This is a new video connected to the Sphaerae project, a series of photos I made for exhibition and for which loscil (Scott Morgan) created eight new pieces. Eventually I made a video for VR Media using #8. You can see the first production on our homepage.
In the fall of 2016 I revisited the tracks Scott had made and felt a renewed interest and thought it worthwhile to create a new video using #1 as a soundtrack. In it I use an image of Sphaerae #1 and then let it dissolve into a blend of new footage and remixed elements from the first video. If time and imagination permits, I’ll do six more of these.
Etienne Zack is suddenly in unfamiliar territory. The Montreal born artist has just landed in a curious little outpost most of us think of (if at all) as a place to buy cheap gas or pick up duty free parcels. It’s a place borne of a 19th century border dispute between England and America, an island really, only recently joined (in geological terms) to our lower mainland. I’m referring, of course, to “The Home of The Breakers”: Point Roberts, Washington. USA.
After spending some time in Vancouver in the early noughts (We featured one of his paintings, Comers and Goers in our Centrefold feature in VR#11, Fall, 2006) Etienne spent the Obama years in LA as his career reached critical mass. But since the fall of 2016, he’s settled with his young family into this quiet rural setting to our south just as we enter the era of The Great Orange Mussolini.
Etiennes’ more recent work has frequently consisted of dream-like structures made of books or bound and/or redacted documents often supported by truncheons or bare fluorescent tubes. They are like the interiors of rooms built by a delirious prisoner out of the detritus of a mysterious book repository incident.
Settings oil on canvas 77” x 60” 2016
The effect of seeing the larger canvases reminds me of The Comb, a dream-like, stop-frame animated short by The Brothers Quay in that the film frequently conveys that dream sense of shifting rapidly from one familiar place into another, unrelated space where the exact point of transition is blurred by the mind to the point of being seamless. But The Brothers Quay used a time-based medium (film) and shifting mirror boxes to achieve the effect. Etienne does it with paint.
There are also echoes of French artist Christian Boltanski’s installations which evoke the scale of loss during the holocaust via dangling, dimmed bulbs, and rows of out-of-focus portraits suggesting a dark, bureaucratic organization. Threads of Gerhard Richter’s soft B&W portraits and his scuffed, layered abstraction also hang in the air. Phllip Guston once said ”When you’re in the studio painting, there are a lot of people in there with you – your teachers, friends, painters from history, critics… and one by one, if you’re really painting, they walk out. And if you’re really painting YOU walk out.” It seems to me that Etienne has walked out of the studio and what remains is truly unique.
MM: How are you feeling about the move ?
EZ: It’s been a very intense experience for me because we moved here in November and as soon as I started painting, I sensed a break in the work. We’ve spent so much time going through the process of the nomination and then the actual election (of Trump).
I’ve moved around a lot and since 2011 and my studio was more in my head than physically in a space. So working spaces kept changing because I was always moving around a lot. I think many artists can relate to this because real estate is always a very real problem in terms of securing studio space. I took a month and a half to just to establish a solid foundation for myself.
But then came January and there’s a shift in the work. Trump is in power, Brexit has happened and it’s now like a different world. But the situation here in Point Roberts is very strange. In a way it exists on its own terms. It’s not even illustrated on US maps! It looks like an island! And it is, because Canada doesn’t exist for the US and neither does Point Roberts! But it’s an interesting place to be because of its detachment from so many things. I’m trying to figure out what it means to live here. It’s not charged politically. It’s a weird, neutral space. Americans here rely on another people’s economy to make it run, which is unusual for most Americans.
MM: What’s been your response to all this on the canvas?
EZ: I think what’s happening is that there’s more of a “covering” so with the “architectural” structures I usually paint, there’s something covering it. And the writing and text is becoming more present but not legibly integrated into the painting. But there’s still space there for integrating text and really juicy painting!
MM: But you’re in a rural setting now. That’s surely going to make itself known through the work.
EZ: Yeah. I’ve never been close to nature before. I grew up in cities so this is all new. I can spend days not even going outside. I was operating like that in LA where the sun is so brutal you just stay inside and create your own little cinema. I’m still in that mode, in an artificial reality so nature might be good for me. It’s something I’ve wanted to explore more, trying to understand the patterns of nature. The work is just opening up to me so I’m not sure where it’s going. Usually I come into the studio with a pretty good idea. There are some paintings where the rags I’m using or covers that are folded pieces of cloth end up becoming “mountains”. And all of a sudden it’s interesting because there’s text on top of these materials. It might be my way to tap into Canadian landscape painting. I’m not sure what direction things will go.
MM: You’ll have Emily Carr and the Group of Seven “in the room” with you now!
EZ: But what a different reality they were in. They were so close to the landscape with a deep level of understanding. And you need that to make successful paintings so I’m not sure I can even properly look at their paintings right now. Maybe this new local landscape might help me with that.
MM: I love the idea of projecting outwards from an interior setting, to imagine landscapes and make them with disparate elements. You’re now here with fewer distractions.
EZ: There’s a lot more coming at us while we are making things. What does it mean to be connected to the entire world in a studio now? If you look at a Rembrandt painting of his studio it’s got maps, carpets and things from all over the world in it. It’s a representation of that time, of an outside world. Now you have millions of heads poking into your studio from your phone/computer. There are different moments in my production that I’m open to receiving information through podcasts, music and things like that. There’s a lot of time spent alone so I’m always trying to find the right recipe.
MM: It’s like you can reconstruct these images in dreams and they’ll become endlessly unfolding. The paint seems encouraged to leave the canvas in the mind of the viewer.
EZ: It’s important for me that the paintings seem to unfold and duplicate beyond their borders, basically beyond the frame where I’ve “edited” them. With the previous series, the canvas was first stretched on the wall and then on the frame afterwards so the edges actually continue around the piece. It was another way of indicating that the paintings should continue perpetually up, down and everywhere. Scale has something to do with it as well. When I first started the series about documents and books, the stacks of books were a lot bigger. I liked that because I could imagine looking into the content of each page but when I reduced the size of the books and enlarged the paintings then you get more of a landscape feeling so it enables the painting to go further at its edges.
MM: Our minds create structures on the fly during dreams with unfamiliar places coming into being and merging with familiar places. You represent this in two dimensional form and create it over time, consciously. It seems they can then get into peoples minds and seed a new dream space.
EZ: The paintings come from reading and imagining structures in my head where they slowly resolve into images that are still blurry but there’s real structure. And then I paint them. And when I do that I let go more and more of the first imagined architecture and bring them into the painted world. Maybe it’s because they’re completely imagined. Maybe that’s why they stay in the realm of the unfamiliar, yet familiar, where you want to know “where is this place”?
MM: So the architectural aspects, the structures, are derived from literature?
EZ: Most of the time, yes. The way I structure things is very idiosyncratic and it has to do with what I’ve been reading and how I compile information. Sometimes there’s writing on the paintings and even though I obscure it, I’m still thinking about how to place it in the structure of the painting. Everything comes together through a certain logic that’s my own but with the help of notes I’ve taken. It’s very abstract. In the end, it’s just a way of making paintings! (Laughs)
MM: There is some connection in your work to Jorge Luis Borges’ short story The Library of Babel, where there is a world of rooms and books and characters that seemingly make up every permutation of everything ever written. But it’s a strange world where it is also a random jumble and there is always a quest for ordering.
EZ: I like the idea that a world in literature can be an actual world. The fascinating thing about that story is the idea that every possible thing has already been written. And he’s incredible in terms of stretching and collapsing time. He’ll bring you into a different century with amazing images. He does this by blending fact and fiction and it’s so compelling that he brings you along on these amazing travels and you’re not sure what’s real and what’s not, but you end up believing in the whole thing. So I feel quite close to his work and maybe my paintings try to function in that way too. I try to take on a lot and my interests are quite diverse. So there’s a convergence there that is rendered into an image.
The paintings are also about themselves and about their own structure. Maybe the viewer is compelled to figure out what these structures are. They’re systematic. Synesthesia is also a big part of it. I’m interested in how a two dimensional image can trigger so many other senses within a person.
As I’m painting I’m projecting myself constantly into these spaces. So they’re very evolved from the head but also through gesture. I’m very much there in every corner of these paintings. They’re quite crafted, very involved in terms of me figuring out every square inch of these spaces. They’re the most involved paintings I’ve done and they’re done quite traditionally by applying thin layers of paint. That’s so the light is very considered and there is an effect of transparency so the lighting effects seem plausible yet still artificial. And the human hand is very palpable in the work too. I try to be quite generous in that way in terms of keeping a human sensibility so the senses can go beyond what you’re looking at.
MM: So when my eyes first hit the painting, what process do you imagine happens then?
EZ: Human beings are built for survival, right? So the biggest thing that we want to find is…pattern recognition. If you look at studies of people who’ve been through trauma, in severe cases they can only function in very organized cell or prison-like structures, extreme structures. What they’re really good at is discerning patterns and often you’ll see that they’ll be really good at things involving technology, that demand a certain way of organizing and decoding things. Human beings are good at pattern recognition because in nature things are chaotic and that’s what you need to do, so that when X happens then Y happens and you get food …or have to run! Artists are quite good at that, at finding patterns.
MM: We come from similar cultural backgrounds. We both admire similar painters and writers. We come to these already having puzzled out Borges. What does someone without that roughly similar education make of these?
EZ: That’s why it’s important to exhibit in different places as I’ve done with this series over the last three years. Everything is open to interpretation and I think there are a lot of entry points to the work. I think somebody with no background in anything would enter these spaces quite easily. I’ll always remember the experience I had (when I knew pretty much nothing about art) being in front of a Rothko painting when I was 17 or 18. It was the deepest experience with an artwork I ever had. I keep thinking about that because it was so deep and yet having learned through doing it myself, how do I tap into that again? I can’t maybe.
MM: You’re making it possible for others then.
EZ: Yeah, hopefully, but it’s always the problem with knowing. It cuts you off from other things. We don’t purely see anything after a point. It’s always mediated by our own personal histories, by our understanding of what it is before we even see it. So knowing about art and everything else I’m interested in, can I capture that time again, when I was open to an experience like that, a purely sensorial experience? I don’t know.
MM: I’m fascinated by the instabilities, the precariousness, the rickety, Byzantine, house-of-cards feel to some of your large paintings.
EZ: In painting you can invent your own laws of physics. So you can completely change the plausibility of how structures should function. So how does that work, that the mind projects itself into a painting to convince you a certain kind of physics are operating? Old painting was often about creating the illusion that physics actually exist.
MM: Did you see (sci-fi blockbuster) Interstellar, where a black hole is represented by an endlessly refracted library where the lead character reaches through time and space?
EZ: I didn’t know that scene was tied into the idea of a black hole and voyage through time. My interest is in history and literature and processes of understanding through texts and reading. But now how do we represent the internet, or data in general? That’s what I’m really interested in.
MM: I was reading in EYE magazine about the function and design of the status bar and folders on computers. It was about the ways in which we access data that tie in with our basic needs for simple representations of complex, technological data ordering systems. So with all that randomized, fragmented data in our lives, we still need to see representations of folders to contain it all and proceed! And the status bar ties us to our need for a sense of time, as though someone is running around in your computer doing all these tasks and will be with you shortly!
EZ: We still live in a physical world and the physicality of things has always interested me. But I like twisting that a bit where you can have different senses going. I’m reading “The Art of Memory” by Frances A Yates (1966). She explains how people used these mnemonic systems in the past. There are stories where people who are really good at memory will invent whole architectures in their minds. They walk into rooms and there will be all these objects and each object will relate to a certain memory or certain words. So they memorize incredible amounts all by visualizing these architectural spaces and objects within them. I think it’s an ancient Greek technique. There are also many rules governing it. It was used by lawyers to remember certain facts, and by orators for speeches.
It was lost for a long time but revived during the Middle Ages, though in a different way because the first rules were lost. For example you had to choose a certain kind of architecture with rooms that are not too lit, but lit enough. They have to not have too many columns so there could be more rooms and so on. It’s meant to create all this form for memory to work within. And it’s all done in your head! What‘s fascinating about this is that it’s almost describing virtual reality; visualizing things outside of our own minds. Memory was highly valued in certain professions. But now we’ve subcontracted it all to our devices. Our processes of recall are constantly mediated.
There’s a flattening of our lives in this society and we need to deepen our lives, to make them three dimensional again. Flat is much faster for capital to flow over. Distribution is flat. When something’s been flattened it’s been reduced to a lower, functional medium and there’s a history and reason for that. We need to make everything a shape, and now we need to re-introduce depth instead of all these facades.
Sitter oil on canvas 48″ x 42″ 2017
One of the most important and symbolic pole raising ceremonies in recent memory occurred on April first, 2017 at UBC.
Haida master carver Jim Hart spent two years working on a new pole that serves as both a telling of the trauma of Canada’s First Nations’ experiences under the residential school system, and as a towering symbol of hope for reconciliation and healing.
The pole was raised in the traditional way of hauling it up through sheer force, under many hands, using ropes. The beauty of this event was that it also served as an open invitation for all members of the community to literally lend a hand. After survivors took some time to be with, and touch the pole in close proximity, hundreds of people took to the ropes and raised it to the sky. It was a powerful and moving moment for many. There isn’t much more to say, other than to offer some images that tell at least part of the story.
For more information, please check out the many links that will give you a fuller background, starting with this one:
Jim Hart overseeing the raising of the pole
My first exposure to “experimental” vocal music was hearing French singer Tamia Valmont’s 1978 recording of First Polyphony. It became a late night staple on the radio show I hosted at UBC in the 80s. It was otherworldly to me at the time. Valmont was a jazz vocalist combining studio tape manipulation and effects with extended vocal techniques and ritual vocal traditions from around the world to forge something new, something powerful and chilling.
Then came Greek-American singer Diamanda Galas whose Plague Mass was a searing and theatrical exploration of the torments and ecstasies of the soul during the AIDS crisis. I was taken by a show at San Francisco’s Kennel Club in 1990 where she performed topless, splattered with blood and only a mic and small processing unit between her and the standing room only crowd. She melted the place with her voice, setting, for me the benchmark for an artist directly connecting with a live audience with the most fundamental means; her voice.
More recently, Canadians with their ear to the ground cannot have missed the flourishing career of Tanya Tagaq whose visceral and transcendent singing stems from the rich ancient heritage of Inuit throat singing, brought forward with the aid of a superb cast of collaborators and excellent production.
But there is another voice emerging from the wilderness that is not only deeply aware of these singers’ contributions to this rarified field, but aims to strike out in entirely new ways, embracing some powerful technological tools. Her name is Andrea Young.
Andrea hails from Armstrong BC, a north Okanagan town that Wikipedia search will tell you is best known for mass produced cheddar, a Nickleback-y rock band called Cold Driven, a Curling Gold Medalist Paralympian, and a porn actress named Shyla. Well, Wikipedia is going to need an update on that soon.
Vancouver New Music brought Andrea to town in November of 2016 to present EXO/ENDO, a multi-media work centred around Andrea’s voice and involving a mix of American and local improvising musicians including Vancouver-based cellist Marina Hasselberg and bassist Braden Diotte.
What is EXO/ENDO? To quote Young: “the piece focuses on the release and absorption of sound – where sound is a furnace and fuel for the expression of internal desire, external rage and temper – internalized and externalized in the progression of vibrations produced from the voice that exit through the machine and into the body of the receiving audience members.” Well, that description certainly piqued my interest.
We had the opportunity to chat during rehearsals on the day of the performance and follow-up via e-mail.
MM: Can you tell me about the technology you use to process your voice? What does it do and how is it different from tools singers used to use?
Andrea: I use a software/hardware sound design environment made by Symbolic Sound. The digital signal processor is called a Pacarana and produces a distinct, high-quality sound with extensive real-time processing capabilities. The hardware is controlled by software called Kyma which includes unique algorithms with unlimited, individualized live sound design possibilities.
I’ve developed a personalized voice interface – a live analysis of voice which extracts individual features that can control any parameter of electronic sound. Combined with more common concepts of vocal signal processing, and spectral analysis, the voice becomes an amplified, processed and re-synthesized voice, as well as a re-purposed sound-controlling voice enabled through feature extraction and data-driven live electronics. The combination of all of this with the highly nuanced art of singing completes the instrument.
I can’t speak for others as I don’t model my work on anyone else’s relationship to technology. But for me, the depth of this interface offers me years of experimentation, and I’m interested in this depth rather than a more common approach to voice and electronics which largely results in “effects”.
MM: Arriving here (at the CBC rehearsal space) it’s clear the group assembled represented a diversity of influences and experience.
Andrea: EXO/ENDO is 100 percent about working with people who contribute with a great diversity of musical backgrounds. Our training ranges from contemporary classical, rock, (and roll), noise bands and things like that. We are all as expressive and nuanced in our respective backgrounds as classical musicians so we’re trying to fuse these forces by offering our interpretive skills to a similar variety of composers. The absolute peak of any concert music lay in the subtleties you can achieve live. And it’s great to have conceptual art inclusive of people who are trained in different genres. So while I’m more of an academic, my impulse and passions are in line with those of any musicians working in any genre.
MM: What’s it about for you personally, outside of the formal aspects of making this kind of music?
Andrea: I love making sound that is extreme, expressive and immediate and surprising to myself. And I get to learn how to make highly crafted sounds that come to express things I never knew about myself. The thing about being a singer is that you often battle a presence of yourself in the music. I’m interested in being taken away. So when I approach electronics you don’t hear much of me singing. It’s completely infused in the whole.
MM: Can you give me an example of how you meld the visual presentation with the music?
Andrea: There’s a part in EXO/ENDO that is about heat and fire, a blaze where you have to claw your way out of a forest. It’s both literal and metaphorical and the visual designers have made a grove of trees by hanging screens at different depths on the stage so the images hit my face and the screens ahead of and behind me so I look like I’m in among the trees. At other times the whole surface looks like embers aglow after a fire. The visuals are there to help immerse you completely as you go down into the sound hole.
MM: You speak of the “gendering of the voice” and I think I know what you’re getting at. Something to do with how we have an incredible ability to transform male or female voices with technology so that gender becomes indistinguishable and fluid. I’m sure there are people writing essays on this that move far away from discussing the actual music being made and there are certainly examples in popular music where there’s some “gender play” with singing styles but how do you approach this?
Andrea: There are quite a few bands that use formant shifting (electronically changing the brightness of the vowels, basically without changing the pitch). There are quick techniques to do that but what you get are these cartoonish sounds that we’re so attuned to hearing. These are the “effects” I referred to before. So I work hard to build a voice that’s neither feminine nor masculine and I also use a lot of noise with the voice. You can vocode noise mixed with a formant shifter and combine about 4 layers to get something outside of a clichéd sound, which is very important for me. But you don’t want to sound like a monster…or a man or a woman. It’s like becoming a being or a beast. That’s how it sounds to me so I really find there’s a gorgeous feeling when you can sing in a range and manner that your physical body can’t manage. Its freedom for me and I love it.
MM: Do you know when you’re on the edge of the voice becoming too abstract?
Andrea: I’ve pushed that boundary in my music From the last four years of experimentation I’ve found my experiments have gone either too far or not far enough nothing that found the perfect balance nobody can tell I’m singing if it goes too far and then it lapses into cliché if it doesn’t go far enough. Now I can achieve fluid motion where, in one phrase, I go all the way across the fence and back again so that you can hear the voice clear as day then transforming until you can’t recognize it anymore. Then I bring it back again so in one breath I can cross the whole terrain. I’m at that point now and I’m ready to get this music going. I think I’ve found that voice.
MM: Are you fond of Armstrong? Can you see people in rural BC embracing what you do?
Andrea: I am fond of Armstrong! I love the Okanagan and particularly the farmland. The communities in rural BC are intelligent and creative, and I’ve been part of a few productions which quickly made me realize that these audiences are tough! While I would expect that audiences would be interested, I am not sure if it would be “embraced”. I am still working on warming up my tone, so to speak. I would hope that in time, my music will be embraced by communities in rural BC.
Stand by, Wikipedia!
This past year a local webzine publisher with direct ties to Christy Clark’s chief fundraiser chided me for daring to compare Trump to Her Majesty in the course of a Facebook thread. And although I was merely quoting that hard left publication The Financial Post http://business.financialpost.com/fp-comment/terence-corcoran-christy-clark-channels-trump-with-her-misleading-misguided-anti-foreigner-housing-tax, that awesome online nose tweak got me to thinking whether it really was fair to mention Clark and Trump in the same sentence. Well yes. Yes it is. At least in terms of duplicity, evasion, attitudes towards ethics in government, democracy and…real estate. Other than that, thankfully, not so much.
But I want you to take in the image here. This was the decorative hoarding outside the construction site of Trump Tower on Georgia Street in Vancouver in 2015. I initially thought it might be an installation by a Vancouver photo conceptualist prankster like Rodney Graham. It was funny…at first. Then I made the Trump connection and the gaudy tableaux before me suddenly turned dark, sickening. It represents Orange Mussolini’s entire value system plunked down in our little corner of rain forest: obscenely rich arrogant white people living the highlife in a fresh, natural environment hitherto unvanquished by the forces of the kind of unfettered turbo capitalism so favoured by the Short Fingered Vulgarian. It should cause locals to upchuck.
If you’ll look around town at the luxury townhomes and condos being built in place of the rows of 1950s bungalows along Oak Street and elsewhere you’ll see some fairly nice developments that, in theory, add much needed density to the city’s housing stock. But the problem is that it’s all “high end”, “luxury”, “exclusive”, “boutique”. And it’s everywhere…and out of reach of the majority. It is all part of a conscious campaign of division. The ad campaigns, the graphics and the language being used to promote these developments are only a shade under the image above. And the BC Liberals, more than anybody, have been allowing the city’s homes and real estate to be devoured by global capital, speculators, the 1% without any concern. In fact, until they realized the election was coming up, they openly sneered at those who dared complain. At the end of the day, this image very much does reflect the values and aspirations of many among us. Sad.
Lalo Espejo weighs in on the foreign corporate donations so beloved by the BC Liberals. It’s interesting to see our local media once again taking up the rear after The New York times rightfully made this a story. But it’s typical, just as it took the excellent work of Ian Young for the South China Morning Post to kick the ass of the local media to get seriously reporting on the real estate crisis. We actually recorded this over a week prior to the New York Times piece being published.
Next to the catastrophic, “End Times”-like scenario predicted for the closure of Point Grey Road for the purpose of encouraging cycling/boosting property values of well connected citizens/turning Fourth Avenue into a rush hour death chute, the remodeling of the Burrard Street Bridge was going to be the most anticipated act of civic vandalism to take place in 2016. Pre-construction mock-up images of the dreaded “suicide barrier” had heritage advocates up in arms because it was a) ugly and b) not likely going to be effective.
But then this happened. Basically, it’s all pretty A-OK and they’ve even upped the ante by putting in some gorgeous, period-style lighting standards. The only thing they could have done better was to revive the stairway shortcut on the south end that was sealed off sometime in the 1930s. Vancouver? Time to direct your rage in different, more useful directions!
You may have caught wind that affordable artists’ spaces in Vancouver are not just at a premium, but virtually extinct. Recent news about The Secret Lantern Society’s space being redeveloped once again casts a light on the effects of relentless pressures on urban space. You may also know of Alan Storey’s public art works. Among many installations around town, Alan is responsible for the giant pendulum in the atrium of the HSBC building downtown as well as the magnificent “Password” piece that discreetly engages attentive pedestrians along Pacific Avenue. VR did a profile of Alan a few years ago and I photographed him at his studio. Unfortunately, Alan has recently had to vacate his waterfront studio in the 300 block of Railway. It was once a fascinating area full of working artists. And while we still have the Ironworks building nearby to this stretch, it seems that photos like these may be some of the last documents of an era.
Whenever I’m downtown I like to wander past some of the older buildings that have evaded the wrecker’s ball for one reason or another. There aren’t many left. My earliest memory of an old downtown heritage building was the one at 804 Pender Street where my mother began Spectrum Players’ Lunch Hour Theatre in 1969. That spot is now a pizza outlet (Sciué) at the base of an office tower. Across the street once stood the Alhambra Theatre. But generally speaking, outside of Gastown and its periphery, nearly everything made of brick or stone has vanished or been treated to lethal doses of “façadism”.
Once the Expo lands were cleared (and a few old buildings on the periphery suffered convenient blazes), the north shore of False Creek was pretty much Berlin, 1945. Flattened. A blank slate. Now it’s a big, soulless grey slate, albeit with wonderful waterfront access and a single dominant cultural centre in the form of the excellent Roundhouse Community Centre. But our mayor at the time had no real plan and refused to consider one, preferring instead to rely on zoning practices that allowed developers to shape the area into a potential JG Ballard novella. Give it 20 years. You’ll see.
Then there’s the strip along Hastings, the 100 block. During the post-Expo 80s and into the 90s it came to host after hours clubs, micro theatre spaces and galleries. Most were shabby, makeshift affairs that at least afforded creative use while awaiting gentrification. One of those spaces, for a time, was the Or Gallery.
Further west, into the core, the post office remains (likely to serve as pediment for more condos) as does one highly conspicuous, narrow old structure at 555 Hamilton Street better known as the Del Mar Hotel. Since 2008 it’s also been home to the Or Gallery after it was forced from the 100 block of Hastings. 555 has a long gallery affiliation, as the Bau Xi began there in 1965. The CAG also did time beneath the rooms. And in the 90s, the owner resisted development pressure from BC Hydro so that the low income hotel and street front gallery space remains.
The text intervention work “Unlimited Growth Increases the Divide” by Kathryn Walter greets all who enter on the slate above the entrance. And the alley to the north has served me well whenever I’ve had need of a sheltered space to do a portrait or two. I recall shooting George Vergette for the Straight there. In any event, I recently noticed a new text piece on the wall high up on the side of the building. It was difficult to find an angle to view or photograph so I cast down to see this image. I was immediately struck by its resemblance to a whale (I’ve done a series of “Abject Orcas”, photos of awful, painted or sculptural renderings of “the killer whale” in public spaces). It also looked like a painting by Robert Linsley. I’ve no idea whether this is an intentional work. Perhaps it’s simply how a series of graffiti tags were covered over. Or not.
112 West Hastings. Photo by Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun. 1994.