Margaret Dragu Reporting From Vancouver, BC; CANADA
Public Art in Vancouver is a history of diverse practices oscillating from sculpture/plop art to interactive digital billboards to intervention-performance/culture jamming to parade/procession and even to community events just one teensy-weensy step above children’s face-painting at church jumble sales a la Midsomer murder mysteries.
It is this art reporter’s opinion that the feel of Vancouver’s public performance art is partly from the histories of the consistently fabulous art works of the artists Paula Jardine and Glenn Lewis. Our west coast public art “look” of procession, ritual, stilts, mask, shadow, light and flags mixed with live world music originates from the combined legacies of these two artists who have different art practices and origins yet overlap some common values and aesthetics
Paula Jardine in “22 Years in 7 Minutes”
Glenn Lewis aka Flakey Rosehips in “LIVE!”
Public Art in Vancouver is also a story of controversy and censorship.
Recently, Indian artist Sudarshan Shetty’s installation at King Edward Sky train Station of three-foot-long Volkswagen Beetles stacked in clear Plexiglass boxes named “History of Loss” along with Mexican artist Javier Marin’s sculpture “Miss Mao Trying to Poise Herself at the Top of Lenin’s Head” outside Lansdowne Sky train Station were both vandalized and/or ‘disappeared’.
Dennis Oppenheim’s “Device to Root Out Evil” was dug out of its public home at Coal Harbour in Vancouver and shipped to Calgary, Alberta after vigilant bible-thumpers protested Oppenheim’s inverted church as being “blasphemic” .
Elizabeth Roy’s sculpture “SPAN” at Richmond’s City Hall was unceremoniously moved about Richmond city lawns ignoring the artist’s and The City’s original contractual agreements simply on the whim or pleasure/displeasure of local councilmen .
More recently, the wonderful public artwork Digital Natives that was curated by Lorna Brown and Clint Burnham also received a censorious whip.
“Three of the contributors’ messages were censored by the corporation that is under contract to manage the billboard’s content, Astral Media Outdoor. Several messages from the public were also censored before our second rollout on April 18. On April 30 (just in time for the Vancouver Marathon) an outcropping of signs appeared. We are pleased to note that these messages will be included as part of the Digital Natives contribution to the TIME-BASED program at Xwáýxway (Stanley Park), part of the Summer Live celebration, July 8, 9, 10, 2011.”
Their project Digital Natives intervened “in the physical, social and historical context of the site, the billboard and the city with a series of ten second text messages interrupting the rotation of advertisements. Taking the form of Twitter messages, invited contributors responded to the site’s charged history, the ten-second format and the 140-character limit of tweets. The sign itself became an artistic and literary space for exchange between native and non-native communities exploring how language is used in advertising, its tactical role in colonization, and as a complex vehicle of communication.”
This project is surely one of the most engaging and complex public art works Vancouver has produced in a long time. It is absolutely not to be missed — live and in person — or virtually at home on your computer on-line.
Fine Arts Forever and with respect to all creators, Margaret Dragu xoxoxoxox