Tonight the Museum hosts a members-only reception for our ongoing exhibit “My Heroes in the Streets,” a series of 10 images taken by Ian Wallace in 1986. (One of the images is pictured left.)
Over the past three decades, Vancouver has emerged as a important centre for contemporary photographic art, with local artists such as Jeff Wall, Rodney Graham, Stan Douglas, Roy Arden, and Wallace pushing traditional notions of photography, art, cinematography, and documentary. The modern city is a recurring subject: the contents of landfills are presented; rows of Vancouver Specials—that loved and loathed housing type that dominates Vancouver’s eastside neighbourhoods—have appeared in backgrounds.
Several local institutions have figured prominently in this movement, notably: TheVancouver Art Gallery, which has hosted numerous exhibitions of this work and published an incredible library of related books and catalogues (see: Roy Arden: Against the Day and Jeff Wall: Vancouver Art Gallery Collection for recent examples). The lesser-known Canadian Photographic Portfolio Society has also played a key role, publishing limited-edition photographic portfolios, boxed in elegant archival cases. “My Heroes in the Streets” was their first commissioned work, and a slideshow of the images is on their website, linked here. The photographs show individuals navigating a generic and mundane urban landscape, localized by Vancouver locations and symbols, like street addresses and overhead trolley wires. Wallace describes the street as the site “metaphorically as well as in actuality, of all the forces of society and economics imploded upon the individual.”
The Museum’s interest here leans toward the documentary aspect of these works. Wallace’s intentions notwithstanding, it’s hard to ignore how the downtown core has changed since the images were taken, transitioning from a bland western outpost searching for its best side pre-Expo 86, to a post-industrial, international city. Still, Vancouver’s preoccupation with how it’s viewed by the outside world persists, intensifying in the lead up to another massive international event. What will the world find when they get here in February?
Image credit: CPPS