Valerie Durant: Points and Perforations

At the Interurban Gallery until February 18

The front door of the Interurban Gallery stands open. Cars rush by, people walk in and out, cold air pools in the corners. All become part of the context of Points and Perforations, Valerie Durant's immersive acoustical installation. Binaurally recorded, an urban soundscape emanates from small speakers mounted in the work's sculptural component. This consists of the wooden skeleton of a small room within which is built an oddly tilted walk-in chamber. Composed of perforated sheet metal, the chamber is actually two conjoined passageways that incline and narrow at the same place. Light slides through the holes punched in the metal walls, floor, and ceiling. Sound slides in, too. The speakers broadcast the low rumble of traffic, the clattering of railcars, the boom of a dockyard shipping container, the drone of a small seaplane, and the tattered ribbons of human conversation.

In Vancouver, the visual aspects of both built and natural environments have been intensely worked over by artists, but the aural texture of the place has been less well observed. Alan Storey's Coopers Mews, located on Marinaside Crescent on the north shore of False Creek, is a rare exception, an interactive public-art piece that emits sounds evocative of those occurring around it.

Durant's soundscape is equally unusual. The Vancouver-based artist and designer, who has worked in a number of media including photography, video, and social-activist curation, specializes in acoustical art. Her installation creates a nifty dialogue with Storey's. Through sound, both Coopers Mews and Points and Perforations enhance our awareness of and connection with the mechanical, commercial, and social aspects of the inner city. While the former work is permanently located amid high-end condos and private marinas (albeit on former industrial lands), the latter is temporarily on exhibit at the far less privileged corner of Hastings and Carrall streets.

The Downtown Eastside locale of Durant's piece is appropriate, however: she taped her montage of found sounds in Portside Park and its environs. The work catches both the shipping and transportation character of the area and its social aspects-a passing parade, a medical emergency, a boom box, and the stranded words of engineers, dog walkers, joggers, and street people. Durant has also registered a few vestigial elements of the natural environment-waves in Burrard Inlet, falling rain, birdcalls.

The exhibition includes Durant's notes, drawings, and photographs, as well as architectural plans for the sculptural component. (An artist's talk, followed by a walking tour, is scheduled at the gallery this Saturday [February 11] at 2 p.m.) The built installation incorporates exaggerated aspects of pictorial perspective, conjoined yet opposing viewpoints, and the classical proportion of the golden mean. The holes punched through the structure apparently symbolize a porous relationship between our interior being and our exterior environment. This suggested porosity or permeability, however, is more powerfully conveyed by the Interurban Gallery itself. When its front door is open, the noise of the street creates a powerful counterpoint to Durant's soundscape. Points and counterpoints, perforations and counter-perforations all convey the complexities of the urban everyday.