Closing event: October 7, 5-7pm, Vancouver Art Gallery Offsite, 1100 W Georgia St, Vancouver
Georgia Street in Vancouver is a prime example of Jane Jacobs’s dictum, in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, that “streets and their sidewalks, the main public places of a city, are its most vital organs.” Running through the city on an east-west axis, the street connects such neighborhoods as Downtown Vancouver, Chinatown, and the more residential Strathcona, passes landmarks like the Living Shangri-La (the city’s tallest skyscraper), Hotel Vancouver, the Theatre District, and the Vancouver Art Gallery, and crosses the Georgia Viaduct, the sole completed component of a broadly protested freeway proposal in the 1970s.
Evann Siebens and Keith Doyle’s new project, Pedestrian Protest (jointly commissioned by the Vancouver Art Gallery and the City of Vancouver’s Public Art program), seeks to understand the dynamic processes at play on the street through the lens of the protesting body. “We had been thinking about the gestures, choreography, and histories of resistance and protest since 2018,” explained the artists. “We chose to address protest in the work in part because of the political nature of the site, and how we could question and interrogate this site in the public’s mind.” Initially they planned a conceptual map of the street, with Stan Douglas’s Every Building on 100 West Hastings (2002) and Ed Ruscha’s artist book Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966) as inspirations. But in part due to the climate of protest of the last several years, and wanting to foreground the voices and actions of the communities involved, they eventually shifted the focus away from physical sites and onto the protesting body itself, using it “as a way to move through the geography.”
To do this, the artists sought the collaboration of more than 43 visual and performance artists, dancers, and activists. Siebens and Doyle prompted each artist or group to choose a site near or along Georgia Street, and Siebens, whose background is in dance, performance, and media, filmed the performances and protests that took place. At the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Offsite location, adjacent from a pedestrian plaza and across the street from the Trump International Hotel & Tower, Doyle (a professor in the Faculty of Design + Dynamic Media and the Faculty of Graduate Studies at Emily Carr University of Art + Design) translated those performances into a three-dimensional structure that adopts the vernacular of construction sites and advertising billboards: a collaged vinyl mural, LED screen (playing looped media from the events), and semi-transparent banner portraits hung from a scaffolding armature. Together, these elements (along with a comprehensive website and Instagram page) constitute “a mapping of a cross-section of Vancouver’s artists at this historical time,” bridging the groups in time and space and positioning viewers within the gestalt of movement.