Reading in the Rain

1 October 2017 – First assignment, read this.

Oh good. Now that any lurking drones have buzzed off and we are all human together, let’s go read some art.

In the rain.

I first learned about “reading” visuals as well as text from listening in on art-director conversations. They wanted images to make sense, to be visually “readable,” at a specific distance or range of distances.

A billboard next to a busy expressway, for example, designed for passing motorists, has different readability criteria than a notice posted at a street corner for pedestrians to read as they wait for the lights to change.

Public art, ideally, will “read” at a range of distances, appropriate to each site and its work of art. Emilie Crewe, the young artist leading our tour of Burrard Corridor public art, uses Douglas Coupland’s Digital Orca as her first illustration of this principle.

There it is, leaping majestically and eternally at one waterfront corner of Jack Poole Plaza, today bathed in mist and rain. At this distance, it is one smooth graphic image. It reads beautifully, even from afar, even in the rain.

We move in, closer.

The work — as iconic as perhaps only a Vancouver native could hope to create — still reads, but differently. The aluminum cladding begins to assert its pixellated nature. The flowing curves break into craggy surfaces, each pixel dancing with its neighbours.

Emilie spins us around to Bon Voyage Plaza, another spatial subset within this same overall Convention Centre footprint. We’re about to read The Drop — a 65-foot polyurethane raindrop by Berlin’s Inges Idee, angled toward the harbour.

Today is the day for a raindrop.

 

Reads very well at a distance, and with the same power up close — even though, unlike Digital Orca, there’s no shape-shifting involved.

This is all great fun, despite the rain.

Hmmm. Maybe the fact I add that “despite” proves I am not yet truly Vancouverite. (As in, “Yes, it’s raining. And your point is …?”)

Next  up, a work of art that we get to read in the old-fashioned sense of the word. It is pure text — Lying on Top of a Building, the words wrapped around multiple floors of two sides of the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel.

I don’t photograph it this time, but if you’re curious, revisit my 22 June post, The Art of Quote-Unquote, to see and read (that word again) more about this 2008 installation by the British artist, Liam Gillick.

Then Emilie leads us to something wonderful, even more wonderful because I didn’t know it existed until she pointed it out.

At first, it’s not all that wonderful. Fine, I think, handsome set of axes and rectangles, very rectilinear and spare, OK-good.

Then Emilie adds, “Unfortunately, we’re here on a weekend, so it won’t be working.” Working? I ask myself, a thought bubble barely formed before Emilie bursts it with, “Oh! It is working! Somebody must be in the office today.”

So please look again. That far right low rectangle, resting on the horizontal, has just descended from higher up its vertical.

Each rectangle represents one elevator in Environment Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans here at 401 Burrard Street. Every time someone takes an elevator, up or down, the corresponding rectangle makes the corresponding trip out here on the sculpture. Canadian Alan Storey calls the piece, Public Service / Private Step, and is that not the perfect title?

So I am charmed.

And equally charmed to visit another of his works, a sculpture called Broken Column (Pendulum), which dominates the multi-storey lobby of the HSBC building at 885 West Georgia.

I’ve seen it before, the massive (and motorized) pendulum swinging slowly and silently to and fro. Weekends, though, this one really is motionless.

Which allows me to appreciate the lines of the sculpture itself …

rather than sit entirely focused on & peacefully mesmerized by its motion.

Several more interim works, splish-splosh, and a grand finale in Robson Square. I have visited this space before, I’ve always really liked it — and I have never, until this moment, noticed Spring.

Not as in, a season of the year. Or, a coil. Or, a single dreadlock. Or even a Slinky-toy…

No. As in, Alan Chung Hung’s massive red steel sculpture that likes to pretend it supports the upper level of this public square.

Enjoy the coil, and please also notice the neat rectangular border of light grey. Today’s weather makes this an interactive piece: the light rectangle is dry, protected by upper-level beams from the rain that darkens the pavement, either side.

And while you’re busy noticing things, please peer into the murk, to the right rear of the sculpture. Yes! Vaguely humanoid shapes.

It’s a whole line-up of dancing fools — girls plus instructor, gyrating away to their music (kept respectfully low).

Isn’t this fine? Lots and lots of very permanent public art pieces, with  a passing moment of performance art thrown in.

Just because.

 

  • WALKING… & SEEING

    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

  • Recent Posts

  • Walk, Talk, Rock… B.C.-style

  • Post Categories

  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

    • 80,721 hits
  • Since 14 August 2014

    Flag Counter
  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,502 other followers

%d bloggers like this: