My Pacific Friend > and Me a Boat, 2004

Wandering… I’m walking up the street with eyes closed, paying attention to the sound of the wind and what it carries. I imagine the place I’m in – and am suddenly transported there… I can remember where I am. The scent in the air. Walking uphill on Davie St with the view of the mountains on my left, and the sun high in the sky over the bay behind me. And me, I’m walking forward to the sound of the city. A neighboring conversation confronts and interrupts my thoughts. A couple. Another man walking quickly on his cell phone making plans for a date. Other men walking by me look at me – with a glow in their eyes. Confrontational stares. We exchange glances. No one smiles. I am aware of my body in this space. It is as if my body talks for me of who I am, of what I am. I know who I am – but its only a fleeting picture in my mind – momentarily captured as time stands still for a moment. It’s a pretty busy little urban street – more so at night – when the bars cater to the nightlife. Right now its just a bunch of little shops and restaurants. People inside shops, others looking through the window, but mostly people walking to and from some unknown destination. Its almost mid day. I took my daily walk from Granville, catching the ferry across, and walking up towards English Bay before turning up Davie St. It’s a nice walk. Granville Island has a huge open market, the main art theaters, with the local art institute, Emily Carr. A few affluent galleries and very touristy. What I mean by touristy is that the local shops cater to souvenirs, miniature monuments and street artists. The streets manicured to look like a native port town, but functions more or less as a dock for private boats and yachts. The street signage freshly painted. It has a feel of a carnival – a “staged authenticity” that that the history of the place is now decorative. Gastown is also like this – it’s the historic district in town with cobblestone streets and a steam clock that chimes every hour. Not much of Vancouver is historic because it has undergone a lot of changes from fires and is still considered a fairly new burgeoning city, as well as the fact that the british colonizers kinda forgot the city for a while.

I have a friend going to Emily Carr – and when I got to Granville Island I went to go see the BFA show there – where the students displayed their thesis work. The contemporary student work has a lot of vibrance and energy – arguing for social critiques and formalist visual aesthetics. Typical of art schools, where some of the work was pretty well informed, innovative, or derivative of insulated art world referents. The ferry across to downtown Vancouver runs there – it runs every 10 minutes. I grab a ferry across and walk along the bay with a view of Mt. Rainer in front of me. The tides are pretty calm – and on most good days there are a fair amount of people walking, biking, or on rollerblades. A bunch of beached logs lay across the sand and I see a few people and children sitting or playing around them. I usually sit on a bench here and watch the water as I gather my thoughts. I enjoy the time spent in contemplation. Although a lot of tourists come to this area – there really isn’t much to do – no one really swims – the beaches are a little further out, but its home for aboriginal artists, guitar players, gay cruising, and youth culture. Mainly its about watching people and the landscape – which undulates between the cargo boats in the far distant, and the view of snow capped mountains. I wonder what makes this sight so special – and realize its not about looking but about how you frame your looking. About how you relate to something you see. In a couple hours I will be meeting a friend to go and check out some of the art spaces here in Vancouver, something Vancouver is known for (artist run centers are unique in that they allow a diverse amount of local artists to create and show new bodies of work in a professional and positive environment without the catches or goals of marketing). They are spread out throughout the city but are mostly on the downtown east side area… I’ve been in Vancouver for a little over a week now. I came to visit friends and take a little break away from work. I’ve been feeling guilty about not visiting any tourist sights. Everyone I meet, and tell I am visiting says I should go up to the mountains or to Vancouver Island – because its beautiful and interesting. Instead, I choose to get adjusted to the people and places here in Vancouver which I find equally fascinating. I get a feel of the culture through the streets… Walking out of a gallery opening one night, my friend and I decided to head downtown to go to some local club that plays Electroclash. We were walking down one of the main streets (reminiscent of a toned down Madison Ave.) with name brand stores when we came across a few cops crowded around a man. This man was standing in front of Salvatore Farigamo. We was a beautiful blond man standing naked behind a lit storefront window. His body was completely bare and exposed. The cops were making him turn around. My friend and I just stared and watched as the cops were questioning this man. We both thought it was some kind of art performance the way everything was choreographed. We stayed to watch on for a little while mesmerized by the sight. When we decided to walk a little further down the street we notices a group of 6 other cops coming to the scene. None of them seemed to have brought a blanket or anything to cover this man. Imagining all the cops surrounding this man, without the slightest composition to offer a blanket was so weird. There are a lot of pockets of poverty stricken areas – places for junkies and the homeless. The city, like any other, has a mixture of different kinds of people. When I wander the streets, I am aware of my own presence in this landscape. I am reminded of how I function in relation to others. I find myself gazing at the people I see always end up reflecting something back to me. The naked man, his body – etched into the landscape becomes a symbol of rebellion in place of the decorated windows of consumerism. Against the fashion – a dislocated naturalism in the urban environment. I left Vancouver without anything I bought. I brought back free local newspapers I’ve read and the stories I remember as a sign of my own interest in keeping memories. My mind can imagine the rest and recall the days spent walking in the park or going to the beach or wandering the streets.

Unfortunately, right before I left for my trip – I had a few meetings with my supervisor and was being laid off for my job. It wasn’t the greatest time to take a vacation, but figured it would be a good experience. Originally, I was working with a friend to put together a performance at an art space during my stay, but it ended up not happening. I was mainly interested in coming to Vancouver because I wanted to get away from where I was and I wanted to see my friends in Vancouver. Apart from that, I’ve heard the art scene in Vancouver is pretty interesting. They have something called Artist Run Centers, which are very different from the art centers from where I’m from. First of all, they are fully backed by the government, whereas a lot of institutions in the US are funded through private donors. So the type of art I saw was conducive to the idea that art isn’t necessarily marketable – i.e. for profit, but rather a system of exchanges. Speaking to my friend about this, was more interesting than actually seeing the spaces though, because of the privileged view he has and the way he sees his work. I remember when we were walking into one of the centers looking at the work. And he was staring at the space, wondering if it would be the best place to show his new work. I was shocked by the level of entitlement that he felt – and the ease from which he could acquire the spaces. We talked about it a bit, but its definitely something conducive to Canada, in that it’s a lot easier to write proposals for work because the government supports the artists in a more direct way. I got a few articles and information on these centers and what they offer their artists are really interesting – in that artists get paid to exhibit their work in the space. Something like that was a culture shock for me to hear. Because the market of art is so small and the government likes to support their artists – they are given the space for a month usually and a small allowance to live off.

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