Sitting between the opposing bleachers Instant Coffee have built, I am confident this is as good a function as these risers will ever have. Faces are stacked from floor to ceiling and more keeping creeping in as opinions and distractions are volleyed back and forth.
The topic of rezoning Mount Pleasant has been on the periphery of almost every conversation shared recently. I don’t live in the area, though I did consider it, but when I officially moved here three months ago the area around Broadway and Kingsway had become the most expensive rental zone in the city for what I was looking for. I’m not looking for much; I mainly wished to live within walking distance to fresh produce. I have spent too much of my life getting in and out of cars to buy papaya. However, within this basic priority there lies a number of social prerequisites including an inherent globalized market, a climate to support walking year round, and a density of population who know and support businesses on their street.
If I had to offer a definition for what makes a city livable, one answer would be that it is walkable, and the other is that there are spaces along the way to discover. But what exists in those spaces is just as important as having them there. I may prefer one business over another based on the simplicity of a smile. I apply the same guideline to art spaces when sometimes the level of aloofness is so overt that I wonder why these spaces are public at all. So when these same spaces are under threat in neighborhoods where they have no visibility and have built no connections on the ground, when nearby residents don’t even feel welcome to enter, I am torn as to how I feel about their fate. This may appear antagonistic within my own community, as while I will defend the importance of art with every breath I have, I defend through scrutiny and examination of how art remains vital. Otherwise, we have empty storefronts filled with reified objects and their value as assets take precedence as their primary value.
If we glance back at the rise of contemporary art, we find ourselves at the feet of Duchamp, who blasted art out of the retinal arena only to find it hurried back in with a “Do Not Touch” label next to a didactic panel. The emergence of Artist Run Spaces began as spaces to play, but they too have gone the way of becoming fortresses rather than fields (at least in Canada anyways). So what is there to do? I have no conclusions, but I am interested in rolling back the situation to see how this has come to be. To understand a situation is to look at its roots, because while reactionary responses offer band-aid solutions, it is likely that surgery is actually required.
Back on the bleachers, idioms are being tossed around like a game of hot potato. “Developers” and “City” are held up momentarily but their weights are not considered. An “us vs them” perpetuates the power struggle and comes out as an internalized cultural hegemony. Creating alliances is important, but it’s also important to remember that power is never given. Not even shared. Power is taken, historically, consistently, and effectively by those who really want it. But maybe the hunger for power is the biggest distraction of all, as at the end of the day, people just need to be aware of one another on an interpersonal level. So if the conversation keeps bending towards forging a relationship with the city, then isn’t it natural to create a civic arts council? I was confounded to learn by the end of the night that Vancouver doesn’t have an arts council and that nobody was clear on whether there ever used to be one or not. This posting by Tom Durrie is the closest thing I have found to an explanation, but what needs to be further stressed is that an independent arts council would represent both sides and advises on behalf of the city’s artistic community to government and other agencies while channeling viable city-based opportunities for artists.
All I knew before arriving is that if I had to hear the word “neoliberalism” as an answer one more time I was going to lose it. But Other Sights implied that this was going to be a new type of conversation, one without predetermined agendas in order to open up the discussion rather than offer conclusions. No conclusions were made, though agendas are hard to check at the door. The sugar rush from the root beer float and the lack of oxygen in the room were definite factors, but I did leave that night feeling genuinely buzzed. It was a sensation of being all worked up with no where to go, spinning from an energy with no certain direction. The Future is Floating and that in itself is inspiring and a continuum.