Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Arbutus Corridor

Years ago one winter we walked the CP Rail lines from 2nd and Fir to 49th and Arbutus. It took a while. There are community gardens along the way, but nothing as elaborate as those that run south of 49th to the north arm of the Fraser River, past 70th, where residents have erected schrebergartens.

We said we would resume our walk one day, and until yesterday we left it at that. In the meantime, CP and the City got shirty with each other over the future of what is commonly known as the Arbutus Corridor -- despite the fact that CP was given thousands of forested acres in the 1860s for making Vancouver, not Port Moody, the terminus of its national railroad. Last year CP calmed down and sold the Arbutus Corridor (back) to the City for less than market value. Just recently it removed most of its railway tracks.

The City says it wants the Arbutus Corridor to be a green space, a commuter bike lane. While I am sure that certain stretches will be given the "green" treatment (including some very un-green asphalt bike lanes), those that run through commercially zoned areas like Kerrisdale might be made to behave similarly. Whether this means public markets with portable kiosks or more permanent structures with market or social housing remains to be seen.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Eric the Forbearer

Four blocks from the Belvedere is the Western Front artist-run centre, where Allison Collins is the Media Arts Curator and Western Front co-founder Eric Metcalfe (above) awoke this morning to his 76th birthday! 

Happy Birthday Eric!

In a 2015 Art Lab Gnesta presentation on Vancouver’s 2012 Institutions by Artists conference, Allison pretty much begins and ends with Vincent Bonin’s “Here, Bad News Always Arrives Too Late”. The text below (from Bonin) is the penultimate passage in her presentation:

 A perverse rekindling of the self-management paradigm is heavily influenced by neoliberalism where “alternative” grassroots organizations function as links in the chain that consolidates a system based on individual entrepreneurship and meritocracy rather than a spirit of collectivism. Rejecting both models, certain groups of artists attempt to circumvent bureaucratic red tape by setting in motion para-institutional projects mostly developed without recourse to government money.45 These groups generally follow the now-exhausted model of a gift economy that had allowed collectives from the early 1970s to operate in a relatively autonomous manner. The life expectancy of these projects thus depends largely on the investment and commitment of both the founding members and the counter-publics that form around them. Some groups demonstrate a firmly leftist allegiance, whereas others disassociate themselves from politics altogether. The initiators of these projects essentially short-circuit meritocracy, and instead simply set up spaces where exhibitions, events, or meetings between peers can take place...

followed by Allison in her own words:

So this is the promise, the space of potential that exists as a commitment as well to self-criticality and in whatever form that takes a constant kind of re-evaluation of whether the structures that we are building do what we need them to do and live up to the ideas set forth by our forbearers – or surpass them.

I am interested in – and indeed committed to -- “self-criticality” with respect to the structures “we” are building, especially in “whatever form that takes.” I am also interested in -- critically interested in -- that part of “we” that includes “certain groups of artists,” designers and curators who do not fit easily into Bonin’s streamlined camps, who have not quite rejected “individual entrepreneurship” and who assert their autonomy in part by forsaking pubic funds for funds derived from private enterprise – in this instance, as well-paid, non-profit property managers who marginally undercut an already hyperbolic rental market to provide studio space for artists, and in doing so refer to themselves as “benevolent”? (Compare that benevolence with that of Eric and the other former owners of the Western Front building, who, as Eric is fond of telling everyone, sold the building and the property it sits on to the Western Front Society for less than market value.)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Arvo Leo

The picture above is of the artist Arvo Leo, who was still a Belvedere resident as of July of this year when it was announced that he would be a resident at the Rijksakademie vanbleeldende kunsten in 2017.

Early in Arvo's one hour video Fish Plane, Heart Clock (2014) the artist is seen climbing a hill in Cape Dorset, Nunavut while carrying before him a picture of the town below -- a picture taken from what looks like the same position as the camera that has captured him.

Is the artist a camouflaged hunter, or is he presenting himself clad in an artistic device (a trompe l'oeil) in order to make his intentions known: that he is not a cultural tourist, as some suggested after an earlier work he had made in India and installed at the Western Front, but an artist (who happens to be white) visiting an artist's town (that happens to be Inuit)?

Below is Warhol's Self Portrait with Camouflage (1986).

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Consider the Belvedere

Hard to get much information on the Vancouver Mural Festival, apart from its team, its muralists, its sponsors and its locations.

Among the Festival's locations is the Belvedere at the northwest corner of 10th and Main. The Belvedere is an apartment building that has some very small suites -- but also some very affordable rents. A number of artists live there.

Nice of the Belvedere's landlords to offer up the building to the Festival's muralists. Not so nice that these landlords abandoned their tenants after half-assed repairs to the building's vermin-ridden walls, floors and ceilings.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Mudflats Living (1972)

Mudflats Living (1972) is the name of an NFB documentary about a community that took root at the Mapplewood Mudflats in the late 1960s.

A second, more lyrical documentary was made by Sean Malone, entitled Livin' in the Mud (1972). In Malone's doc (currently unavailable online), activist Helen Simpson confronts a demolition crew, and later, the District of North Vancouver burns down the last of the mudflat homes.

The proposed "town site" to which the DoNV mayor refers was never built. If it was, it was built as a shopping mall on the west side of the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Bridge. Not the same thing -- only an economic rationale by a DoNV city council that did everything it could to move those "squatters" along.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Artist-Run Living

A brand is born -- and exported to Florida!