Sunday, April 25, 2010

The joke is on you white guy

When I look at Jeff Wall's Mimic (1982), I can’t help but be embarrassed. Here we have a sophisticated Asian gentlemen minding his own business, when this white guy comes along and simultaneously gives him the finger and makes fun of his race. It seems he is walking just far enough behind the Asian gentleman so that he doesn’t actually have to confront him, and instead is able to mock him passively without risking a rebuttal. The white gentleman appears to be dragging his girlfriend along behind him in a way that suggests her subordinate role. The woman is dressed in skimpy shorts, a skimpy top, and heels. Everything about the photo makes the viewer side with the Asian man. He has the appearance of a respectable person who is a member of the business community. I think the purpose of Wall’s piece is to elicit this type of reaction, to embarrass us and compel us to side with the Asian man. The topic of racism and the Asian community is very Vancouver. As sad as it is to say, especially during the eighties, the increasing Asian population would have festered attitudes of racism. This picture exposes a racism that appears to have stemmed out of both jealousy and misdirected hatred. This photo has the effect of revealing racism as trashy and uncalled for. Although Wall’s Mimic doesn’t exactly shine Vancouver in the most positive light, it has the ability to create awareness about racism in our city.

East Van is horrible! But art is good!

I know some of you love this horrible thing but I think it looks like a Bibles for Missions shelter. Apparently it has been a popular graffiti symbol around East Van for years but it's still ugly. I love art. I love that some people hate something and other people love it. I love that I don't get it. I love that I think it's ugly. I love that although I think it's ugly it got made and displayed as public art. I don't really love Ken Lum but I'm pretty sure he's an OK guy. Oh, and from the angle of this photo, it almost looks nice.

Ken Lum had this to say to the Globe and Mail:

“Nietzsche says there are three kinds of history,” Lum says: monumental history (aggrandizing a people or historical moment), antiquarian history (the obsessive validation of facts) and critical history (interpreting the past in order to engage with the present). Lum’s Monument for East Vancouver arises, he says, from this latter approach, identifying an issue in the sociopolitical present and activating critical thinking.

I'm not sure that I agree that this big shiny cross "interprets the past" or "activates critical thinking" but it certainly does stimulate debate, which is always good.

Trauma Tourism

While reading Laurie Beth Clark's "Placed and Displaced: Trauma Memorial" I was reminded of the town of Kalavryta in Greece. I visited the town by train and went to see the memorial there. What is interesting is that although there is a specific memorial "place", the whole town is really a sacred shrine of remembrance. This is what happened there:

Due to partisan activity around the town of Kalavryta in southern Greece, a unit of the German army
surrounded the town on the morning of Monday, December 13. All the inhabitants were herded into the local school. Females and young boys were separated from the men and youths, the latter being marched to a hollow in a nearby hillside. There the soldiers took up positions behind machine-guns. Below, they witnessed the town being set on fire. Just after 2pm a red flare was fired from the town. This was the signal for the soldiers to start firing on the men and youths who were huddled in the hollow. At 2.34pm the firing stopped and the soldiers marched away. Behind them lay the bodies of 696 persons, the entire male population of Kalavryta. There were 13 survivors of the massacre, the town itself totally destroyed. Only eight houses out of nearly five hundred, were left standing. It was not until late afternoon that the women and young boys were released to face the enormity of the tragedy. Today a memorial stands on the site of the massacre on which are carved the names of 1,300 men and boys from Kalavryta and 24 nearby villages who were murdered that day.

Because the town was totally destroyed, it had to be rebuilt in the wake of the tragedy. I found out about the place through a tourist guide (Clark calls this Trauma Tourism). While no one can deny the tragedy is real, and there was an eeriness about the place, it is still a destination, there is still gift shops around the town commemorating the event. This merging of what Clark calls "popular participation with state construction" doesn't seem to be harming anyone so...go capitalism!

Context context context!

If someone had shown me a photograph of Jeff Wall’s A View from an Apartment, I never would have looked at it as art. This “what is art?” question is reoccurring in my mind, and although his work clearly has cultural commentary and urban relevance, I can’t help but think that in the context of a classroom, my mindset is changed from passive to critical. Upon viewing a piece of art in a gallery, I immediately rack my brain for its meaning and depth (and usually think “I could’ve done that, especially if it’s an abstract piece with four different coloured lines). However, seeing it in another context might leave me uninspired and leave the work unnoticed. This is why I think that the context tells us how to treat a photograph or a sculpture. Whereas as a kid, I might be inclined to climb a statue in a park, I would probably have a million things to say about it in an art history class in college.

Remembering life, not tragedy.

There were two really tragic deaths in my high school.

It makes me sad that in my mind, they’re still classified as “those two really tragic deaths in my high school”. These kids were known around the hallways, at parties, from elementary school, and in classrooms. I now think back to them and automatically associate the eerie funerals, the lowered flag, the banners and the inscriptions on the school benches to their entire memories.

Of course I wish they were still around, but I also now wish that none of the memorial stuff lingered in my mind. In a way, those constant reminders seem like a pathetic attempt to force memory; aside from having a comforting place to pay respects, I think it would be nice if we had some confidence in our memories.

April 20th.

So it was 4:20 a few days ago...
I know this isn’t along the same lines of the types of cultural memory we’ve been talking about (monuments, tragedies, etc.), but I think it’s kind of cool how the cannabis culture club connects and organizes this massive get-together and chillfest on every April 20th. It feels like there’s a certain pressure to keep up the tradition, and therefore it’s more of a performance of memory than remembering itself. It’s a recognizable date regardless of partially losing its original meaning, and portrays Vancouver’s attachment to the cannabis subculture through the performance specifically found around the Art Gallery.
I really like the umbrellas here too...

Olympics and OlymPICS

Clint Burnham discussed the Vancouver Public Library design as compensating a city “which fears both its First Nations past and Asian future” (36).
I was thinking about the Olympics opening and closing ceremonies... I found it interesting that the closing ceremonies were so infused with classic Canadian stereotypes: giant (expensive) beavers, lumberjacks, and the like. Once everything had been said and done, and the weight of the opening ceremony (and the Games!) had lifted,
Vancouver breathed a sigh of relief and seemed to poke fun of its Canadian-ness. Fully embracing the standard jokes about Canada, it was as if we felt that the Games proved we were more than the label, therefore we gave in and felt safe to play up the stereotypes, of course, just for fun. Neither the opening nor closing dealt with any of the other cultures, such as Chinese influence in Vancouver (especially with the New Years so close!), bringing Burnham’s quote into conversation...
I also found it fascinating how much the First Nations culture was stressed. Throughout the Games, I noticed that each of the shows I went to (in the Cultural Olympiad) had a sideshow, portraying very typical First Nations art and performance. In the opening ceremonies, there was almost an over-expression of First Nations influence, not only “pigeonholing” the art, but resulting in a pressured pigeonholing of
Canada as well.

Another Note on the Olympics...
(since my Simpsons post didn’t count!)

I was out and about in the streets of Vancouver for almost all of the two heavenly, school-free, party-filled Olympics weeks. Fully embracing the presence of the foreigners and the (uncharacteristically warm) exciting air, I noticed some pretty interesting interactions.
For one, there was a very clear clash between the Americans and the Canadians. I don’t really need to say much about this. But one really cool thing I observed was how many foreigners were backing
Canada up after their countries were out/not in certain games. Aside from the Russians, who refused to change out of their tracksuits (don’t get me wrong, I love ‘em), a variety of nations were standing behind Canadians. I don’t necessarily count the purchasing of those flag-capes as super meaningful, but it was nice to see out-of-towners singing along to the anthem, or saying “cheers” to Canada at the local pubs. I think overall, regardless of the competition or the speedbumps along the way, the actual two weeks were an unforgettable experience, bringing out patriotism in those that didn’t even realize they had it.

Attached are some pics :)

It all comes back to THIS project (final post)

Of all the images, representations and theories of Vancouver that we've discussed and reviewed this semester, Stan Douglas's 'Every Building on 100 West Hastings' stands out as one of the most thought-provoking and eerie works that has helped me see our city in a new way. While we've talked a lot about what makes Vancouver recognizable (the relationship with nature, the growing city, the art and music scene, fashion, marijuana, many others), Stan Douglas offers a truly unique view of an important street in Vancouver culture. I've walked this street a few times and what dominated my vision were the (stereotypical) characters and pollution. Douglas shows a street void of these key figures and allows the viewer to appreciate the city for it's structure and buildings, but also allows us to consider whether it's the place or the people that make a city recognizeable. All semester I've been trying to decide what gives Vancouver it's image and Douglas's photographic compilation helps me realize that it's the wide range of races, cultures, ideologies, and backgrounds that the city should be known for. By imagining what Vancouver would look like in this post-apocalyptic image, Douglas has focussed my attention on what's NOT there, and that's the people. Beyond being associated with lame Canadian stereotypes like hockey, syrup, and beavers, Vancouver should be known and appreciated for it's eclectic mix of faces and lives and as inhabitants of this city we should realize how important we are in creating Vancouver's unique image.

Haunting Imagery in Insomnia

I was glancing over Jeff Wall's work, and I stopped on Insomnia. Of course I'd seen it before... in class. But this time, something caught me. I had never really given the man much notice, and instead looked at the untidy room around him. The window, although dark, also calls attention. I find, however, when we block all that out, we really can focus in on what Sava calls "his impassive gaze" (Sara, 64). Spooky, huh? I have a hard time putting the incredible unease I find into words, just framing this man rather than the room surrounding him.

The clutter almost protects us, the viewer, from having to get to close to him. In an odd way, I almost prefer the picture in this fashion. Without that wall between us and him, the picture becomes painfully personal, up-close and awkward. Which isn't exactly how I wanted to end the class, so... here's this guy to balance everything out. I hope to see you all again some time!

Why is Jeff Wall famous?

My friend Rob lives near the park where Jeff Walls "Concrete Ball" was taken. Rob is friends with a struggling photographer (Christopher Young) not in the club of Jeff Wall alumnus. He posted this on his blog complete with picture of Rob. Enjoy the bitterness.

Why the hell is Jeff Wall Famous?

Or more to the point, why aren't I? Here's this Jeff Wall photo from 2002 called....wait for it......Concrete Ball. I've seen this displayed at VAG (backlit like a bus stop) and lots of people think it this photo is just tits. In fact, here's what the internets say about it:

"Based on a found scene, the quietness of Concrete ball reveals Wall's attention to pictorial composition. The concern here is not torepresent an event, but rather to depict a generic urban landscape, without specific qualities and devoid of any drama. The perspective is carefully calculated and the central element responds to the curve of the road. The large scale of the work, proportioned to the human body, evokes a sense of immersion in the scene."

Well that's just super. Meanwhile in 2009 times, Rob and I were walking past this park quietly (not so quietly) making fun of athletic people when I saw this. Jeff Wall has all this street cred for elaborately staging his photos so I figured I better do the same and I told Rob to stand by the ball and look all artful and shit. Somebody pay me for this.

"I could have done that!"

A Living Memorial

Mark Diamond, along with his partner Penelope Stella, invented the current theatre program here at SFU. For 30 years they worked together, created together and lived together. They guided a huge amount of theatre artists presently working in Vancouver including myself. Then one day, Mark died. After I mourned this tremendous loss, I started thinking about what he meant to me, how he had contributed to who I was as an adult, a student and an artist. How could I ever display my respect and admiration for this influential mentor? I became a living memorial.

Many times when I have felt overwhelmed by a project, I have used Mark's image and words to motivate me. I ask myself "What would he say or think at this moment?" When I was thinking about whether to teach or go to grad school, I asked the question again. Mark's work also lives through me as I teach and perform. I often use words and phrases about the work that came directly from Mark. In my life, he is a presence that guides me in my artistic work and a presence that I don't want to disappoint. I honour him through my work. He continues to live through me.

Vancouver as a Superficial Performance vs. the Private Reality of Vancouverites

When I look at Jeff Wall’s “A view from an apartment”, I see what appears to be a candid shot of a family living out their everyday lives. However, it is actually a performance of this sense of “reality” of the everyday. This photograph has two features, what is meant to be “real” and everyday, contrasted with Vancouver as a performance. The first glance exposes the apartment and the relative disarray of everything. However, immediately after noticing the interior, our eye focus is drawn towards the window. Outside we see what appears to be a growing industrial city. Across the water is what appears to be industrial activity, and further yet we see the downtown core of Vancouver. The window acts as an almost literal narrative frame of Vancouver. The story Vancouver tells is contained within the confines of this window. It brings to my mind a very superficial and simplistic summation of Vancouver’s performance as a city. This contrasts what is going on inside of the apartment. The activities of the people are anti-climactic. The apartment is in a state of disorganization, and the activities of the people not only emanate “the everyday”, but also seem to portray a hyperbolic performance of “the boring reality”. A girl sits hunched over on a sofa reading some sort of magazine. The other woman in the shot appears to be doing some sort of chore. Her body language suggests a sense of depression: her head points downward, and her eyes are cast towards the floor. Her shoulders are hunched up slightly in a way that gives the impression of awkwardness. The body languages of the occupants of this apartment demonstrate a disinterest in the performance of Vancouver, which is going on behind them. A chair next to the window appears to have been placed there to serve the purpose of sitting down to enjoy the view. Yet the crowding of stuff on the chair suggests disuse. There are two contrasting elements here: a superficial performance of Vancouver, versus the reality of the bland private lives of Vancouverites.

Mimic (photography post #1)

Although race relations is a major theme in Jeff Wall's Mimic (1982), another issue that it brings to the discussion is that of natural photography vs. staged photography. By 'natural', I mean a photograph without any choreography, a spontaneous image that captures a truly human moment. Does a photo have any less value because the artist controlled the situation with an exact vision, or is the message of a piece more important? I've always been more intrigued by photographs that aren't choreographed, pictures that show a truly human moment that couldn't be recreated (I've always had a big problem with the 'say cheese' style photos in which the subject puts on a face or pose). I'm not sure that Jeff Wall's photograph would be any more or less powerful if he had the chance to capture the moment that 'Mimic' was based on, the message is still there, but knowing that this image was intricately set-up to Wall's vision makes me somewhat uncomfortable as a viewer. We know that these people are actors, we know that the racist guy probably isn't racist and that the asian man probably isn't offended. We know that the time of day was specificly chosen and that the ignorant girlfriend was casted for the role. For me, this does steal away a bit of the effect of the piece, but without taking anything away from Wall's message about co-existing races in a city. That being said, if I wasn't informed that this photograph was choreographed and designed to look this way, I would have assumed that it was a naturally spontaneous photo capturing an (all too common) moment of racism in our city. It is to Wall's credit and talent that he could witness a moment like this and reimagine it through his lens, but I'll always sway more in the direction of natural photography and 'real' moments.

Photoconceptualism and the Public

At some ungodly hour yesterday morning, I attended a forum/dialogue/panel discussion about envision Vancouver as a creative city in 2050. There were many people there, including city council members, artists, art organizers, curators, etc. At one point, someone lamented the fact that artists like Jeff Wall, Stan Douglas and Ken Lum are well known internationally, but receive not much hometown love. Their art goes for sale for thousands of dollars, and Vancourites appear to be indifferent. And to be perfectly honestly, I had never learned or heard about these artists until last year.

This brought me back to our own class discussion about the photoconceptualism debate around the artist writing academic essays on each other and not leaving much room for others to join the club. I feel that if there were essays about the Vancouver School, written in concise, non-academic writing with very little jargon, the general public would embrace the art with some regional pride. Those who are not photoconceptualists or art academics in general, and who have a high interest in learning about Vancouver art, should be able to appreciate something as innovative as the works of Jeff Wall or Stan Douglas through non-academic means.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

How to do an Expensive Memorial the Right Way

A good memorial should stand the test of time; after all, one of the key points behind a monument is allowing others to remember and learn of the event being commemorated. Does the AIDS memorial do that? Well, let me tell you about my trip to the AIDS memorial. I got lost, wet, scared, and had to ask for directions. Like twice. The memorial itself is akin to a budget Vietnam Veterans memorial, but is money really what counts?
If the AIDS Memorial looked like the Vietnam Veterans, would it be as special? The obvious answer is 'no', because AIDS is a stigmatized disease, and does not get the public awareness it needs... but on the other hand, the Vietnam war is a touchy subject as well. It could have been easy to do a statue of few soldiers shooting off at some unknown foe, or perhaps a lone trooper carrying a wounded comrade. Instead, a black wall, etched with names of those who died. Simple, but powerful. Everyone knows what it is. It is practically a national treasure.

Speaking of statues of soldiers, does anyone know what that one is about on Cordova? Maybe it isn't Cordova. Again, the issue of space and placement; if we cannot find these things easily, they are not going to get noticed or remembered. But an Angel carries a fallen soldier upwards. It is a great work (in my opinion), but it is hard to say what, if anything, it is commenting or remembering.
The Iwo Jima monument has the classic pose of soldiers raising the flag. It immediately tells people what is being commemorated, and therefore works. For a monument to work, it should be two things: easy to find, and easy to identify. If the memorial is in a largely-unvisited area of Stanley Park, an under-developed area of town, or tucked away where people rarely see, it is worthless. Likewise, if we cannot easily tell what it is (for example, Air India's memorial) people may pass by and not take notice.

Although Vancouver is not Washington D.C., there is no reason we cannot take cues from more successful monuments, if we are to continue building them.

Look, I'm a Vancouver Artist

  • So MAYBE there' s more to creating art than turning a picture upside down, and maybe taking a picture of one's self, giving it an obscure title and flipping it does constitute an artistic statement, but I just do not know for sure. Of course it was rather interesting to know the back story behind Tim Lee's 'The Jerk'. By itself, the picture makes one really think "OK, what's Tim Lee trying to do here?", but with knowledge of his referencing another work of art makes things a bit more hazy.

The problem is not the statement (whatever it may be), but that it requires the viewer to know of the other picture and formulate (or be told of) the link. Without that, 'The Jerk' is just 'The Jerk'. Which I think is fine. Maybe the allusion to the other piece is an added bonus for art's elite, or maybe most art house-types would already be familiar with this, but I think that self-enclosed attitude is part of the problem with Vancouver's art scene.

The Uncanny Mr. Douglas

I remember visiting the Vancouver Art Gallery as a child and seeing some really weird things, chief among them Stan Douglas' Every Building on 100 West Hastings. It took up a whole wall, and I remember being slightly disturbed by it, but mainly wondering how the guy took it.

I didn't care much for my visits back in those days, when my parents dragged my sister and I to a big boring building where you couldn't run around or be noisy. (I also remember a huge picture of naked people. That was pretty neat.) As the years went by our visits became less and less frequent, and eventually stopped as my sister and I transitioned into high school.

The re-introduction of Douglas' work in the course gave me the opportunity to fully appreciate and analyze a work that I admired when I was younger, but did not have the capacity to enjoy on a critical level. The uncanny holds a certain appeal for me, which meant I had a field day when I was able to identify aspects of the picture such as the absence of people outside, and inside despite the light coming from some rooms in the apartments. The pointlessness of street lights and traffic lights, as well as the absence of cars, add to the deliciously creepy nature of Douglas' work.

The Manipulation of "Truth"

A tension I see within photoconceptualism is between what's "real" and what's "fake". Like many of the photos we studied in class, they appear, at first glace, to look right, but with further observation, there is something off and uneasy.

This tension reminds me of documentary films, which are "documentations" of real life scenarios, but can be easily manipulated, through editing, staged dramatic occurrences, etc.

The documentary film Thin Blue Line explores not how film can manipulate the "truth" - but how humans can manipulate it too. Flimmaker Errol Morris uses the story of a man, who was wrongly convicted of murder a police officer, as the backbone to an exploration of authenticity and truth (or perhaps "truths"). The story was not told in a linear convention; instead, Morris chose to highlight the story's questionable facts as a jigsaw puzzle. He would give the audience a corner, and then jump to a piece in the middle. Morris' manipulation of the truth through film elements echoed the way characters in the story would manipulate the truth of what happened the night police officer Robert Wood was murdered.

The film uses many re-enactments sequences, playing out different scenarios, different truths to the one murder. Perhaps like how Jeff Wall created Mimic, these re-enactments were meant to clearly show an interpretation of an event, but they were not meant to tell the truth. There were a few people who gave their testimonies about what happened that night and the re-enactment of each showed the transformation of a simple story into a much more complex one.

Although the film is a documentary
, clearly manipulation of the "truth" can actually further discussions. With a photo like Jeff Wall's Mimic, we can delve deeper in social and cultural issues surrounding the subjects of the photos, rather than a surface interpretation of who are the people and what are they doing.

SFU Memorial

Yes, SFU has its own Ecole Polytechnique memorial.

It is a fairly recent installation, unveiled on Dec 4, 2009, which makes it less than six months old. The memorial itself was suggested by SFU's Women in Engineering organization.

An article about the memorial on the SFU website explains its history:

“The bench, created by Victoria artist Illarion Gallant, is made of basalt rock from the Squamish area. It bears the following inscription:

'On the 6th of December 1989, 14 women were killed at École Polytechnique de Montreal. They were mainly engineering students. Our community mourns their loss and honours them with this memorial.'”

The memorial is just outside the Applied Sciences building, with a path leading up to the central bus loop.

The article can be found at

What's the context?

The photograph we examined in class of the Vietnam prisoner about to be executed intrigued me. The fact that the execution was moved so the photograph could be taken and framed in a specific light spoke volumes about its purpose, but what was the history behind the picture?

An Article by Jonah Goldberg explains the photograph's immediate context:
“Just moments before that photo had been taken, several of [General Loan's] men had been gunned down. One of his soldiers had been at home, along with [his] wife and children. The Vietcong had attacked during the holiday of Tet, which had been agreed upon as a time for a truce. As it turned out, many of the victims of the NC and North Vietnamese were defenseless.“

We learned that the prisoner died and the photographer won a Pulitzer, but what happened to the guy holding the gun?

“Photographer Eddie Adams, who won a Pulitzer Prize for this photograph, said the execution was justified, because the Viet Cong officer had killed eight South Vietnamese. The furor created by this 1968 image destroyed [the executioner] Loan's life. He fled South Vietnam in 1975, the year the communists overran the country, and moved to Virginia, where he opened a restaurant. He died in 1998 at age 67. Loan 'was a hero,' Adams said when he died. 'America should be crying. I just hate to see him go this way, without people knowing anything about him.' “ -Flickr User

Adams later wrote the following in an article for TIME magazine:
"The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths. What the photograph didn't say was, 'What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American soldiers?'"

Vancouver School Part 2

Another interesting aspect which intrigued me was the ideas about artists not wanting their work to be associated with Vancouver as local art. They seem to have the idea that local art is not as prestigious and they want to be international artists that have large recognizable cities attached to their work. Many of these artists like to use Vancouver and its rich scenery to their advantage in their work, yet still don't want to be acknowledge as local artists. I think that if you want to showcase Vancouver or part of the city in your works you should pay the proper tribute to it by being proudly calling yourself a Vancouver artist. Yes Vancouver may not be considered the world capital of art or be as renowned as cities in Europe. Yet I think calling yourself a Vancouver artist and associating yourself with the city can only benifit you. There is no harm in multiple associations and by associated yourself with Vancouver by no means does it mean you are regionlizing yourself. The idea that you can only associate yourself with one place because all your work is based from there is not valid. Why not embrace what you can and be unique instead of blending in with every other artist out their who doesn't have Vancouver as a back drop and also wants to be an internationalized artist?

Just a side note since this is my last blog for the course, I really enjoyed the class and the ideas that were thrown around. There were many good discussions and it was nice to look forward to a class that wasn't so rigid in its lecture structure. Cheers to everyone for a good semester! and good luck!

Vancouver School Part 1

For me the ideas on the Vancouver School concerning the "old school" and the "new school" were the most interesting. The idea that something can change and we can compare the old with the new is fascinating. In particular the ideas of the student/ teacher relationship really intrigued me as well. What is better? Should the protege be made to be influenced by their teacher, or should the teacher be there simply for support? This is a notion that can be discussed in relation to many other aspects and not only art, however when discussing art it is important to realize that these students may not have the same opportunities as other students pursuing other interests. Therefore the student should get the best support that they can to make them the most successful that they can be. Money for the arts isn't exactly floating around waiting to be collected and having an overbearing teacher can cause poor work from the student. By no means does having an overbearing mentor mean poor work. Being influenced by someone who has done great things is phenomenal. So what if after you have the same style that artist used? You are never going to be exactly like them as an artist becaue every artist has their distinct flair they add to their work.

Roadside Memorials: Where Does it End?

As many of us agreed in class, roadside memorials are very effective, often more effective than memorials placed in public parks. They seem to be an effective tool for awareness about the true dangers of car accidents. People have even said that upon seeing a massive cluster of flowers and stuffed animals, they tend to take their foot off the gas. Even so, how appropriate are these roadside memorials? Is it fair for people to be able to leave objects lying around in a public space without any sense of authority or ownership? It seems to be a growing trend for people to leave things at a site where loved ones have died on the side of the road. At what point does this become overkill? With an abundance of these roadside memorials, their effect on awareness if bound to decline when people simply become numb to these various memorials. Roadside crashes are certainly not on the decline, and eventually our streets will become overwhelmingly littered with various crosses and sentiments. It seems to me that a gravesite is a more appropriate space to place these types of sentiments. Its not that I’m not an insensitive human being, I do feel for these people. But where does it end?

Blog #3: Olympics versus Paralympics

It was a priviledge, I think, to be able to host both the Olympics and the Paralympics in our city. Aside, from the obvious festivities, the chance to see world-class athleticism, and the chance to broadcast our city to the world, having the opportunity to host the two mega-events gave us Vancouverites the chance to reflect on the entirety of the sport-entertainment culture. A quick comparison of the opening ceremonies of the two Games will do the trick. I remember watching the opening ceremonies for the Olympics, and as I watched I gradually came to accept it as it was.

The ceremonies were an optimistic and artistic rendition of our country. They were a welcoming to world on one hand, but most definitely a placing of Canada on centre-stage on the other. While the athletes were introduced and cheered for, the ultimate protagonist was our country itself, with all its values, visions, hopes, and dreams.The Paralympic opening, however, was far from similar. It often referred to the Paralympics as a celebration of the human spirit. The ceremonies time and time again promoted the idea of "nothing being impossible" and of athleticism as a means of inspiring younger generations. The performances were dominated by child and youth talent, and the climactic event of the torch lighting was done with a 14-year old under the spotlight.

As much as I enjoyed the Olympic ceremonies, they just didn't quite have the impact that the Paralympic opening did. VANOC focused so intently on making sure Canada performed for itself on the world stage, but in the process maybe forgot about the importance of sport as a means of promoting the values that everyone idealizes. The Paralympic opening did that well. While watching, I was inspired not by the technology of a television stage or the extreme technical choreography of Canadian dancers, but simply by the story of individual people, which ultimately is what sport should be about.

Blog #2: The Olympic Victory

It's obvious that if you ask any Canadian, any Vancouverite, what the most memorable moment was during the 2010 Olympics, they would say with conviction that it was the overtime goal by Sidney Crosby during the Men's Finals in Ice Hockey.  Yes, what a goal it was indeed.  I was watching the game from my friend's house with him and another friend of mine.  Initially, the plan was to watch the game with them and then to head home for a quiet night of studying before school the next day.  Little did I realize how contagious an Olympic victory can be.  The moment we won that game, my two friends cheered and demanded that we go downtown to celebrate with the rest of the city.  The moment they cheered; I cheered.  The moment they asked; I immediately abandoned any notion of prudence.  We were on our way on transit in ten minutes.  I was swept up by an overwhelming urge to have a great time.  That's the potency of an Olympic celebration, it seems. I gave high-fives to at least one hundred strangers within the span of two hours. I started cheers of "Ca-na-da" and watched as they were carried away down the corridors of Granville skytrain station.  I lost myself in the crowds and crowds of people who, perhaps for the only time in their lives, would ever reveal any hint of patriotism.  It was infectious and I loved it.  It strange how, leading up to the Games, we all had at least the smallest worry hanging over our heads.  Some were concerned with the lack of powder on the mountain tops.  Others were already complaining about how bad transit would be, even a week before the first event took place.  Affordable housing was, and still is, an ongoing issue in the city.  But hate the mega-event or not, no one complained when that puck slid past Ryan Miller in that final game.  Everyone was caught up in the glory of our country and our city.  Everyone was proud to be Canadian.  The Olympics had come, but before it disappeared, it made sure to leave at least one purely amazing experience in the minds of every spectator.  Now that it's gone, it's back to my normal routine.  I can go ahead and analyze and criticize the Games as much as possible, if I wanted to.  But the Olympics had done its damage in one evening, proving to everyone that it really wasn't all that bad.

Blog #1: Push and Arts Funding

With the newspapers buzzing about the recent budget proposals in both our provincial and federal legislature, I can't help but think back to the PUSH festival. I'll admit, I'm usually not hyperactively keen on political news, nor especially interested in making politically-charged observations, but when 3 out of 4 shows opened with a gentle arts supporter stating that "The provincial government is planning on making huge cuts to arts funding... about 90%," I can do nothing but develop my own opinion. Sitting in the audience as I was the first time it was announced, I distinctly remember booing along with the crowd, metaphorically shaking my fist in protest to that horrible right-wing government that only cared about investing in money and never in culture... and how horrible they were to do that! We truly were becoming more and more like the dreaded United States.

As always, everything seems a bit more focussed in hindsight. The 2010 budgets were presented and the BC budget most certainly did not cut arts funding by 90%. (Thinking back now, I might've misheard the whole time and they were really saying 19%...just an afterthought.) But, of course, people are still outraged. It's funny though, because I'm not. In all truthfulness, I think they could've cut arts funding even more. considering that we are only now slowing working our way out of a depression, that company after company in northern BC closed down forever because of financial hardship, that cuts are being made to social services, and that still no plans for sustainably and effectively combating homelessness are in place, I think that anyone that complains about arts funding really has their priorities out of place.

Art has always prospered, with government funding or not. And as much as I know that arts and culture are a fundamental part of society and truly are a worthy investment, I can't help but think that people ought to have health, and shelter, and ought to be supported by the community around them. Because as much as stage performances and art exhibits define humanity, doesn't humanity itself do it more so?

Performing Memorials: Are We Ready?

Thinking about memorials, I keep going back to the memorial in the street performed by Rebecca Belmore, “The Named and the Unnamed”. This is the memorial where the woman washed the streets, screamed the names of the missing persons from the Vancouver East Side, nailed her dress to the telephone post, and ripped the heads off roses with her teeth. Unlike memorials in parks that commemorate people discreetly on a rock or a wall that blends in with the background, Belmore commands the attention of passersby. She would have been impossible to ignore, for she stood her ground and screamed the names of the missing peoples. This type of memorializing got me questioning the purpose of public memorials. Is the main purpose to create awareness and command attention? Or is a memorial most importantly meant to function as a sign of respect and acknowledgement for those chose to do so? Although I think Belmore’s technique is a creative and unique way to memorialize people, I am not quite sure Vancouver is ready for this type of memorial. The city seems most comfortable with discreet memorials that won’t make waves or distract people too much from their everyday lives. It seems that this city is more focused on forgetting, and moving on, rather than staying in the moment and remembering. This is why I think the memorials around the lower mainland tend to function as background props in parks and gardens. A memorial such as Belmore’s would command full attention and seriousness, a break from the everyday life of naiveté to the reality of the terrible things that take place in the city we live in. Belmore’s performance would also in a sense be a great risk. If people did not understand the sincerity of the performance, or chose not to respect it, they might act out in a way that would greatly disrespect both the performer, and the people trying to pay their respects. I personally do not think Vancouver is ready for this type of memorializing. In order for this type of memorial to be effective in a Vancouver urban space, the city would have to shift its focus from forgetting, towards remembering. It would have to be a collective shift in attitudes, and therefore allow the respect and sincerity this type of performance requires. However, with that said, perhaps these types of performances could change the way Vancouver conceptualizes memorials. In “Performance and the City”, Solga, Hokins and Orr state that, “performance can help to renegotiate the urban archive, to build the city and to change it” (6). Instead of waiting for the city to shift and be ready for performed memorials, perhaps these types of memorials will be the shift that changes the city.

Friday, April 23, 2010

PuSh Festival Post II (again): The Show Must Go On

Again, I am sure...nevermind...

And The Show Must Go On (from the PuSh Festival website):

“A cult figure on the international dance scene, Jérôme Bel brings us The Show Must Go On—a delightfully subversive game of anticipation and expectation that blurs the line between spectator and spectacle. With an illustrious group of 20 local individuals, accompanied by a D.J. with an extensive collection of pop tunes, fans of last year’s That Night Follows Day will find in Jérôme Bel’s masterpiece a truly kindred spirit—an evening that lovingly combines humour, nostalgia and human frailty, with the immediacy of live performance. The Show Must Go On has been cast in Vancouver to unite a community of performers in honour of the new SFU Woodward’s. Join us for a glimpse into the re-birth of one of our city’s most treasured landmarks.”

When The Show Must Go On premièred in 2001 at the Théâtre de la Ville, Paris, some members of the audience clapped and sang along, others stormed the stage demanding their money back, and one critic slapped another in the face—a mixed critical reception, you might say. While I certainly approve of Bel’s original choreographic piss-taking, I question the show’s continuous touring. I realise that “each night is different.” So goes live performance. But The Show Must Go On appears somewhat drained of its provocative vigour. It is a show of moment, not repetition, and its moment has passed it seems. What is more, critics appear bent on maintaining its subversive potential by turning every misstep into some sort of theoretical commentary: It is boring/it is a commentary on boredom, it is superficial/it is a commentary on superficiality, it is kitsch/it is a commentary on kitsch. Or maybe it is boring superficial kitsch? In Vancouver specifically, the show has been touted a new beginning for the Woodward’s theatre—progressive and community-building. (Note: the night I attended Vancouver’s insular arts community made up most of the audience.) Really? Coming together over largely American pop-music, which has transformed musical craft into yet another capitalist mode of production? I mean, the reason we can all sing along is because the music industry “spectacularly” (in the Debordian sense) drills the songs into our consciousness. Then again, it is probably just a commentary on capitalist proliferation via music.

PuSh Festival Post I (again): The Passion of Joan of Arc

I am sure I have already done these PuSh posts, but the blog says otherwise. So, round two...

I attended The Passion of Joan of Arc on 28 January 2010 at the Christ Church Cathedral. It went something like this (from the PuSh Festival website):

“With the haunting face of actress Renée Falconetti playing the doomed Joan of Arc as inspiration, Vancouver-based composer Stefan Smulovitz has written a luminous score to accompany Carl Dreyer’s 1928 silent film, The Passion of Joan of Arc. Performed by the Eye of Newt Ensemble, this PuSh Festival commissioned piece for ten musicians includes text by Colin Browne and combines the stunning voice of Viviane Houle with the city’s top instrumentalists and Christ Church Cathedral’s legendary pipe organ, in a sublime tribute to one of film’s most enduring performances.”

While the original film—La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc, directed Dreyer—is brilliant, I did not think the musical and text accompaniment contributed much, beyond pretentious appropriation, that is. In La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc, Falconetti's performance, complemented by relentless close-up shooting and use of panochromatic film renders Joan of Arc, canonised by the Roman Catholic Church in 1920, intensely human. There are several themes at work in this amplified humanism. One I find particularly interesting is the emphasis on personal confession, not only as purging of sinful behaviour, but also as a necessary means of legitimating a higher authority. In “Chapter XV” of the Essence of Christianity, German philosopher and anthropologist Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach argues that Christianity creates the illusion of a higher authority—God—as a means of controlling humanity, when in reality the higher authority of God is entirely based on human self-subordination: humans create the God they cannot live up to. This is particularly evident in the figure of Christ that, neither wholly human nor wholly God, keeps humanity under servitude in cycle of aspiration and inadequacy. Joan of Arc is similarly asked to confess her sins to God as represented in oppressive law. The deviant must validate the law of her exclusion.

In this sense, Joan of Arc’s refusal, her silence is a very powerful resistance. Adding music and text—to give voice to—this silence is merely a buying into “active” conventions: active voice versus passive silence, masculinity versus femininity, authority versus subordinate. It is little more than an old-hack, pretentious, masculine appropriation, even if sung by Viviane Houle.

Photography Post II: "Never trust any photograph so large that it can only fit in a museum"

The title quotation is from photographer Duane Michals' book Foto Follies: How Photography Lost its Virginity on the Way to the Bank. Published in 2006, it is ridiculously funny and politically incorrect, but at the same time quite serious about the problems with new photography, or photography of the tableau form. (The term "tableau form," coined by Jean-François Chervier, refers to a style of photography characterised by its large-scale format and its intended display in a gallery or museum space. It is most commonly associated with the worked of Jeff Wall and Andreas Gurksy.) Michals' criticism of the tableau form is implicitly marked a discussion of indexicality, (arguably) the main point of contention in contemporary photography theory. (For a good introduction to the indexicality debate, check out James Elkins' edited volume Photography Theory, published in 2007.)

Indexicality is in many ways an extension of Barthes' studium and punctum theory - the seeing (of the object) and being there (of standing before the object). Addressing how “the sign represents its object,” or “on what basis does it come to stand for its object,” indexicality applies Charles Sanders Peirce’s semiotic “trichotomy of icon, index, and symbol” to photography: The sign may act as an (i) icon, representing the object in its likeness to it; as an (ii) index, representing the object in its existential connection to it; or as a (iii) symbol, representing the object by convention.[1] The photograph is an index. It exists as the “relation between the object photographed and the image finally created,” resulting from “the transformation of light sensitive emulsion caused by light reflecting off the object photographed filtered through the lens and diaphragm.” [2] The indexicality of the photograph is the medium specificity of the photograph, which ultimately differentiates photography from painting. However, indexicality also burdens photography a representational limitation – the photograph is casually related to the object it photographs – which since the late 1970s has been challenged in the tableau form.

Wall's The Destroyed Room (1978) is one such challenge. Confronting The Destroyed Room, measuring 1.5m x 2.3m, the spectator encounters a wealth of detail made visible by the photograph’s size: the diagonally ripped mattress, the exposed insulation, empty light-bulb socket, overturned table, the single gold-lamé shoe, the bed-sheets and gowns, the painted brick hallway, the dancing figurine, the broken mirror, and the peeling paint. The act of "seeing" is confused. As well, each object is meticulously placed by Wall. The act of "being there" is denied. Agency is now attributed, not to indexicality - object and light interaction - but to the photographer, to Wall - as artist.

James Elkins, Photography Theory (London: Routledge, 2007): 222-223.
[2] Tom Gunning, “What’s the Point of an index? Or Faking Photographs,” NORDICAM Review (5:1-2 September 2004): 40.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Vans First Nations Art

Last month, I saw a news report on CTV's "First Story" about Aboriginal artist Louie Gong, who creates First Nations art on Vans shoes. Although he mainly draws Aboriginal symbols, he will draw other objects if the customer wishes. Only armed with a sharpie felt and a pencil, he draws extremely elaborate designs that appear to have come straight from the manufacturer. Some of his designs include the raven and the hummingbird. He also designs skateboards and t-shirts. As I was watching the news program, I wondered if people would consider his work art, or if it is something entirely different. I'll leave that up to you to decide. (Photo is courtesy of: Indian Country Today)

Cybermemorials and their potential

Recently, drummer Devon Clifford of the Vancouver band You Say Party! We Say Die! passed away due to an undiagnosed cerebral arteriovenous malformation (AVM), a congenital birth defect that caused massive bleeding in his brain when he collasped last Friday during the band's homecoming gig at the Rickshaw Theatre. News of Clifford's death spread like wildfire and perhaps not surprisingly, Facebook groups and pages were quickly created to honour the drummer in cyberspace.

Clifford worked in the Downtown Eastside for the Portland Hotel Society. A particular memorial group on Facebook is actually dedicated to raise money to donate in honour of Clifford: Devon Clifford Discussion

(I apologize for those who cannot access the link! Here is a public look at the site, but it's still not incredibly informative)

They have contacted the Portland Hotel Society, and are trying to organize a fundraising event/benefit concert in honour of Clifford. What is inspiring about this new direction some cybermemorials are taking is the forward action its creators are employing. Rather than create a space to talk about the past, this group is talking about the future and continuing the work Clifford was doing. Something like this is a rather fitting tribute.

The Vancouver Sun also wrote a lovely obit if you are interested.

Skateboarding during Van 2010 feat. New Order

Olympics-related video featuring skateboarding and New Order (because they are still awesome).

WESC Russ Milligan from Popular on Vimeo.

Jeff Wall vs. Dale Chihuly

Peter made an interesting comment in his post on Jeff Wall's piece being over one million dollars, and that this represents a price tag for Vancouver. This implies that Jeff Wall and the Vancouver school represent the art scene in Vancouver, which is probably for the most part how Vancouver is represented on the world art scene, I don't know. I find this idea very interesting in that Seattle is going through a similar phase as Vancouver in its art evolution. Dale Chihuly is probably one of the most famous, if not the most famous artist from Seattle. Since his rise to fame, a Glass art museum was built in Tacoma, his birthplace, and numerous glass art exhibits have been displayed in Seattle. Nowadays in and around Seattle, more and more people are becoming interested in glass blowing. It has become a sort of phenomenon around the city. But a controversy has arisen around displaying Chihuly's art in a garden in the Seattle center. The area under question is one of the last open public places in the city, and the city has recently asked for recommendations from residents as to what to do with the area. At a recent meeting, hundreds of people showed up to support the idea of displaying Chihuly's art in this area. In fact, it was the only idea presented by the residents. Some other Seattlite's showed up to decry the display of Chihuly's art in one of the last open public spaces. After all, they asked, do we really need another Dale Chihuly exhibit in Seattle? I agree. Everyone knows the guy is already from Seattle, its like having 7 monuments to Kurt Cobain in the city center. Why not use the space to display new artists? or reserve it as a place for children, like it currently is? To bring this story back to Vancouver, how well can one artist or a single group of artists represent a city, and why do cities and their residents search out these artists to help develop the identity of the city? Is it just a case of proud residents wanted to support their artists? or rather residents searching for a community identity?

Classifying photography

I was having a conversation with one of my friends a few days ago about the nature of photography. Photography has always seemed to bother me as an "art form" for whatever reason. Maybe this is why I almost flunked it in high school? But I think what bothers me the most about photography is the process behind creating the picture. When an artist paints or draws a posing model, they must first look at the model, and then using their own imagination paint or draw their interpretation of the model however they like. But in photography, this process is captured by a machine, the camera. And this machine leaves little room, in a sense, for the artist's interpretation of the model. The camera captures in a very real way the shape and form of the model, with some manipulation using light and dark room techniques. Instead of manipulating the medium, artists like Jeff Wall and Ken Lum have to manipulate the model. I think photography as an art form confronts the viewer in a completely different way than the classical art forms. We must view it in a different way than paintings, usually in a much more active way, in order to discover how and why Wall or Lum may have placed who or what where and how they did. I think I just might be lazy. I don't like having to work at looking at a piece of art like this. Maybe my brain just doesn't understand what is happening quite like other people's. I don't know, but either way, I still don't really enjoy photography.

Speaking of price tags!

This is just for fun:

Wall's Anatomy

I know I've been lax in posting responses to all of your blog posts, but in the interim I thought some of you might be interested in this item from Tuesday's Vancouver Sun. It's about one of Jeff Wall's better-known mid-1990s photos, Adrian Walker, artist, drawing from a specimen in a laboratory in the Dept. of Anatomy at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, which is expected to crack the $1 million barrier for the sale of a Wall work at auction in early May.

Talk about putting a price tag on Vancouver...


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Some of you may be familiar with the Montreal Massacre that occured more than two decades ago at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec. On December 6, 1989, Marc Lepine shot and stabbed 28 students, killing 14 women specifically selected for attack based solely on their sex. Lepine specifically targeted women in what he claimed to be a fight against feminism. As such, the event has since been classified by many feminists groups as an anti-feminist attack that symbolizes violence again women.

I remember participating in a vigil for this massacre back in 2004 when I was attending the U of A. Names of the 14 slain women were written on heavy black wooden boards which were strapped onto the bodies of 14 volunteers who would wear it through the course of the day. At night, candles were lit (in 4 feet of snow), songs were sung, and heartfelt prayers were said aloud.

Numerous memorials have been assembled in memory of the slain women but the massacre has also spurred annual campaigns and commemorative demonstrations aimed to raise awareness of male violence and discrimination against women. Although the massacre was a deliberate attack against women, I personally find it problematic that little to no tribute or recognition has been given to the men who were injured in the process. During the vigil that I participated in, there was only mention of the slain and injured women but no mention at all of the men. I did not find out until much later that men were also victims, albeit not targeted victims, but victims nonetheless. To add insult to the injury, guilt was bestowed on the injured men who survived the attack for not protecting the women and doing anything to stop the killer. So why all this focus and sympathy for the women? Are not the male victims equally honorable human beings deserving of sympathy and respect, regardless of the motive behind the attack?

I find it quite puzzling as well to consider that the deaths of the women have been appropriated by the feminist movement to promote their agenda on discrimination against women. This movement has had a significant influence on the way this event is portrayed and viewed by the public and in the media. Since 1991 (just 2 years after the event) the anniversary of the massacre has shifted from specifically commemorating the event to being designated as the "National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women," which has sparked alot of controversy. However, this wouldn't be the first time the feminist movement has been criticized for using such events as the Montreal Massacre to justify their antagonism. The above photo is of a memorial in Vancouver titled "Marker of Change" which has been highly criticized for its dedication to "all women murdered by men" because it implies that all men are potential murders and that all men should accept guilt and responsibility for the violence against women.

What do you think of these kinds of memorials and monuments built upon feminist attitudes? Do you think the feminist movement is justified in appropriating events such as the Montreal Massacre to marginalize the issue of male violence and discrimination against women? Do you think it perpetuates the social stigma surrounding men as aggressive and violent beings?

Memorial - Angel of Victory

Talking about memorials in public space and our interactions with them, I remembered to be in possession of this photograph (as a postcard):

N.B. I apologize for the low quality. I have not used a scanner in years and could not really get the technology to function for me.

Taken by Vancouver photographer and artist Lincoln Clarkes, this photo is titled, Solider, Angel and Man, Vancouver 1986. Lincoln Clarkes has been slowly archiving his photos digitally, so I tried to look for the story behind this particular shot on his blog, but could not find anything. So, my thoughts are simply based on our recent class discussions around public space and memorials. The memorial is located on W Cordova between Seymour and Richards (near Steamworks).

View Larger Map

This particular monument is sculpture that depicts an angel carrying a dead soldier and is to commemorate the lives lost in World War I. One of three identical statues commissioned by the CPR to honour those who fought in the war (the other two are located in Winnipeg and Montreal). In the picture, you can see that the angel is holding a full wreath in her upraised hand (in more recent pictures, that wreath is gone). After WWII, dates of that war were added to the monument's plaque.

What is interesting to note about this photograph is the way the unknown man is interacting with the memorial. Is it disrespectful to climb atop the bronze figures or is it perhaps appropriation of the object for man's own use? Does it take away the meaning of the memorial? Why is he even up there? Like our class discussions about the Air India memorial (with regards to the designated seating benches), is there an appropriate way to interact with a monument? I see this photo as an example of the tensions between people, public space and memorials.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Which Interior?

A few years ago, Torsten Kehler, a professor at SFU who I'm sure many of you are familiar with, told our class about one of his experiences with Jeff Wall. Sometime in the early 80's, Torsten lived in the same apartment building as Jeff. Sometime during that period, Jeff Wall asked several of the residents if he could use their apartments for one of his projects, Torsten was one of those residents. Jeff blacked out all of the windows, and after that I have no idea what direction the photo took, I can't remember if Torsten mentioned what happened. Since that day, I have been unable to look at any of Jeff Wall's photographs without thinking about that anecdote, whats worse is that if its an interior shot, its the only thing I can consider. The work shown in class, "Insomnia", has always been my most likely suspect. Again, its entirely possible that Torsten mentioned exactly which photograph was his (or one of his other tenant's) apartment.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

This grainy photo is of Leeside, a guerrilla built skateboard park which exists underneath the Cassiar Connector along Hastings in between Burnaby and Vancouver. The park is named Leeside after Lee Matasi, who was fatally shot in 2005 outside the Red Room. After Matasi's death, the park became a living memorial. In direct contrast to the passive memorials we've discussed in class, this site is active. It draws skateboarders oblivious to the context surrounding the park, but as it does so, continues to inform people about Matasi.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Terry Fox (memorial post #2)

Today marks the 30th Anniversary of the start of Terry Fox's Marathon of Hope, an attempted cross-Canada run that lasted 143 days until he was unable to continue. From a very young age I've known the name Terry Fox and though in elementary school I couldn't fully appreciate his importance to cancer research and Canada's image, I'm old enough now to realize that this is a man worth praising and of all the Canadian icons to be proud of he definitely ranks high. We've all walked past the Fox statue at the Burnaby campus and while most of us likely treat it more like background or decoration, I took a moment this morning to really check it out and consider Terry Fox's contribution to our lives.
I've been lucky enough to not have lost anyone to cancer, but I think Terry Fox can be recognized as an inspirational figure whether you've had a personal experience with the disease or not. I believe that the statue itself is a great way to remember Terry, and the fact that he is forever in mid-stride is a testament to the ongoing cancer research being done and the message that he sent to Canada and the world 30 years ago. This memorial is a reminder that, although his death was tragic, not all memorials have to be depressing and this is one that can truly include everyone. Terry Fox is a great example of a man who died doing something amazing that he believed in and I'm proud that he was born and raised just a few towns away from me.

Remember!!! DO IT!

Truth be told, I had sorta kinda forgotten about this blog for a while! (So I guess my next few posts will be like an overview of the units we've done...)
Honestly, I liked when the Olympics were here; I fully embraced the whole thing while it lasted. However, upon logging into Facebook for some early morning procrastinatin' time, I saw that the Olympics group had posted this message (see image).
Now I agree that it was a good time being out in Vancouver and exploring what seemed like a nice setup for tourists, feeling the patriotic atmosphere and partaking in the gold medal game celebrations, but with today marking the two-month anniversary of the opening ceremony, is this message REALLY necessary?
It comes across as borderline desperate, as if it needs people to click on the "like" button, or else we're failing to remember the event and therefore failing to perform our role as people that liked the Olympics? It reminds me of those annoying couples that can't just enjoy being with each other, but find it absolutely necessary to celebrate an anniversary every month and let the world know about it. I guess their relationship isn't legitimate without the confirmation? 1545 people have clicked "liked" so far!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Remembering on a Budget

During the discussions on memorials, one thing that came up was cost, and who the memorials were for. It seemed that generally, people felt that a memorial was serving its purpose best if it was raising awareness, and encouraging remembrance. This got me thinking... are showings of support for AIDs or cancer victims, or for soldiers memorials when one wears a ribbon? Does the ribbon act as a sort of memorial? We already talked a bit in class about the possibility of the poppy being a memorial.

On the surface, it doesn't feel the same, but after seeing a rock on Crab Beach that supposedly IS a memorial, it is hard to justify the categorization.


1. Something, such as a monument or holiday, intended to celebrate or honor the memory of a person or an event.

This definition, from (totally a scholarly source), indicates both monuments and holidays as examples of possible memorials. Why not extend this further? A large, expensive monument is not accessible for everyone and costs more than necessary. A simple facebook page informing people to wear pink costs nothing. People associate Pink Shirt Day as a stand against bullying, a yellow daisy for cancer victims, and a yellow ribbon to support the troops.

Unlike most memorials, these cheaper forms allow everyone to get involved and remember together, rather than searching out statues and monuments placed throughout Vancouver.

The Words Don't Fit

We spoke early on in the semester about Vancouver's Neon past. A past which still remains in parts of the city, the "Toys 'R Us" sign down on W. Broadway or the "Save on Meats" sign on East Hastings. The signs that kinda make us cringe. Like all popular trends in decades past we find ourselves asking "What were we thinking?" Well love it or hate it there was a time when Vancouver was fairly well known for its neon signage.It became a trademark, a performance. In fact there was so much Neon that Vancouver was at one point recognizable by its neon hue from an airplanes. Yet things changed, the city found a new performance outlet in the 50's and neon signs were taken down and fewer installed due to changes in the by laws. Yet this spring Vancouver artist, Ron Terada, piece "The Words Don't Fit The Picture" was installed just outside Vancouver's central Library.

This piece is a tribute to Vancouver's days of Neon signs, to the historical expression of this city. This permanent installation is a text based work which playfully and poetically addresses its surroundings in its caption.

Below you will see it at night to give you a better idea of the tribute to neon.