Created in 2004-8, the installation Vacant Lot uses video and photography to document a piece of land in Vancouver’s inner‐city. Originally part of extensive mud flats at the east end of False Creek, the land was converted into railyards in the early 20th century. By the early 1990’s the land was gradually turning into meadow. Used by skateboarders, metal recyclers and homeless people, and housing numerous songbirds, migrating geese, and coyotes, most of the land has since been stripped of vegetation and covered in gravel, with one area converted into an artificial turf playing field. As a semi‐wild space used for improvised leisure activities and housing as well as advertising, it served as a perfect site for a meditation on ideas about nature vs. Culture, utopia vs. dystopia, and the absurdities of capitalism.
The installation has two video components: the first examines a corner of the lot that contains 5 large mechanized billboards with rotating panels. Skateboarders call this area “Ghetto Spot”, and build improvised ramps and jumps with found materials. The products the billboards advertise (“Wolverine” shoes for example) seem ironic in relation to the site. The video is composed of carefully framed fixed-camera shots that recall the formality of large format fine art landscape photography. The mechanical rhythm of the billboards and slow pacing of the editing create a meditative parallel to the overlapping cycles at work in this place: seasonal, social, economic, etc.
In the second video a backhoe can be glimpsed through cottonwood trees, the remains of a homeless person’s campsite clamped in its jaws. The short sequence loops endlessly, the backhoe materializing in a slow dissolve, then moving out of the frame again. The still photographs focus on evidence of passing wildlife and humans and the surrounding landscape.
2008 Vacant Lot. Republic Gallery, Vancouver.
Galleries West, Fall/ Winter 2008, Review of Vacant Lot at Republic Gallery, by Ann Rosenberg.