Walking Projects: “Vancouver, crawling, weeping, betting” matches wine with words

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It seems, at times, that just about every possible combination has been tried in Vancouver’s ever-inventive multimedia arts scene. As far as we know, however, a new collaboration between UNIT/PITT Projects and battery opera marks the first time the art of the sommelier has been invited into the mix, even if a glass of well-chosen wine is only part of what looks like a diverse, and intriguingly amorphous, fusion of storytelling, publishing, installation art, and interactive performance.

Walking Projects: “Vancouver, crawling, weeping, betting” is the brainchild of battery opera cofounder David McIntosh and interdisciplinary artist Chris Bose, and if you’re eager to get straight to the wine tastings, they’ll happen at UNIT/PITT’s East Pender Street space every Friday through March 1. These late-night sessions start at 10 p.m., and while they’ll feature a large supporting cast of writers, dancers, and improvising musicians, they’ll also find the multitalented McIntosh showing off a newly acquired skill.

“I get to match an alcohol to someone’s story—or not their actual story, but their sensation,” the newly licensed sommelier explains in a telephone interview from his home. “They’ll tell me how they feel about telling the story, and I can kind of match a booze to that. So the audience gets to drink the booze I pour and listen to the story, and then the audience gets to figure out what are three resonant themes within the booze and the story they heard. And then we have musicians and dancers who’ll improvise on those themes.”

Other aspects of the project involve “witching hour” performances viewable from the street in front of the gallery on Thursday nights; artist-led walking tours of the city on Saturday afternoons; and a book of Vancouver-related stories and maps.

There’s a lot to absorb here, and McIntosh admits that he doesn’t quite know how everything will turn out; Walking Projects is more process-based than result-driven. “But that’s a city, right?” he notes. “It’s process-based, too.”

We do know, however, that it all started with McIntosh and Bose sharing their own stories of the city, with one odd twist being that McIntosh is a fourth-generation Vancouverite while Bose, a member of the Nlaka’pamux First Nation, arrived here as a teenage runaway in the 1990s.

“I was curious about examining Vancouver through both of our separate—and really different—experiences,” McIntosh says. “At first, we thought we were going to do a spiritual walking tour or spiritual guidebook—basically drinking stories with spiritual advice. But what happened was we started writing about Vancouver and different kinds of stories came up. My stories all ended up being about the difficulty of memory.…and about not having sex, which kind of frames Vancouver in a different way. And then Chris’s stories are kind of about a trajectory towards oblivion. So I really liked how those worked with each other. They’re totally different encounters with the actual built environment of the city.”

There’s one more point McIntosh would like to make, and this might help explain the “betting” part of the project’s title. “The great thing about this is that it’s free,” he says. “So you’re gambling your time, but not your cash.”

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