan Storey, and “Terra Nova” by Richard Prince. It was a busy afternoon to say the least!

I honestly feel like I could write a few pages on each piece thanks to all of the information and insight Bryan shared combined with the reactions and comments from my peers, but for the sake of space, I will only talk about one of the works we looked at, which was of particular interest to me, “The Copper Mews” by Alan Storey. This work was immediately appealing to our group who all enjoyed the highly interactive quality of the piece. It consists of a meandering path that transforms from trail to rail to boardwalk, above which there are five wooden barrels in honour of the cooperage that once stood in its place. When one steps onto the boardwalk planks the barrels emit steam and a different musical note for each plank. Bryan explained to us how noise concerns were a large obstacle in bringing the piece to realization and that Alan Storey was forced to compromise on the level of sound emitted from the work. This was a helpful reminder that public art involves many stakeholders and that negotiation is an important part of the process. I really enjoyed this piece because of the large response it created in our group. I also feel it successfully evokes a sense of history while activating public space with sculpture in a fun unobtrusive way.

Our day ended at the Roundhouse, but I’ll admit I left the group early because the weather had the beach calling my name! Actually, I headed to Vanier Park to take part Mountain Equipment Co-op’s $5 Kayaking Classes, which I had learned about from Catherine during our Canada Day walking session. In addition to learning so much about Vancouver and its public art, the program has been an amazing resource for exchanging our own experiences of the city. That unexpected benefit has been truly wonderful, as it provides all of us with many suggestions on new ways to experience and walk through Vancouver.

sam - the notepad kid