Exhibition at Centre A
Another City is a collaborative exhibition on the human condition in response to global cultural change and physical transfiguration of the urban environment. Curator Makiko Hara brings work of artists Masashi Ogura, Yoshihiro Suda and Paul de Guzman.
Exhibition March 14 to April 25, 2009
Open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 am to 6 pm
2 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC, V6B 1G6
Visits to the satellite venues are only available by taking the Walking Tours
on Saturdays, March 14, April 11, and April 25 – 4 pm to 5 pm.
Meet at Centre A.
Centre A – Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art – provides a platform for contemporary Asian art to engage, educate, and stimulate a reflective experience and provoke critical thought.
Curatorial Notes by Makiko Hara
Another City is not about an imaginary city nor is it an exhibition manifesting some socio-political message on urban issues. Rather, it proposes a temporal physical and intellectual space where we can put ourselves into a flow of imagination – and question who and where we are – and what we are looking for.
We hope Another City will keep evolving and transforming to reflect ourselves in relation to art and life.
~ Curator Makiko Hara
My thoughts have been spinning in circles around the same place. The more I try to define and summarize what Another City is, the more I feel like I’m in a maze. Attempting to encapsulate the elements, I feel continuously displaced as if wandering through a forest of meaning, definition, idea, concept and structure. It is unsettling to be in a paradigm that is constantly dislocating and shifting. Perhaps this un-centred feeling of displacement defines the nature of this project. Additionally, because Another City is a collaboration, its central concept has been shifting with the contributions of each artist.
In early spring 2007, Masashi Ogura proposed the idea of a collaborative exhibition and publication on the human condition in response to global cultural change and physical transfiguration of the urban environment. I had just recently moved to another city, Vancouver, and had begun working with Centre A. When Ogura and I started discussing the initial concept for the project, I described my new life and my new reality. At the same time, while working in the gallery I was constantly confronted with everyday life on the street outside and the transformation of the neighbourhood. I found this new dynamic dislocating and sometimes even emotionally disturbing. The Vancouver Downtown Eastside soon became one of my preoccupations. I began speculating on how to address and integrate the complicated, transforming conditions of my new environment into my art program. I also wanted to address the many layers of historical, socio-political, aesthetic, philosophical and ethical issues surrounding me. I asked myself, how can an art gallery take a position in this cultural and political context?
Centre A examined different aspects of these issues in three exhibitions. Another City follows two earlier projects held at Centre A in 2008, which also focused on urban issues and the human condition: Treasure House Taipei and Show Room. The Treasure House Taipei Project juxtaposed the Vancouver Downtown Eastside with an illegal squatter community in the contested inner city neighborhood of Treasure Hill in Taipei. Show Room 2 provided a literal platform for the public to discuss ongoing issues of gentrification and development in downtown Vancouver, and examined the idea of “Vancouverism.” Another City completes this trilogy.
While Ogura and I were brainstorming – on the initial ideas for Another City on the transfiguration of the urban environment and the human condition – we also found we shared a common interest in developing an art exhibition as a spontaneous exchange. We were seeking a new way of collaboration. Ogura suggested we invite Vancouver based artist Paul de Guzman, and Tokyo based artist Yoshihiro Suda as collaborators on this journey.
I asked Ogura to take the lead as the philosophical thinker/writer and that he prepare a text to share his ideas with the participating artists. His resulting short text “Toward Another City” became the departure point for our collaboration. Ogura wrote this text, with its allusions to Italo Calvino’s influential book Invisible Cities, as a way to describe his multi-strata approach, and as a framework to feature de Guzman’s series of cut-up architecture books with the same title. De Guzman’s art practice is characterized by his conceptual and linguistic approach to the institutional nature of architecture, and by his extremely meticulous and detailed object making. Paul has lately been working with ideas of transience in relation to architecture. For Another City, he will construct a maze – a temporary architectural installation in response to Ogura’s text. De Guzman’s proposal gives physical structure to the project.
In his Another City artist statement, de Guzman remarks that his contribution to the project is to create a transient architectural structure that triggers our desire and fear of travel, migration and impermanence. Space such as corridors, bus shelters, airports, train stations, washrooms, even art galleries, whether humble or monumental expressions of built space, seem boundless. They are boundless because they are peripheral and necessary, neglected and appreciated. They are part of urban landscape. These structures suggest a type of temporary shelter from a nomadic urban existence, a respite from the routine of perpetual movement and travel.
The work of renowned installation artist and wood sculptor Yoshihiro Suda is specialized and skillful. His meticulously carved and painted realistic wooden plants, such as life-size weeds, rose, camellia, are carefully and discreetly installed in gallery spaces. Even though Suda’s carved plants are beautiful and astonishing as objects, his intention is not to present them as art objects; he wishes to create a new perspective when his exquisite objects intervene in the gallery space. The encounter and discovery of his plants awaken and transform our physical and conceptual relationship to space. We anticipate that Suda will insert his plants discreetly, to subtly transform the nature of the gallery space within the context of Another City. In the past, Suda has always created a space for his installation by himself, never in collaboration with other artists. We are excited as this is his first collaborative challenge.
Suda decided to carve mushrooms for the exhibition, inspired by some photos de Guzman showed him, because fungi are transitory and elusive. After Suda’s Vancouver visit, he then showed interest in carving a marijuana ‘weed’, as he was playfully informed that it is the most representative plant of BC. Whatever botanicals he chooses, his new works will parasitically occupy de Guzman’s architectural structure.
In the summer of 2008, we invited Ogura and Suda to Vancouver for a pre-visit to the gallery to initiate their collaboration. After spending four days together, we started to share a vision for the space. De Guzman’s maze and Suda’s subtle interventions illustrate the interaction between private/public and exterior/interior spaces.
But then we thought it would be exciting to extend the viewers’ experience of Another City into the neighbourhood. The exhibition space became the neighbourhood, and was expanded to include the satellite venues of Bestway Studio in Chinatown and Stratagem Pacific Consulting in Gastown, both located in historically significant Downtown Eastside buildings. Both spaces have hosted occasional art and performance events. With this off-site initiative, we invite the viewers to venture outside of the gallery to the two satellite venues. We hope the trip will provide another perspective – through Another City viewers will re-experience key heritage architecture and cultural histories of the Downtown Eastside. Although the Vancouver Downtown Eastside is familiar to many of us, we hope Another City will evoke the feeling of walking around an unfamiliar place – when our mind is constantly in the flow of movement and sights – when we are accidentally getting lost and discovering.
Another City has been developed through the artists’ correspondence and discussions over two years. Instead of seeking consensus and a point of destination, we decided to let our inspiration, our interpretation of each other’s concepts and ideas – and our exchanges – stay open and keep transforming.
Collaborators with Another City include three authors who have contributed to the accompanying book, an integral part of the exhibition. Local historian and heritage advocate John Atkin was asked to provide a history and guide to the Downtown Eastside, “Wandering Off Centre.” Viewers should use the accompanying map to navigate. Gary McFarlane edited the publication and wrote the satirical “Re Route Re Place.” These two texts provide an even greater multiplicity of approaches to Another City, like different people walking the same streets at different times.
“Episode” was written by Masashi Ogura to lead us into the project. His narrative, evoking a hard-boiled, film noir set in Venice, is suggested as a metaphor for being, involving and locating ourselves in the art world. We ask ourselves: What is our relationship to the art world? Who do we follow? Where do we look for guidance? How do we choose which direction to take? What is the art world? And where we are?
Treasure Hill Taipei City
This once military veteran’s housing community turned artist village is truly a diamond in the rough, and quickly becoming a favorite evening and weekend getaway for locals. Situated on a hillside between the edge of Gongguan District and Fuhe Bridge which crosses into New Taipei City, Treasure Hill (寶藏巖) may actually be the best real-life example of an urban playground. With its haphazardly constructed residences sprouting from the forested landscape, a jungle gym of concrete, bricks, and sheet metal provide a maze of fun to explore. These qualities caught the attention of the Taipei City government and international artists, and subsequently a plan was undertaken to reinforce and upgrade the dilapidated structures for the public to enjoy. Central to this revitalization effort was the idea of transforming the area into an artist village by taking advantage of its uniquely mixed urban-ecological construction.
The effort has paid off, with a combination of studios, galleries, cafes, and even space for visiting international artists providing an abundance of inspiration. In the near future, a youth hostel will also open. Regular art exhibitions creatively integrate modern design elements with the well-worn environment, offering a radical reinterpretation of urban living.
Treasure Hill Temple acts as the gateway to the community, and passing through it serves to remind visitors that the village is a place of re-awakening and transformation. Current efforts at urban farming are a testament to this, and the sheer variety of foods being grown seems to symbolize life in transition, as residents mix foreign tastes with traditional staples.
Artists, Venues and Other Collaborators
Paul de Guzman
Paul de Guzman’s art has been exhibited widely in Canada and Europe over the last decade. Having immigrated to Canada in 1986 from the Philippines, Paul is now based in Vancouver. His art practice is characterized by text-based combinations of architecture and visual art. He recently showed at the Dalhousie Art Gallery in Halifax, Kenderdine Art Gallery at the University of Saskatchewan, Art Gallery of Windsor, Vancouver Art Gallery and Art Gallery of Ontario. Internationally he has shown at Hofstra University Museum in New York, Galerie Markus Richter in Berlin, Dominique Fiat in Paris and Galerie Transit near Antwerp. Current and upcoming exhibitions include Oakville Galleries (March 2009) and Birch Libralato in Toronto (May 2009).
Yoshihiro Suda is based in Tokyo. Suda is an internationally celebrated contemporary artist who was nominated for the Canadian Millennium Prize (National Gallery of Canada, 2001), and his work is in the permanent collection of the National Gallery in Ottawa. Suda has exhibited at the Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago (2002), Le Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2004), and the Victoria & Alberta Museum, London (2007-08). In 2009 he will be the first Japanese artist to have a solo exhibition in the Contemporary Museum, Honolulu. Another City will be Suda’s first exhibition on the West Coast of Canada. Suda is represented by several galleries including Gallery Koyanagi in Tokyo and Galerie René Blouin in Canada.
Masashi Ogura is a Tokyo based art critic and former editor of the leading Japanese art magazine, Atelier. For more than three decades he has organized numerous exhibitions and contributed texts to many Canadian and European publications. During his long and distinguished career, he has translated important works of philosophy into Japanese, produced exhibitions and publications, and worked with leading artists from around the world. Over the last 15 years, Ogura and Makiko Hara co-founded the art collective Tokyo Art Speak, which since 1993 presented monthly round table discussions and symposiums, and published periodical catalogues and journals. Ogura received Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la République Française in 1994. Ogura’s publications include: A translation of Jean-Luc Nancy’s La ville au loin, Tokyo, 2007; Contemporary Art from Art Nouveau to Postmodern Age (collaboration), Tokyo, 1989; “L’entre-deux,” in Sylvie Bélanger’s catalogue De la séduction à la résistance, Art Gallery of Windsor, 1999; Du côté de l’ombre, catalogue de l’exposition Jocelyne Alloucherie, Montreal, 2001.
Makiko Hara has been the curator at Centre A: Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art since January 2007. She has curated numerous contemporary art exhibitions by Japanese, Canadian and international artists, and has served as project coordinator for several international exhibitions, including the International Triennale of Contemporary Art in Yokohama, 2001/2005, and the Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale, 2003. Hara has served on several juries including the VIVA Awards, the City of Richmond and the City of Vancouver Public Art Programs, and the Visual Arts Section of the Canada Council for the Arts. Hara is one of the curators for Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2009 in Toronto.
John Atkin is a civic historian. He creates and conducts popular walking tours of Vancouver neighbourhoods. He edits British Columbia History for the BC Historical Federation, is a co-founder of Heritage Vancouver, and curated City Lights: Neon in Vancouver, an exhibition at the Vancouver Museum. Atkin’s published works include numerous articles on heritage issues and four books: Heritage Walks Around Vancouver (1992) (with Michael Kluckner) and Strathcona: Vancouver’s First Neighbourhood (1994) (both winners of the City of Vancouver Heritage Award), Vancouver Walks (2004, 2nd ed. 2005) (with Michael Kluckner) and Skytrain Explorer (2005).
Gary McFarlane is a Vancouver based freelance writer and editor, and has been an administrator in the non profit sector for over 20 years. He also composes and performs with the Alligator Joy Gamelan ensemble.
The Best Way Studio
The Best Way Studio is an artist studio established in 2008 by Vancouver artists Randy Gledhill, Glenn Lewis and Elisha Burrow. It is located in Chinatown’s historic Chinese Times Building, 519 East Pender Street. The studio hosts art events in collaboration with local art organizations.
Stratagem Pacific Consulting
Stratagem Pacific Consulting was formed in 1995. The company provides qualified and innovative services associated with cultural, economic development and natural resource issues. Stratagem Pacific Consulting is represented by Craig R. Noordmans. Since 2007, Stratagem has held four art exhibitions and artist-in-residency programs of local Vancouver emerging artists using their office space, 710 – 318 Homer Street.