The cult ’toon “Bambi Meets Godzilla” and Bev Davies’s raucous black-and-white photos of D.O.A. aren’t the kind of works you would normally see together in an art show. But they’re integral pieces of Vancouver’s cultural history—a past that’s being celebrated at this year’s Khatsahlano! Music + Art Festival.
Ten large, walk-in wooden moving containers placed between Trafalgar and Stephens streets on West 4th Avenue will house art exhibits and installations that span the city’s hippie era, its punk-rock past, Expo 86, and its current wired culture. In a show called This Happened Here, offerings include a slide show of legendary concert photog Davies’s shots from the seminal 1977–’81 period, a screening of Stan Fox and Jamie Reid’s Kits-hippie doc “What Happened Last Summer”, a display of Bob Masse’s psychedelic poster art from the 1960s, and an interactive look at the city’s disappearing neon past from the Museum of Vancouver.
“I think a lot of people don’t necessarily know the history of Vancouver. They want to know what happened here, but in a lot of ways there are less and less traces of what happened here,” says Tom Anselmi, whose creative team at Arrival Agency has programmed the exhibition. “This is not the glassy, glossy Vancouver but something a bit more soulful. Vancouver has always had an outsider tradition, and the Khatsahlano! festival is kind of a celebration of all that.”
In between concerts at the 10-block-long street fair, visitors will be able to wander into the immersive containers, some curtained off and darkened for screenings (including Marv Newland’s 1969 short “Bambi Meets Godzilla” and Neil Wedman’s video work Forget Me 1970/2000), others morphed into mini galleries.
The street show may be an inviting alternative to mainstream galleries, but to Anselmi’s mind, certainly not a replacement for them.
“For me, going to an art gallery is one of my favourite experiences in life,” says the local arts-scene veteran, whose past accomplishments include everything from fronting the seminal grunge-punk band Slow to reshaping the Waldorf Hotel into a multi-use music and arts venue. “But I do think that bringing art and interesting shows to places where people might not be expecting it is worthwhile. It’s bringing art to the people.”
One of the people doing this most directly will be the ever-intrepid multimedia master Paul Wong. Grab your smartphone and head to the container housing his On Main Gallery Social Media Art Zone (better known as #OMGSMAZ) to create instant digital memories and imagery using Twitter, Instagram, GIFboom, Vine, Facebook, and more. (Look for the public-art gallery that instantly results via #OMGSMAZ on Twitter.)
Wong and his team of pro digital artists will acquaint you with innovative uses for the platforms, surrounded by emoticon photo backdrops, QR-code games, and other installations.
While many exhibits in This Happened Here are rooted in the past, Wong sees his vibrant digital space as “celebrating the now”.
“It’s to share these collective moments,” he tells the Straight from his studio. “It’s sharing image-making and looking at each other. That’s what the festival is about, to rub shoulders together and eat together and hang together, so this is using social media as a network to continue to celebrate.”
In that way, Wong’s vision fits in perfectly with the larger fest itself. “We can see very clearly with things like Car Free Day how hungry Vancouver is for community,” says Anselmi, whose agency moves on after this to program the Vancouver Art Gallery’s next interdisciplinary FUSE night, on July 19. “We’re becoming more and more a world of isolation and sterility. All you have to do is shut down a street for 10 blocks and all of a sudden you have thousands of people coming down.”