Sunday, December 20, 2015

Telling the Telling Stories Story!!!

So early last year I was invited to be part of the show to be at the Chinese Cultural Center Museum. Actually, it's not a museum. The room we were to show in is a gallery, the name of which passed by me a couple of times, but I didn't grasp it.

Phyllis Schwartz was a friend going back to 1972 when I first met her. I was pregnant, unknowingly, with Erica & Lesley at the time.
She was the one who invited me to be in the show.

Phyllis knew that I was sitting on the edge of a neighborhood that was under enormous change & was documenting it. So on the basis of being already engaged with this story, I was invited into this show with 8 other artists.

Under ordinary circumstances I wouldn't have gone back to revisit the years that I was engaged with the project I co-started in 1981, The Imagination Market. It was done, past, & my life had moved on. But I moved into the neighborhood where this project had its first home & so I started, in some ways, haunting those streets, seeing what was going on there. There was a lot happening!

In 1989 Imagination Market moved to Powell Street & folded in there 1992. But a couple of years later three women who had worked with Imagination Market decided to start a new project. They called it Urban Source. The name fit, because this is a singularly urban project.

And for me, back in 1981 when I began this work, I realized that Vancouver was a singularly safe city of a woman to look for fascinating waste materials in alleys & factories & dumpsters!!

My first thought was to construct a map on cloth. A map was good because that project was an amazing way that I got to know Vancouver. I had arrived here in December of 1967. I had become a landed immigrant in February of 1968. So in 1981 when I gathered my thoughts & purpose to start this project I had been here only13 years. 
So below was the very beginning of my map of where the Imagination Market took me. The yellow was where I was collecting from business in the early days. I dotted all the original members of the Board of our Association, the places where I and those board members lived, the organizations that helped us,
& finally the places where the Imagination Market had a presence. I had to research where all the various dots went.

This is a page from Bruce McDonald's book, Vancouver, A Visual History.  This is the map from the 1980's showing the EXPO 86 lands which took industrial land away in North False Creek. All that new green land went from light industrial to 'park' to now residential.

It progressed.
More & more detail happened.

My next endeavor was to look at the materials available to me. Waste materials from Urban Source & my own scrap materials were my sources.

This was my very beginning start inside the green rectangle.
It quickly became obvious that I was going to make a very traditional 'quilt' from paper/plastic materials. So I came to call it a non/traditional quilt. The look of it is very old fashioned. The papers in the quilt were scraps from an old projects & stuff from Urban Source.
The glitz in the middle is transfer foil from the printing industry.

A detail showing the different papers I used, including Braille paper teaching geometry.

As this was going on I was taking photos every week. I walked the perimeter of the block. I talked to workers on the site. I went up on the various decks of the Granville Street Bridge to take photos from that perspective.
My idea was to mount the best photos onto transparent cloth. The photos would be like the windows of a building. Transparent cloth would carry the meaning of impermanence. I had a dream about a newly made building loosing large chunks out of it, just like the chunks of concrete I had noticed missing from the Bridge.
I struggled quite a bit with how I was going to suspend the photo panels. Many thinkings & virtual testings of possibilities during the night, even.
Anyway 5 panels eventually emerged. The first was about the 1435 Granville Street building and the very early days of the Imagination Market Project.  Four details.

The 2nd panel was about the neighborhood of Howe & Granville, 1400 block. Details followed by the whole panel.

The 3rd panel was about demolition of all the buildings & the beginning of the excavation of the site. The largest building to come down was the Mini Storage Building that was used by Westbank Developers to present the Vancouver House project to the city & potential buyers. The building as renamed Gesampt Kunst Werk.

The 4th & 5th panels were about the deepening of the excavation pit.

This is how the installation of Neighborhood in Transition developed.

I went to the VPL for a couple of visits into the Vancouver telephone books going back to 1920 up to 1990.
I was curious about the history of the block, when 1435 was built & who occupied it. This was to be my final piece for the show.
And another map-approach was in the offing. These first images are
the mockups of my idea.

Then I committed the words to cloth and refined the map copies from my favorite Vancouver book of maps.

Then more quilting happened. Appropriate buttons were found for each decade! Except the pre 1850 map should have had any buttons.Buttons happened after European contact!

The look of all the pieces at the show.

I made a journal of the making of the work. That book is on the plinth at the left. And the model 1435 Granville Street Building is on the right. By a curious chain of events Regis Painchaud had this ceramic slab-constructed model. He loaned it to me for the show.
Philip Lander, who had run Imagination Market with Roberta Meillieur, gave me a jacket from the day.
And from the pages of my journal...

That's it for now.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Telling the Story of TELLING STORIES

As I come to the end of the run of Telling Stories, a visual art exhibit at the Chinese Cultural Centre on Columbia Street in Vancouver, I am taking stock about the whole experience of making the work for the show & all the reflective thinking that has gone on since the show went up.

My focus was on a block in the city (quite close to where I came to live seven years ago) that is undergoing a huge transition. The land was originally zoned as light industrial. There were gas & service stations, cabinet-makers, metal fabricators, bridge engineers & the like. In one of the brick buildings, built in 1942 & first occupied by a heating oil business, a project I started had a permanent home between 1986 & 1989. Because of being under the main deck of the Granville Street Bridge (built in 1952) the City-owned the building & we rented it for $1 a year. The non-profit association, called The Imagination Market, collected surplus, waste & mis-runs that could be used for art, craft, or play. Our customers were day cares centers, community centers, schools, artists, parents, kids, teachers & so on. Our address was 1435 Granville Street.

Suddenly a development permit went up & I realized that I was in prime position to document this transition from light industry to high-end residential.
ISN'T immediately did graffiti on the sign and it was just as quickly removed.

This is how the building looked at the time of the development permit.
So far I have taken over 1000 photos of the block. I interview anyone who is working on the site, near the site, and who knows what's going on now or in the future. This photo shows the building after it was occupied by Regis Painchaud. He ran an operation here for francophone culture. He called it L'Espace Dubreuil.

Quick impressions: 

old dug-up gas pump tank
 sand/gravel for new sewer lines
Iconic gas pump in the old Beach City Auto Center lot at the south end of the block. The owner of this land wouldn't sell this sliver-- not even for $16 million dollars!!
Randomness happens on land that is basically abandoned. I saw a lot of this sort of thing.

There were also things of stunning textural interest (to me) like the wetted & dried corrugated cardboard.
Isn't! became an icon for me. It came to stand for the impermanence of everything. Even the new building going up I could see being impermanent.

Side windows of 1435 Granville Street. 
Bjarke Ingels is a well known Danish architect. Westbank is running the project & Icon is doing the excavation & construction.  

When Regis moved into the building it had been used  for a couple of years as a shooting gallery for drug-users. The city was worried about that. The block became pretty unsafe. Hazmat came to clean the building up. Many needles!

More randomness. I found/find clothes all the time.
The Granville Street Bridge concrete has this little problem. I gather seismically it's not too bad, even though it was built in 1952. But chunks do fall. Just look up & you can find spots. Rusted rebar exposed.

Another common sight is beds. Even today on a vacant lot close by here right now in December there is someone sleeping in an igloo-shaped tent. 
This bed was at the back alley of 1435 Granville Street, just before it was torn down in August.

The odd beauty of the mess of demolition. I was attracted to the colors of blue, the reflection. & the kind of hopelessness of the image. Yet everything you see here, the concrete, the fence, the boulder at the side, was recycled.

The ribs of the bridge caught my eye.

These are the 1435 bricks which, if whole, were also sold: 60 cents a brick (I was told) for old bricks. Worth the trouble for someone!

Selfies of one of the first bunch of workers on the Vancouver House lot.
Surveillance camera, sound, motion, & light all sent to the center in Richmond.

[I've just run into some technical problems with my photos. Things are not going to be in sequence here. Tough to fix too. I just tried.]
So jumping head, these men are drilling laterally into the earth to install anchors which get filled with anchor concrete.

This land is all alluvial, but there are occasional large glacial erratics in the soil. These are blasted into manageable sizes & sold to landscape people.
The Beach City Auto Center, taken from the Granville Street Bridge, Howe Street on-ramp. I've learned that the triangle flags are color coded to signify the amount of height clearance!

Another staging area, this one taken from the Seymour off-ramp of the Granville St. Bridge.

Another typical shoe lost. This one has a wing built into the heel design. Poignant, I thought. 

Abandoned land inspires illegal dumping. This dump was on the Buster towed-cars-lot across from 1435 Granville Street. It's drywall.

Furniture always shows up! It's still going on.

Another bed. This one with styrofoam walls & window holes with a tarp roof.

This is the Mini Storage/Gesamt Kunst Werk building being stripped before demolition. Flying debris! In this building the Westbank people had set up their sales center. They had models of Vancouver House-- all 52 floors of it! The Mini Storage building was called briefly Gesamt Kunst Werk. 

A selfie of me on Howe Street, just before the Mini Storage building was taken out.

The Hazmat Man for the storage building. Asbestos?

Impressive amount of sorting the materials for reuse or safe treatment. Dry wall, wood, metal, etc. 

This is one of two busses that haunt this neighborhood. I imagine they are inhabited, but I'm not certain of it.

Looking into the storage building from Howe Street. Dust in the air.
Contrast of the glitz of Gesamt Kunst Werk & the demolition. I was shocked that these high end materials were not taken out. They were wrecked. 
A portable building that has had many different functions: display & onsite promotions, for sure. 

All the reinforced concrete had the metal extracted from the storage building.

The door of 1435 Granville Street just before it got buried under rocks/gravel. Another icon for me.

new sewer pipes with gaskets 

The bridge itself just fascinates me. Light, shadows, angles for starters.

The 'Vancouver House' promotion hoarding poster. 

The extra seismic work made necessary by the non-sale of the gas station. 26 meter long I-beams were positioned at the south end of the lot. No anchoring possible into that end.

Some days the trucks come every 7 minutes to haul dirt. At the beginning the dirt was used for landfill, but now it goes on barges and is dumped out in Georgia Straight. I think that's OK. It's alluvial sand & gravel after all.

metal recycling on site
there's a box for wood too. 

I dropped in to the Icon Office because I had pressing questions. They answered them for me. The book of building plans was enormous, pages thick!

One stage of the stair case. It has a different configuration now because the pit is nearly 7 stories deep. 
These are the glass & cladding men from Korea. They have color samples up on the portable box building now. They need to see which colors look best on that site. I spoke with them, as they were leaving.

Evidence of the sewer work on Granville.

This line of debris from the same day as above. It reminds me of a high tide line. Why is it like that?

The pit at 5 stories down. These tubes are part of the seismic work. The Beach Avenue Auto building is just beyond it. I figure this seismic work is costing Westbank $16 million-- the amount they offered the owner of the Beach City Auto land.

More bridge fascination. I spoke with the worker just leaving the site (right). He was part of the seismic workers team.

The interior of one of the 'resident' busses. Bits of the bridge, reflections, rain, & an unknown story of the bus-owner. 
The themes & lenses that emerged for me: 
Both the Imagination Market & Vancouver House projects were/are committed to reuse & recycling.

Impermanence of land, buildings, lives, cultures, businesses is in the forefront of my mind. I'm neither for it or against it, but sometimes it's shocking. It's happening big time in Chinatown too.

Mapping was so much a part of what I resorted too when telling my story. I made a map of where the Imagination Market was, where the key figures at the beginning lived & the institutions that helped us get started. I did research to learn the history of the 1400 block and the occupants of 1435 Granville Street. 

And finally, I realize that once again I am engaged in honoring: the people who do the work, have the ideas, develop & maintain the technologies, build the buildings & take them down. I don't take any of this for granted. Nor do I forget that list is First Nations land we are on & what's going on in this block suddenly started to shift radically in 1850 when settlement of Europeans began here. Nor do I want to let slide the problems we have in Vancouver with housing. Homelessness is an issue so far unsolved. Vancouver House isn't going to fix that either.

That's it for now.

When I solve the technical problems with my photos I will show THE WORK I did for this show too.

I'm thinking of finding another blogging zone. This entry has been a hell-zone of problems!!!