Danny Singer's Drive-by captures fleeting sensations of our vehicular existence
Drive-by: Danny Singer
At the Seymour Art Gallery to November 27
Some time in the 20th century, walkers became riders, flâneurs became drivers, and life began to rush by us through the window of a moving car. Instead of sitting on a park bench watching the world go by, we began to go by the world—the world in all its dark and bright, thronging and deserted, extraordinary, banal, and ever-fluxing particularity. Some time in the 20th century, too, film, video, and photography became the perfect media for capturing and critiquing the fleeting sensations of our vehicular existence.
Within that lively tradition, Danny Singer has produced a 70-foot-long, three-foot-high, digitized panorama of photographs taken from a moving automobile and titled Drive-by. Printed on vinyl, the work has been applied, photo-mural style, directly to the interior walls of the Seymour Art Gallery in Deep Cove. In order to produce his vivid and compelling piece, Singer mounted a still camera in the passenger window of his van and operated it by remote control while driving slowly through the city. Through computer technology, he then conjoined his multitude of diverse images into a seamless panorama, creating a “continuously blended print that reads like a filmstrip”, writes guest curator Rachel Rosenfield Lafo in the exhibition essay.
Somehow, our movement around the perimeter of the gallery syncs with Singer’s journey and we’re in his van with him, cruising the streets of the city. His continuous photo carries us through downtown Vancouver and across Burrard Inlet, ending, fittingly enough, near Panorama Drive in Deep Cove. We motor past luxury hotels and street vendors, strip clubs and newspaper boxes, Chinatown markets and Coca-Cola ads. We pass shoppers, joggers, bicyclists, dog walkers, and people pushing strollers. We also see tourists with street maps, businessmen with briefcases, and a transvestite with attitude.
The work looks completely contemporary, but in fact Singer began Drive-by 10 years ago, then set it aside. He recently returned to the project, and the fluidity with which past and present, night and day, rain and shine interweave within one continuous photograph provokes questions about the nature of perception and the play of memory across experience. The sense of movement through time as well as place is enhanced by the fact that some of the figures are in sharp focus, others are blurred, and others still are scarcely there—lonely ghosts gliding through the congested urban realm.
Singer is much acclaimed for his earlier series of photographs depicting the main streets of prairie towns in Canada and the United States. The subtext of these remarkable works is also the immense impact of the automobile, especially as it affects the way we construct the world both physically and metaphysically. Happily for us, a couple of Singer’s Main Street photos are on view in Forest, Shore and Beyond: Art from the Audain Collection, at the Vancouver Art Gallery until January 29. Between Deep Cove and downtown, there’s some fine work to drive by.