Saturday, September 19, 2015

9th Column (2014)

Returning home from Chinatown I passed the Onni Group's latest building, which has within its structure nine concrete columns, the ninth of which (9th Column, 2014) belongs to the art of Liz Magor, who has used the tree form in past work to hide things, but in this instance has hidden her concrete tree amongst the Onni Group's forest.

Whether Magor's concrete tree is a support or a decoration is unclear. Whether there were ever living trees like this one (a Douglas fir?) at this site is impossible, given that False Creek, prior to the First World War, stopped not at Main Street but a mile east of it at Clark Drive. (The area between Main and Clark was filled in by the Great Northern Railway.)

As for the title of Magor's work, it brings to mind Spanish Nationalist General Emilio Mola's reference to an insurgent group -- that while his four columns of soldiers marched on Madrid, a sympathetic "fifth column" lay in wait.

So, is Magor's concrete tree subversive? I suppose it could be if you accept the ambiguity of its presence -- if it is there in support of its building's upper floors or if it is strictly decorative. Indeed, it could -- and should -- be both. But the quest to know will only have us knowing more about the construction of our city, and that, as they say, is a good thing.

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