spotted in vancouver bc
I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I was staying at the Woodwards development on the cusp of Vancouver’s East Side. Built on the spot of a former department store, the new building includes a mix of housing, the SFU Contemporary Arts Campus and a community media arts space. In the handy plaza beneath is a London Drugs, Nester’s Market and coffee shop. A gastro-pub and dentist’s office are under construction. You can live, sleep, go to the gym on the 42nd floor, see a play and get groceries all in one swoop.
The photo mural by Stan Douglas (his first public piece *exciting* studied him in university) is a reconstruction of the 1971 Gastown Riots, also known as The Battle of Maple Tree Square. To recreate the scene, Douglas mined public archives, newspapers, and videotape. He interviewed merchants, residents, police, and protesters. Initially, he planned to shoot on location, but “it became so complicated and expensive, we thought, ‘We might as well just build the thing ourselves.’” So Douglas and his hundred-person crew constructed a set in the parking lot of the Pacific National Exhibition, laying down blacktop and weathering the building facades. Fixated on historical accuracy, the artist tracked down the window dresser of the corner sporting goods store, crafted riot sticks, and littered his streets with replicas of the day’s Vancouver Sun. To get the “right period faces,” he cast actors, eventually using eighty. He blocked out the action with three-dimensional models, and wrote nine scenes for the cast to mime.
The shoot itself took three nights, two with the actors, and one with just the set. Douglas required so much illumination to get the proper, crisp focus that he used seven generators to power the lights, transforming the Vancouver night into day. Keeping his camera lens motionless throughout, he captured about fifty different views of the riot, later layering the digital elements into a coherent composition. In advance of the installation, he is printing the photograph on ten-millimetre-thick panels of glass, with the reverse image on the back. Technicians will fuse the layers, leaving the artist with what amounts to a massive piece of coloured windshield glass. Stretching eight by thirteen metres, it will form the dividing wall between a public plaza and an atrium linking the development’s four buildings. (from
Art and community efforts have come together to offer multiple services for community development, arts and education. It’s a controversial space, but invigorating nonetheless.