Vancouver Art Gallery
Art Speak. Vancouver artists like Roy Arden and Ken Lum are voicing their support for the movement of the Vancouver Art Gallery to a new location near the current Queen Elizabeth Theatre. As this Georgia Straight piece explains, "In early March, Vancouver city council will consider something different: whether to allow the Vancouver Art Gallery to develop a new $300-million gallery on the old bus-depot site, a city-owned parking lot known as Larwill Park, just east of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre complex. It would replace cramped, inappropriate exhibition spaces in an adapted courthouse." Artist support for the move comes amidst opposition from the likes of Bob Rennie (who would like to see VAG's collection split between multiple new locations) and those dubious of the VAG's ability to fundraise the $300 million required to build the new gallery.
Race Riot. As The Tyee points out, last week marked the 126th anniversary of Vancouver's very first race riot. Tracing the beginnings of an incident that saw white males run Chinese labourers out of the city, the article also delves into the long-term implications of the riot. As interviewee David H.T. Wong explains, although the extreme xenophobia of Vancouver's early years has dissipated, there is still conspicuously little Asian representation at events like the commemoration of the CPR's Last Spike.
March 7 - Special Curator Talk & Tour: A Clandestine History of Contraception
March 10, 17, 24 - Design Sundays: Upcycled Urbanism
This week, we're engaging with some of the current debates and controversies taking place in Vancouver. From the Olympic Village neighbourhood, to the Vancouver Art Gallery's big move, to the the Marpole Midden, we're lending our ears to some of the city's most passionate voices for a provocative installment of MOVments.
False Creek Comes into Its Own. After years of controversy around the Olympic Village development, the False Creek neighbourhood finally seems to be thriving. As the Globe and Mail reports amenities like an Urban Fare grocery store, a new restaurant with a sizable patio, and the Creekside Community Centre are drawing visitors to the area in droves. Observers have taken note of the suddenness with which this all seemed to happen. UBC architecture professor Patrick Condon describes the phenomenon with a tipping point analogy: “It’s very common to urban areas that suddenly people say, ‘Hey. Let’s go there. That was fun the last time.’ Until that tipping point, people might go there, and say, ‘This isn’t very much fun. There’s not many people here. I don’t think I’ll go back.’”
The 'Pretty Face' Debate. But there are some who would see developments like the Olympic Village as just another testament to Vancouver's tendency to abandon the old, for the new and shiny. Local writer and ranter, Sean Orr for one, thinks that Vancouver is more concerned with its pretty facades than building substantial and meaningful cultural and historical connections. And he seems pretty angry about it. Read his interview with the Westender for an alternative tour of Vancouver that reveals some of the problems related to our constant need for reinvention.
100+ Days of Musqueam Protest. The National Historic Site known as the Marpole Midden is still under threat of development after more than one hundred days of occupation and protest by the Musqueam First Nation. Although the ancient burial ground and village was federally designated as a Historic Site in 1933, the midden on Southwest Marine Drive is on privately owned land. Condominium development had been in the works for a while when it was halted in January after the discovery of human remains. Celia Brauer of the False Creek Watershed Society passionately called for the resolution of the conflict in last week's Georgia Straight. She says, "The Provincial government has the power to overcome the “private property” issue. Future generations are watching. In 2012 swapping Cusnaum [village site] for a less important piece of land and giving a small piece of this Heritage Site back to the Musqueam is the right thing to do."
The VAG's Big Move. This week the Globe and Mail reports on the fascinating machinations behind the Vancouver Art Gallery's proposed move from the provincial courthouse building downtown to a new, yet to be decided, location. Real estate marketer and art collector Bob Rennie and VAG director Kathleen Bartels are two of the most influential and outspoken people in the Vancouver art scene so it's hardly surprising that both have strong opinions about the future of the city's artistic landscape. Notably, Rennie is suggesting splitting the VAG's collections between multiple new locations that would be spread out through the city. Bartels, on the other hand, is firmly in favour of a single new facility which she believes would be better suited to the visitor experience. Whatever the outcome, we are excitedly waiting to see how the discussion develops.
Online Voting. And finally, in slightly less controversial news, BC is considering implementing online voting for municipal and provincial elections. In fact, we think we can quite uncontroversially say: that would be very convenient.
At the MOVeum:
August 16 - Volunteer Information Session
September 20 - Opening Day - Object(ing): The art/design of Tobias Wong
Voting. After an extremely low turnout in 2008, the City of Vancouver is trying to make it easier for people to vote in municipal elections with social media apps, more advanced polling days, and translating information and ballot questions into Punjabi and Chinese. An earlier request by the city to test online voting during this election was turned down by the provincial government.
OccupyVancouver. The handling of the camp at the Vancouver Art Gallery has emerged as a major election issue and as the protestors become more entrenched, so too does the pressure to move them. City staff have began to talk to the people at the camp about ending the occupation, but have yet to figure out the course of action with the smallest amount of conflict.
Legal experts at UBC opine that since the Art Gallery is on provincial land, it exists in a complicated grey area where city bylaws do not apply, making it difficult for anyone to form a legal case for removing the camp.
Others complain politicians should instead focus on addressing the conditions that led to the protest in the first place.
Missing women. Families of the missing women have testified to years of frustration, as police repeatedly ignored missing persons reports and chose not to investigate or press charges after receiving tips as early as 1997. The deadline for the inquiry has been extended by six months, due to the volume of evidence and testimony, and how long the proceedings took to begin.
Liquor laws. Both the Rio and District 319 have come up against the province's outdated liquor laws that prohibit them from screening films after acquiring their liquor licenses.
Videomatica. Finally some good news about one of Vancouver's best video rental stores: after slumping business and rising rents forced Videomatica to shut down their West 4th store, they've announced that they will continue DVD sales out of the back of Zulu Records.
In South Hill, residents have been using digital filmmaking to tell their stories and connect with their neighbours.
How a group of concerned community members saved the saved the hollow tree in Stanley Park.
Image: Karen Kuo
Earthquakes. This week the world has been witness to the devastating power of a subduction earthquake and it’s aftermath in Japan. But Vancouver is no stranger to earthquakes. What would it look like if it happened here?
While we’re on this topic, are you earthquake prepared?
Casino. Hearings at city hall about the proposed Edgewater Casino expansion began last week with 300 people attending. It seems the tide may be shifting in favour of the opponents, as council begins to ask tougher questions.
Taking aim at parkades. The Canada Line and bike lanes have succeeded in getting many people out of their cars, and fewer people are driving downtown. The result is an overabundance of empty parking stalls. What should we do with that space?
Panoramas. The City of Vancouver Archives is in the process of digitizing it’s photos and has released a set of panoramas from the early 1900s on flickr.
Bottled water. It seems Metro Vancouver’s pro-tapwater campaign has succeeded in convincing some people to ditch the bottle.
Back alley living. Take a look inside Vancouver’s first laneway house.
Music underground. What if we build a concert hall underneath the art gallery?
Image: City of Vancouver Archives, via flickr
Happy New Year! Wishing you lots of health and happiness in your year of the rabbit.
Favourite places. The Vancouver Heritage Foundation wants to know which places in the city are most important to you. They intend to place 125 plaques around the city to recognize important and previously unrecognized places.
Homelessness. The City has made great strides in providing new housing for the homeless but is projected to fall short of it’s goal of eliminating homelessness by 2015 unless more funding can be produced.
Cultural space. The City has set aside space at 688 Cambie for cultural use but the Vancouver Art Gallery must still demonstrate that it is able to raise the necessary funds to build a new building and operate and there are concerns that the City is trying to fit too many things into the same site.
Internet metering. Vancouverites are taking on the CRTC over the issue of usage based billing, plans by internet service providers to limit downloads and charge people for extra use. To date more than 400,000 people have signed the petition created by Vancouver-based OpenMedia. Another Vancouverite, David Beers, debates the issue in the Globe and Mail here.
Green design. re:place Magazine looks at Canada’s first Passivhaus in Whistler. Formerly Austria House during the Olympics, the building uses 10% of the energy a normal building would and shows the possibilities for sustainable design with wood.
Image: Carol Browne, via flickr
Is it possible Vancouver has taken the wrong approach to billboards all this time?
Since the 1970s, when City Hall restricted the use and location of billboards—notably only a few years after banning new neon signs—Vancouver has waged war on outdoor advertising, seeing it as an affront to public space. A series of amendments passed between 1996 and 2009, brought further restrictions. According to a 2009 City Hall report, “between 2003 and 2008, about 300 billboards were removed largely due to site redevelopment. In the same period, about 35 billboards were added, generally in industrial areas.”
Remember the billboard atop the Lee Building at Main and Broadway? It was removed after a protracted legal battle between the building’s owner and the City that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. (More on the story on CBC.ca; a picture of the now-billboard-free building appears above.)
Recently, the billboard issue resurfaced when the Squamish Nation erected a digital billboard on band land at the south end of the Burrard Street Bridge (details here). The sign was a long time coming; planned for years and protested by residents for just as many. Originally, the plan called for 18 billboards to be put up on various reserves and Squamish land around Vancouver, the North Shore, and Squamish. Ultimately, they decided on just six signs in four locations. The dimensions of the signs were scaled back, too.
Other cities take a far harder line on outdoor advertising than we do: West Vancouver prohibits ads on bus shelters; in 2007, São Paolo enacted a Clean City Law, effectively banning all billboards, making pamphleteering in public spaces illegal, and putting new restrictions on the size of storefront signage. According to this story in Adbusters magazine, 70% of São Paolo residents approve of the new measures.
What’s most interesting to us in all this is how extreme people’s reactions are to billboards: loved (”they’re a part of living in a big city”) or loathed (”like driving through a giant Yellow Pages advertising section”). Beloved public squares in Europe are covered in advertising. And what would New York’s Times Square be without their massive, flickering screens? None of this is to say that we’re New York, or that we want to see the kind of concentration of billboards that lines ferry terminals or the island highway between Victoria and Nanaimo, but just how far will we go to create a message-free city? Is there a middle ground between bland and saturated we’ve yet to explore?
In the 1940s and ’50s, downtown Vancouver streets were visually arresting and lined with artful, occasionally garish, neon signs and billboard signs. (Fred Herzog photographed this billboard on Georgia Street in 1968.) Today, it seems we’re less a city to look at than one to look through. So-called “view corridors” direct eyes through glass towers to the water and mountains beyond.
There are some signs of life on the streets, however. The Vancouver Art Gallery is using its exterior walls more and more as exhibit space. Currently, the Georgia Street facade is covered by a hand-painted floral mural by artist Michael Lin. The Robson Square side of the building is running a loop of incredible films that are drawing crowds. The redesign of Granville Street is all about recapturing our lit-up past—albeit carefully—from the lamp standards to the proposed screening space on the Sears building. Would we be willing to trade some outdoor advertising space here to help fund such public events and new public art?
Here’s another idea we find inspiring: in Los Angeles, the MAK Center for Art and Architecture procured 30-day billboard donations and commissioned 21 artists to create new works and effectively “take over what is perhaps one of the most exclusively commercial sites of public architecture we’ve got.” Dwell magazine has an online slideshow of the various works; it’s well worth a look. We think it’s the kind of intelligent thinking that makes a city a vibrant, compelling place, and maybe, just maybe, justifies looking at advertising now and then.
Image credits from top to bottom:
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