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STOP to public art, says False Creek resident

August 16th, 2009 · 40 Comments

I got an email recently from a sad-sounding False Creek resident who recently witnessed city workers installing this piece of public art at Charleson Park in Fairview Slopes/False Creek.

Charleson Park public art

Charleson Park public art

I haven’t heard anything from anyone else besides what Michael Ferreira has to say here. Anyone else noticed this and have thoughts on it? Here are Michael’s

  1. The fact the city apparently commissioned someone from San Francisco to create this (I say ‘apparently’ as I got this info from a neighbour who spoke with some of the City staff present when it was being installed.) Given that a) we have Emily Carr School of Art and Design a 10 minute walk away from this installation, and b) we’re 6 months away from hosting the Olympics – Canada’s games as I’ve heard John Furlong so often call them, couldn’t we have found a Canadian, or dare I suggest a local artist to produce something for this park?
  2. The specific location of the piece within the park – it’s quite obvious the City employee(s) charged with choosing the location have never spent any time in this park…never thought to take the time to spend some time there during the day, evening, weekend, etc. to observe how the park is used. Had they done so, they would have noticed that during any of these given times there are a multitude of activities going on –family picnics, bocci games, Frisbee throwing, impromptu baseball games, boot camps, tai chi…and in winter kids sliding down the hill on toboggans towards the exact spot the signs are placed. Why wouldn’t they have been place closer to the seawall where they might have had a tad more relevance, more visibility and more interaction with the seawalkers and cyclists.
  3. While I’m sure the piece has some deep thought behind it that the artist spent months formulating and trying to figure out how to express…or not…perhaps he’s sitting in a bar with some buddies in SFO laughing about this City up north that he completely snookered into thinking 10 stop signs stuck in the middle of a park had any artistic merit. Now don’t get me wrong…I am a big supporter of public art and would have no problem having some in Charleson Park – as long as it was better located and had an iota of either artistic and/or aesthetic value. Ten stop signs stuck in concrete in the middle of a beautiful, green urban park makes no sense to me. Give me something we can interact with – something that animates the space around – and don’t put it on my 5 year old son’s baseball diamond.
  4. Finally, the lack of any consultation, or even a ‘heads up’ that public art was even being considered for this park would sure have been nice. Maybe then, the “very nice folks” at City Hall who decided on the piece and its location might have avoided aggravating a whole bunch of the neighbourhood and gotten acceptance of it and maybe even a pat on the back.

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  • My parents have view of the sculpture from their living room, and they have no problems with it. Their biggest reaction is amusement.

    The sculpture can be clearly seen from the seawall, and if you click on my name, I’ve linked to the artist’s site, and you can see it from different angles.

  • Tiktaalik

    If it is disrupting a large open space that would have previously been used as a soccer field or other play area I can definitely see that being extremely annoying.

    I think the city should re-evaluate the location if that’s true.

  • jimmy olson

    Art is Art no matter where it comes from. It has no borders. Nationalism has no place in the art world.

    As to it’s location, as we have just seen two views and two different interpretations.

  • cold water

    This reaction, and any others, is exactly what public art is suppose to do. It is designed to get people talking about and questioning public spaces. So in this case it has been successful!

  • spartikus

    I thought this was for this weekend’s Breast Cancer walk? It’s right on the route and made sense in that context.

  • I was amused to learn this was public art. I often go down to the playground near here with the kid and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what these stop signs were for. My mother-in-law thought it wad some kind of road safety presentation involving the nearby school.

  • Mr Peanut

    Ferreira is all wrong on this issue. Art in public space is not an issue for voting or consulation. It would never happen if it were to follow his wishes. Just relax and learn to appreciate it!

  • What’s not to like, it looks like giant lollipops. I strongly disagree with most of Michael Ferreira’s complaints. Public consultation for something like this would surely be a veto against any public art that’s remotely provocative or somehow interesting or any public art at all, sort of in the way a handful of residents have managed to block a full-service library branch for Strathcona.

    The biennale is for showcasing prominent international artists, not recent Emily Carr grads (they have their own venues for that). Imagine if the VAG, the QE Theatre, or the Chan Centre only allowed local artists. Such parochialism is why big international jazz acts didn’t have their Vancouver debuts until relatively late (after 1940).

    These sculptures are not intended to be permanent installations, so relax and it’ll be gone soon enough. Or else we can just sell it to conservative Calgary like we did with the much beloved Device to Root Out Evil.

  • CJ

    A few years ago, I got to wondering why there is so much Northwest Coast Indian art at the entrances to B.C. public buildings. Black stone whales, frogs, ravens with brightly colored designs — stuff I don’t care for. Why are politicians and bureaucrats so driven to commission such bogus formulaic kitsch, I wondered. Then it hit me. It’s because the alternative is so much worse.

  • gmgw

    Interesting. As someone who keeps his ear pretty close to the ground on issues in False Creek South, I can assure you that what Mr. Ferreira (with whom I am not acquainted) says is quite true: At no time was the community consulted on this matter or even informed of the impending placement of said artwork. I have no issues with its appearance. I wouldn’t have it in my front yard– to me it resembles nothing so much as a line of pink stop signs– but chacun a son gout, y’all; and based on some of the crap I’ve seen come out of Emily Carr in recent years, I’m kinda glad that whoever chose this piece evidently made their decision based on aesthetics rather than geography.

    But this lack of consultation is typical of the disdain for the FCS neighbourhood– and, I guess, most city neighbourhoods with a sub-Shaughnessy tax base– consistently shown by City Hall over the years. C’mon down and talk to us once in a while, folks. Why do we have to keep going to you? Did you assume in this case that we’d just say “no”? This installation itself, IMHO, is really not a big deal. But the way it has just mysteriously appeared in our neighbourhood with no prior warning is emblematic of an attitude at City Hall that I had thought we were getting past.
    gmgw

  • gmgw

    laniwurm said:
    “Public consultation for something like this would surely be a veto against any public art that’s remotely provocative or somehow interesting or any public art at all, sort of in the way a handful of residents have managed to block a full-service library branch for Strathcona.”

    Your attempt to equate the Strathcona library issue with some kind of innately conservative, NIMBYish resistance to public art in general is not only a grotesque distortion of the actual facts of the case, it’s grossly unfair to the large number of Strathcona residents who are united in their determination to save the Heatley Block, the 1930 building at Hastings & Heatley that VPL proposes to demolish for a new library branch. This is another situation in which City staff approved a decision certain to (heavily, in this case) impact on a neighbourhood without prior consultation with said neighbourhood.

    Simply put, VPL went ahead and purchased the Heatley Block without asking residents what they wanted in a new library branch or where they would like it to be located. The objections to the VPL proposal stem from two factors: The perceived historic value of the Heatley Block (see http://www.heritagevancouver.org/topten/2009/topten2009_05.html), and the objection in the neighbourhood to having a library branch, likely to be heavily used by children, located on Hastings, with all of its social problems (and heavy traffic). Area residents, in meetings with VPL management, have repeatedly and respectfully proposed an expansion of the existing library in Strathcona school as an alternative to the Heatley site. Unfortunately, for this to happen the provincial government would have to kick in with funding for the promised “Neighbourhoods of Learning” pilot project, which funds at present Victoria shows no inclination to deliver. The end result is a standoff which has continued for well over a year.

    Feel free to share your opinions on the relative merits of the VPL proposal. But please, don’t deliberately misrepresent the motivations of the many, many residents of the Strathcona neighbourhood who continue to firmly oppose it.
    gmgw

  • Mr Peanut

    Gawd … What a bunch of drivel . Wevare discusing art not petty politics. … loose amoung us

  • Inside the building

    If this is in a park, wouldn’t this be a Parks Board issue as opposed to City Hall? Frances can you clarify?

  • gmgw, I am one of the Strathcona area residents opposed to demolishing the Heatley Block, but there certainly isn’t the same united front to put the library in the school, which, last time I checked, already has one. The essence of the proposal to put it on the school site is that it would be less likely to attract street people to Strathcona. Doggedly pushing that proposal and conflating it with the groundswell in support of saving the Heatley Block is, in my opinion, “innately conservative and NIMBYish resistance” to what should be a welcome addition to the area.

    At one of those resident meetings with VPL staff, people were arguing against a full service library in favour of a small satellite branch with a tiny collection so you’d have to order most books from other branches. Others went on about how all the drug dealers from the UGM soup line would hang out at the library. VPL staff had to point out, correctly, that they don’t discriminate against types of library users in any of their branches, and that “full service” doesn’t mean “social services” in the proposed library.

    I’m not painting everyone in Strath with the same brush, and don’t believe the faction convoluting the issue and evoking the spectre of drug addicts menacing little children represents the community, but they are the ones making the odds of getting a new library in the foreseeable future very slim. Going back to my original point, I might add that the Heatley Block proposal, which pleased no one, came out of a community consultation that concluded the library has to be on the south side of Hastings and near the school.

  • For something like a permanent building, a public consultation for those who live in the area seems both smart and the right thing to do.

    For temporary art installations, while there are surely open minded and experimental minds willing to take a chance with something like a row of stop signs, I can’t but think it would lead to the most bland and uninteresting kinds of art. Giant flowers, anyone? How delightful, my mind didn’t have to think for even a moment. We have public lands managed by people voted in by the public, so I’m pretty happy to leave choices like art installations to them, and willing to be surprised every so often. It’s a gamble: sometimes I won’t like it, other times I will, but do we really need all aspects of public life made so predictable?

    As for inviting someone from outside the city, cultural exchange builds awareness and interest in other places, and if Vancouver were to only promote Vancouver Art from Vancouver Artists, our artists would soon stop being invited to do work elsewhere. We could change the sign at the city limits to “No New Ideas, Thanks.” Combined with the need for public approval, we’d be sure to have only Bill Reid ripoffs year round. Not all art is made for someone’s approval. When it’s done well it can provide value in shaking us out of old thinking and help us consider other perspectives. But not when every installation needs to be manicured to the averaged out tastes of a neighborhood, which when given the option will naturally build a cultural echo chamber.

    Currently there’s an artist exchange program with Taiwan that the Public Dreams Society (known mostly for Illuminares and Parade of Lost Souls) is involved with. The program brings in artistic vision and techniques from Taiwan, and sends our own back in return. It’s not as catchy jingo like the cry for “Vancouver Art from Vancouver Artists,” it does help keep art healthy and our artists in the minds of others around the world in ways that building installations for False Creek (or elesehwere in the city) couldn’t.

  • Phlomas

    Publci art???? Other than the upside-down church, most of our so-called public art looks like crashed helicopters, rusted junk, tank traps or is so esoteric that it, too, is risible. (Of course, I also think that Henry Moore abuses perfectly good rocks.)
    A friend of mine visiting the West Coast for the first time and an artist herself, thought most of what she saw was a put-on. When I assured her it wasn’t she laughed.
    We don’t need Bill Reids all over the place, but surely there must be some accountability.
    It’s always easy to get the artisitic community’s nose out of joint, but please guy, no mas!

  • Bob

    In case the point has been missed – this is part of a temporary outdoor art exhibit:
    http://www.vancouverbiennale.com/

    Having work by internationally renown artists placed all over our city is apparently a hardship. Is there anything we don’t complain about in Vancouver?

  • A. G. Tsakumis

    It’s ugly, period. The argument that “art is art” is utterly absurd.

    Did I mention that it’s ugly? Obviously it’s something that was concocted after a few too many cannabis lattes.

    Ridiculous.

    And, yes, I’d LOVE to see Bill Reids everywhere, instead. OR some of the art from Emily Carr. We do, indeed, have some EXTREMELY talented artists in this town.

    A slew of stop signs is a joke.

  • Gassy Jack’s Ghost

    Bit off topic here… but, I find it a little odd to hear that the fear over locating the library in the Heatley Block is centred around street people mixing with children. One of the strangest things I’ve found about raising a kid in the DTES is the weird respect my son is shown by most street people. When we walk through Pigeon Park or past the Carnegie Centre (where there’s a well-used satelite library just a few blocks from Heatley) people will call out “kid on the block” as if we are “sixes” (cops) and all dealing and drug activity will stop while we pass by. If people don’t respect this, they usually get chewed out by others.

    And many folks in the food lineup across the street from our place know my son and say hi or ask me about him all the time. We occasionally play street hockey and it will often draw a small crowd of old guys who live in the assisted housing across the street.

    Obviously, there are times when people aren’t respectful or just too messed up to care. But it’s impossible to separate kids from the street life in this area if you live here. I’m sure all the kids in Strathcona are used to street people and seeing illicit behavior in some form or another – you can’t shelter them from it if you try. The school is only two blocks off Hastings anyway…

  • A Reader

    Why the attacks on the Heatley Block?
    It HAS people living in it. It is an SRO, right?
    Probably the city should do a reno, like the Carl Rooms. The building is worth it, and the people living there….some for nearly 20 years, deserve it.

    It seems like a weird dis to equate public art with this supposed NIMBYism.
    We all know that most people fixated on the “tax payers dollars” rhetoric don’t even like art or fail to see it’s value.

  • cold water

    So Alex, your sense of aesthetics is to be what everyone in Vancouver has to abide by? This is an attitude that is not worthy of you.

    This is a special display–not permanent–and Vancouver is very fortunate to be a hosting city.

  • gmgw

    laniwurm said:
    “At one of those resident meetings with VPL staff, people were arguing against a full service library in favour of a small satellite branch with a tiny collection so you’d have to order most books from other branches. Others went on about how all the drug dealers from the UGM soup line would hang out at the library. VPL staff had to point out, correctly, that they don’t discriminate against types of library users in any of their branches, and that “full service” doesn’t mean “social services” in the proposed library.”

    Obviously you attended a different meeting between the residents and the VPL Board than I did. No one at the meetings I’ve attended made such an absurdly redundant suggestion as the satellite-branch proposal you cite. Why would anyone seriously make such a proposal when that’s exactly what the community already has, in effect? There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Strathcona needs a full-service library branch. The only questions are where, and how much it will cost. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely anything will happen soon, as VPL , like every other library system in the province, is facing serious budget cutbacks due to the failure of the provincial government to pass on its annual grants to BC libraries. As these grants represent 20% or more of most library systems’ annual budgets, including VPL, new branches may represent an unaffordable luxury for some time to come.

    As for the alleged drawbacks of having street people in the library, you’re quite correct in stating that VPL does not discriminate against street people, the homeless, what have you; and rightly so. But the concerns I have heard expressed by Strathcona residents vis-a-vis children’s use of a possible Hastings Street branch revolves around who they might encounter on their way, unaccompanied, to and from the branch, and despite Gassy Jack’s Ghost’s assurances that Strathcona kids are used to “street people… and illicit behaviour”, there is always the possibility of unpleasant exceptions to that rule.
    gmgw

  • Gassy Jack’s Ghost

    Just to note gmgw, I don’t ever let my kid walk around “unaccompanied” in the neighbourhood, and I would hope that none of the other parents with small kids would either. That rule would apply to the corner store as much as the library.

  • > despite Gassy Jack’s Ghost’s assurances that Strathcona kids are used to “street people… and illicit behaviour”, there is always the possibility of unpleasant exceptions to that rule.

    Yes, that’s true. In Kits, for example, there have been more murders in the past year than I can recall in the five leading up to it. If the point is that unpleasant things can happen anywhere, then we’re pretty boxed in for doing anything but sitting at home and peering out of the curtains.

  • First, I apologize for steering this off topic, it wasn’t my intention.

    The library meeting I was referring to was the April 1st meeting at Strath Community Centre where reps from VPL attended. There were numerous and repeated comments about keeping the library small and focused on the needs of the desirables (children, disabled, seniors) instead of having a too-large library that would unrealistically try to serve two incompatible populations, ie, both the desirables and undesirables (homeless, street-involved people, drug addicts and dealers, and other bogeymen).

    I’m paraphrasing, of course, but don’t believe I’m misrepresenting what was expressed and what is reflected in the notes from that meeting and the follow-up letter that the SRA chair sent to the City. Yes, a larger number said their concern was what would go on outside the library, not inside, but more than one agreed it shouldn’t have too many books and that people can just order from other libraries for the sake of keeping it small.

    The VPL reps also countered the bogus claim propagated by some that the proposed library would have all these extra services and that it was just a way of sneaking more social services into the area, when in fact the proposal has always been for a library that would have the usual spectrum of library services. I certainly didn’t fabricate that some people are lobbying not to have a full-service library. The reasoning behind the proposed redundancy is the same as the reasoning for wanting it on a school site that already has a library: to discourage marginalized people from using it.

    Back to public art. My point, as the library debacle illustrates, is that “public consultation” may sound nice and even be necessary for things like building a new library or freeway, but it can and often is shrewdly manipulated to push nimby agendas and convolute issues in the process. So much so that our elected civic officials have an easy way to weasel out of showing leadership, let alone “vision,” once elected.

    Whatever your preference for public art may be, do you really believe it’s realistic or desirable to try to get a neighbourhood consensus on what constitutes good art? Really?

  • Michael Phillips

    I think that public art has a tremendously underrated societal importance in connecting the spirits of people in a city, and in this way solidifying a city’s identity. It can be difficult in a city to perceive that side of people whom you don’t know which contemplates beauty, challenges perspective, strives for new experiences. The vast majority of our daily interactions with people are for banal economic purposes and thus we tend toward seeing each other according to the attitudes and rules which govern economic behaviour: Individualism, competitiveness, rationality, materialism. Art, especially when viewed by a group, can help humanize a city and give it identity.

    Half the fun of going to an art gallery is looking at art, and the other half is looking at people looking at art. You can watch your absolute run-of-the-mill resident of Vancouver contemplating beauty, seeking new perspectives, using the part of their mind that is most human and interesting, and you’re reminded that we’re all more interesting than we seem to each other when going through our day to day socioeconomic machinations. Imagine if you saw your boss at an art gallery?!?!

    We can communicate this part of ourselves to one another on a social level through shared (public) art perhaps better than in any other way. The more that individual soulful expression can (tolerably) be a part of our shared living environment, the more we can recognize that our city is a collection of 600,000 souls creating and sharing soulful experiences and not just a human economy-of-scale.

    Anyway, that said, 10 pink stop signs doesn’t really cut it. It’s frustrating that on this too, we consistently drop the ball. Like with so many issues, our behaviour concentrates upon two unbalanced poles, either producing public art which is nauseatingly common-denominator, bureaucratic pablum (spirit bears wearing different colours of underwear, those orca statues we have here and there etc.) and then on the other hand the most unpopular, incomprehensible, self-indulgent, pretentious, faux-avant-garde “what is art?” art. Surely we’re capable of a middle ground of art which is original enough to inspire but not so original so as to aggravate large segments of the public. Stop signs were designed to be annoyingly intrusive, and colouring ten of them hot pink and placing them in a neighbourhood park multiplies this effect.

    I’m not sure how the current system functions when it comes to producing non-political art (as opposed to art which attempts a non-aesthetic social purpose, generally government-directed eg. native community building, art for community centres etc.), but I think a good way to achieve artistic balance for non-political art is to 1) always ensure that the design of public art originates entirely with artists, preferably acting individually, and not committees, bureaucracies, political agencies, but also 2) use a vetting committee composed of individuals who are not artists but who have achieved reputations of making aesthetic judgments which have in hindsight been considered to have been both artistically sound and socially functional in a measurable way.

    Such a committee could include an architect known for creating beautiful and marketable homes, a curator of a popular art exhibiting space, the program designer for a popular art-house cinema, the owner of any private stage theatre which makes money, a film producer etc. The common denominator is that this would be a committee of people who have made art work (not artwork), who have made real world aesthetic judgements that the public have rewarded. They will have the confidence to veto pink stop signs, but not feed us gerber-haus art either.

    This would be an advisory committee in the same line as the Planning Commission, volunteers (there would be plenty) who would meet monthly and to whom artist-initiated designs and ideas could be passed for competent decision-making.

  • Just want to point out that the other side of these pink things are regular stop signs, and it’s in Vanier Park as well as Charleston.
    http://blog.vancouverbiennale.com/?p=198

    Okay, the chairs on the beach were a bit of a yawn, but seriously, i can’t understand how people can’t like this one.

  • Stephanie

    Oh, good lord. What do I think? Ferreira is talking out of his a**, and Vancouver, despite its “world class city” pretensions, is still a colonial backwater.

  • gmgw

    Ferreira hits the nail on the head, indirectly, with his second point. This is not about NIMBYism, nor is it about the validity or lack thereof of public art as a concept, nor is it about the relative aesthetic merit of a particular piece of public art. The issue of concern here is twofold: Appropriate usage of public, usable greenspace in a neighbourhood that’s short of it; and complete lack of consultation with the neighbourhood by whoever approved this decision prior to making it. There is an extremely pro-active and long-standing neighbourhood association in False Creek South, that represents multiple local residential enclaves with a combined population of several thousand. This association has for many years lobbied and extensively liaised with various branches of the City government with regard to multiple issues impacting area residents (see see http://www.falsecreeksouth.org/). As far as I have been able to determine, there was no consultation with the neighbourhood association prior to this installation. There most certainly should have been.

    Those of you who don’t live in or frequent False Creek South are probably unaware of how little open greenspace there is in that neighbourhood. Despite its low-rise profile, False Creek South has no single-family dwellings. Charleson Park serves as a “front yard” for a great many people. Ferreira is quite justified in pointing out that Charleson Park, as a result, sees heavy multi-purpose usage by residents of all ages, but especially children.

    What he does not mention is that approximately half of Charleson Park is taken up by by a large off-leash area for dogs, rendering it unusable by anyone else. There have been repeated and sometimes bitter conflicts between dog owners, who tenaciously guard their territorial rights, and other users of the park, especially parents of small children, some of whom have been knocked down or otherwise badly frightened by some of the larger dogs, That’s why the waterfall and lagoon area just north of the Laurel land bridge is now behind a split-rail fence, erected by the Parks Board– that fence represents a compromise, reached after protracted and difficult negotiations with the dog owners, to give small kids a place to play with their parents.

    Given the issue of restricted space– and there has been much tension in the neighbourhood over these and related issues over the past couple of years– you can perhaps understand why the sudden, unheralded appearance of a piece of public art in what is valuable and much-used greenspace should become an issue. Had the City done the courtesy of bringing the proposal to the neighbourhood (association) ahead of time, it would likely have met with a positive response– but I think it’s equally certain that they would have been asked: “please, set up the piece in a more appropriate location within the park”. But they didn’t, and now the neighbourhood is stuck with it where it is, and the kids have a little less open space in which to safely play.
    gmgw

  • Larry McLaren

    When art isn’t blowing, you can bet it’s sucking.

    The Vancouver art scene is hyper-elitist and completely insular – the massively subsidized foot soldiers of the West Side developers gang.
    And the art crowd knows full well the cultural value (and ultimately financial value) of being the thin wedge of gentrification.
    There’s good money in being “necessary” (and “art” is you know – unless you’re an anti-intellectual savage) and respectable (it’s economically viable sometimes – says so right here under “Dicky Florida”!) when you’re busy crowding out the low lifes. (see the multitude of galleries preceding the redevelopment of the DTES?) Oh right – “the rent’s cheap” – as I’m sure it is in Newton, or Whalley…

    The only thing the art crowd loves better than explaining to themselves in 10 dollar words why they’re important is cashing big fat government cheques to keep their milquetoast faux “leftist” political messages indecipherable to anyone who hasn’t read Deleuze or Barthes, or Benjamin.
    I’ve never met a management type involved in the Vancouver arts scene that hasn’t been infantilized or stunk of entitlement by sucking on the massive tit called “tax-payers money” year after year after year.

    Never.

    Elitist assholes, political posers and cultural hypocrites.
    Goofs and leeches.
    All of them.

  • Gassy Jack’s Ghost

    Larry, you do make some excellent points, but I can’t help but wonder if you have a Bachelor of Arts degree given the tired old stereotypes and well-worn clichés you employ to lend gravitas to your generalizations? (And I have to hand it to you, “Dicky” Florida is really quite an ingenious play on the name Richard.)

    Anyway, I’m sure you’ll be glad to know that the government arts teat has suddenly shriveled by 40% at the federal and provincial levels, thanks in no small part to those goofs in the financial sector making a bit of a mess of things. The cultural industries employ millions of people across the country and collectively account for the 2nd highest GDP in our economy, but that didn’t stop these deep cuts to help mitigate the billions thrown at the leeches in the auto industry. Thank god we saved a few thousand obscenely paid factory jobs in Southern Ontario!

    And you’ll be tickled pink to hear that the Libs have frozen BC Gaming funds for months now, sending many of the local arts sector’s companies into cash flow crisis. Ballet BC is only the largest of hundreds of organizations that are fighting off bankruptcy right now. It’s too bad the taxpayers will have to fund all the employees that end up on pogey, though.

    So it got me thinking: maybe those 10 pink stop signs are part of a government-funded corporate conspiracy to send out the public message: STOP ALL ART!

    It makes sense. Fish farms, Run of River projects, forest tenures, PPP infrastructure developers, agriculture, transit companies, you name it, they all suck at the government teat in one way or another, but I don’t hear you whining about corporate managers’ sense of entitlement, elitism, or insularity. Why is that?

    And I don’t think I’ve ever read breaking news about an arts group’s ludicrous executive salaries and bonuses, or massive environmental contamination caused by a gallery opening, or scientific researchers issuing dire warnings against creativity and free expression being harmful for the human body and brain. Those lazy gadabouts in the arts can’t do anything right!

    Just think, dangerous left-wing radicals like Mozart, Michelangelo and Shakespeare would have been nobodies if they didn’t have patrons. The Medicis, Rennies, Foundations and Arts Councils of this world should just wake the f*ck up and realize the grave danger they pose to the free market, mass production, and the corporatization of every last speck of dust on the planet.

    So help spread the word: STOP ALL ART!

    Together, we can make the world a better place for multinational corporations.

  • vaneire

    Art is most certainly not just art. Just like there are brilliant writers nominated for a Pulitzer or Booker Prize for instance, there are many more writers producing the likes of a bodice ripper. Equally there are artists producing brilliant paintings and sculptures alongside ‘artists’ producing pink stop signs. Of course it is in the eye of the beholder, however, I’m pretty sure most of us can tell the difference. I prefer to look at the stop signs as a sort of ‘letter to the editor’, more of an earnest opinion piece than an actual work of art. It annoys us ‘readers’ (or perhaps we agree with it) just like a strongly-worded letter to the editor tends to do — it certainly doesn’t move me the way a brilliant piece of art (or writing) does.

    Anyway, my take on the stop signs was literal — to me it said ‘STOP, please stay off the grass’.

  • Stephanie

    He has an *old* Bachelor of Arts degree if the first names he conjures up are Benjamin and Barthes.

    Love both of them, by the way, and I recall that both of them wrote in ways that were antithetical to the artist’s statement wankery Larry is railing against.

    I wonder: does anyone have an opinion about the piece itself, other than “it’s garbage” or “it unduly obstructs my children’s Frisbee games”?

  • Dan

    Let go back and address a point that I don’t think has yet to be refuted–those were NOT ‘city workers’ installing this piece; the workers involved were from Pro Tech Industrial Movers, a company that moves art work (they put The Spirit of Haida Gwaii at YVR for instance and the new Susan Point sculpture in the Canada Line station). They were paid by the Vancouver Biennale, a non-profit organization that curates the works chosen, and does not rely upon taxpayers funds for thier operations. During the coming year and a half of installations (of which this was the first) Asian artists will be highlighted. It’s all part of ‘bringing the world to Vancouver,’ eh? And thanks to everyone for the lively discussions on public art–that’s one of its functions. Those interested can also go to Thornton Park, just across the street from the entrance to the Canadian National Railway Station, to see ‘Barbora’ by the Lithuanian artist Vladas Vildziunas, the second work in place: maybe you’ll like it better…. If not, there’s a group of crouching monks and an assembly of large pillows being installed in the coming week. Stay tuned for further discussions, folks–this is only the beginning!

  • Hello everyone,

    My name is Gillian and I am the Communications Liaison for the Vancouver Biennale.
    Just thought I would give you some information about us.
    We are a non-profit organization with three staff members and no tax payers money is used for our installations.
    By September 29th (our launch date) we will have 19 sculptures installed and by May 2010 around 32 will be placed in Vancouver and Richmond. The Vancouver Biennale includes New Media and Performance Art as well as a speaker series with Charles Jencks and Ma Jun. We will also hold a series of curotorial lectures for those of you who are interested in becoming curators, or are just interested!
    At the moment we have Michael Zheng’s stop signs installed and Vladas Vildziunas ‘Barbora’ at Thorton Park (opposite Main Station). This week, and at the beginning of next week, we are installing pieces by two Chinese artists, Jianhua Liu’s ‘Pillows’ and Wang Shugang’s ‘Meeting’ at Cardero Park (next to the Westin Bayshore Hotel) and Harbour Green Park (opposite the float planes).
    Thank you for all your thoughts and keep an eye open for more of our work!

    Gillian and all the staff at the Biennale office 🙂

  • Larry McLaren

    Ahhh… that’s *soooooo* adorable Steph … I bet you were at Zizek too, when that superstar came to UBC and explained why playing it straight (and doing “nothing”) was the most revolutionary means available to the “cult-crowd”?
    Holy shit – did that truly evolutionary approach ever fly over the tiny, American Appareled, $400 bicycle riding bunch. I still laugh at the indignant response of the “please love me” types asking in horror if Mr. Zizek was serious.
    Tip: He was. Sometimes the quickest way from A to B is to walk from A to B line instead of theorizing about why lines transgress ontologically inherited schemas.

    See hon, I think the “art crowd” needs to get a little dirty now and then. I think it needs a sweetly swung, state run truncheon upside the head before it begins to actually relate to those lumpen proletariat it loves to identify with in those ever-so-useless theses it pumps out.
    Til then, to me, they’re all “Marxist’s” until the cheque clears.

    I want art types to try some installations in a strip mall in Surrey. Show us your “institutional critiques” at a Tim Hortons in Whalley, at a Home Hardware parking lot in Abbotsford, or at a bus stop in Cloverdale.
    *That’s* the crowd to win over honey.
    Not me.

    I get the “talk” Stephanie. (It never ends)
    But I don’t see the walk.

    And I don’t see any of those precious little darlings breaking out of the inbred environs of the moderately cosmopolitan city centre that is Vancouver.
    Because you and I both know – that to break “art” out of the carefully cultivated, rigorously enforced atmosphere and its wholly class (and hence, geographical) based delineations, is CERTAIN DEATH for the artist who would dare it.
    Career and (ever so more importantly) social-status ending. Ruination for anyone who dares to invite the great unwashed inside its doors.

    Not one of them has the guts or the courage to take “art” where it can be disparaged using plain language. Take your art out to the sticks where it can be described in local Op/Ed’s as “bullshit” or spray painted with “Grad ’10” – then I might consider the field of art as fundamentally invested in society.
    Cuz’ that would mean they’ve actually ENGAGED the community!
    Top-down, bureaucratically installed art pieces make that precious art crowd nothing more than what I’ve indicated in my above comment.

    Facile, subservient-to-the-vested-interests types.

    And that *old* crack, dear, sweet Steph… that wouldn’t be the smell of age-ism on your breath, would it?

  • L

    If it’s temporary, I’m ok with it. Agree that permanent art pieces should be Canadian, ideally by Lower Mainland artists.

    A number of cities worldwide have put out calls for artists to submit proposals for pieces that are both bicycle parking and public art. I love this idea. When there are no bikes, it still looks cool. And the state of bicycle parking in Vancouver is abysmal, really really poor, terrible policy-making.
    I want Vancouver to follow suit. I’d like the criteria to include that each bike parking/art piece should have a sense of humour… and maybe that it be reflective in some way of the specific block or location in the city.

  • JC

    doesn’t look like a baseball diamond to me, mind you it is pleasantly distracting.

  • CWYL

    I gotta say, some of you, made a lot of valid points and some of you just seem to like to be on the band wagon to spout elitist and dyslexic diatribe to bolster your own egos. You can’t stay on topic, spouting barely relevant political parables and then making assumptions to boot. I’d suspect more than one of you of being university drop outs or at least social misfits. It’s really sad that you feel you have to express yourselves in such a manner.

    I for one never had the opportunity to advance my education, though coming from an artisticly inclined family I have developed a great love of art. As for some of the concerns herein I reply thusly; As seen in Sungsu’s pics, the art piece is on a hill and not exactly prime space for sporting events or otherwise; as for its potential for beauty and it’s esthetic appeal, not my cup of tea and I could even see the stop sign aspect of it confusing many of us, especially tourists. I guess it’s one way to get someone to pay attention to something and I’m sure kids and tourist will both enjoy either playing around it or hanging off it getting their pictures taken; yes the local residence should have been notified (though not consulted) prior to its erection, but on the same note, it looks real easy to dismantle if they do raise a big stink, not that it isn’t TEMPORARY and FREE thanks to the Biennale; why not use local artists you say, well that is a good point as there is no real cultural aspect to this particular display, perhaps in the future someone like the Biennale or the City could hold a contest for locals (not just pro’s and students) to design such pieces, some culturally significant, others not so; if such a piece were permanent I would like to see accountability prior to instillation and, as L stated, it would be nice for it to be Canadiana art, or at least something gifted and of cultural significance, with relation concerning where it was from and where it was to be placed.

    Regardless of any of our personal feelings, it is likely that tens of thousands of photos will be taken of this display in the next half year, which essentially is why it’s probably there as most camera touting tourists like to shoot a pic every twenty feet or so.

    I would lastly personally like to thank the posters herein who did their best to show both the positive and negative aspects of this topic (or at least tried to remain communicative) rather than seemingly just striking out rashly and in spite.

  • Larry McLaren

    Hey CW – if you don’t think art is “political”, you *really* haven’t been to university or art school and you sure aren’t welcome at the Biltmore.

    The only reason art and artists are perceived as liberal by outsiders is because most, if not many successful artists succeed by shocking the values of the ever-lowering middle classes by either taking the mundane and turning it “inside out” or extrapolating on the common (many stop signs! Zowie!).
    Problem is, that like capital, it must continually seek new markets and, in arts case, these “markets to crack open” are the sensibilities of what we’ll call “hillbillies”, or if you like, “rubes”. So art has to constantly titillate – much like reality television.
    And therein is what truly pisses me off about art.

    It’s about as political as a half eaten sandwich. Since it necessarily follows the path of enticement and provocation, it parallels much of
    what other elitist pastimes do – which is keep people *AWAY* from personal political engagement.
    As a result, art and it’s professional practitioners and gatekeepers remain exceptionally elitist and as deeply conservative as the wealthy. It’s purpose is to engage the commons only as a curiosity piece, or a pile of doo-dads that “get’s ’em talking” – which is remarkably similar to the concept of branding – isn’t it?

    Art long ago passed any relevance to the experiences of the impoverished or the socially outcast – because no “artist” worth their salt (or considering a career in the field) would *dare* to step into the breech of making an overt political statement. No – these cowards and sycophants slather their artist statements in leftist hyperbole and drivel so dense any interpretation is possible – excepting an attack on the freshly pedicured hand that feeds them.

    When do we get to see a giant installation of a hypodermic needle awash in blood in the downtown eastside? Or how about a giant facsimile of a government tax rebate lighting up Point Grey?

    Yeh. I wonder…

    I’m just telling you how it really is CW, so the next time you hear why art’s so “necessary”, you can be assured they’re talking about educating *you* – and keeping your eyes off the voters ballot while they’re doing it.