Digital Art Reflections & 10 Seconds in Time At outdoor screens in downtown Vancouver until September 30
Downtown Vancouver pulses on this warm summer night. Bands play, pedestrians stroll, the scent of hot food wafts through the open doors of pubs and restaurants. And temporary public art inserts its presence into the multisensory urban experience.
At the corner of Robson and Granville streets, look up, look wa-a-ay up. Two programs of digital art, sponsored by the City of Vancouver, are playing among the ads on the screens mounted atop the retail building at the northeast corner of those two busy thoroughfares. The first, Digital Art Reflections, features short animation and video works by local artists Diyan Achjadi, Carol Sawyer, Donna Szoke, and the Project Rainbow collective. The other program, 10 Seconds in Time, is a collection of eight videos, each 10 seconds in length, curated by Paul Wong and originally shown on Canada Line screens between April 2011 and March 2012. The established and emerging artists featured here are Dana Claxton, Douglas Coupland, Jeff Chiba Stearns, Laiwan, Chelsea O’Brian, Tony Pantages, Michael Turner, and James Yan. The 10 Seconds program is also playing on the outdoor digital screen at the entrance to the CBC building, at 700 Hamilton Street.
Achjadi’s animated Girl in the City is presented in four brief segments, interleaved with the seven segments of altered archival footage that make up Sawyer’s Wood Work. The cross-cultural avatar of Girl, a recurring character in Achjadi’s prints and videos, parachutes into a Day-Glo-bright Vancouver, scans the cityscape, and starts picking up and carrying away tourist landmarks, such as the Gastown steam clock and the statue of Gassy Jack. It’s a sleek and subversive take on the ways tourism is folded into a global complex of colonization, overconsumption, and cultural plunder.
In Wood Work, Sawyer beautifully edits and modulates archival film footage of early logging and timber milling in this province. Originally shot by Alfred E. Booth in the 1930s, these images document hard-working men cheerily decimating old-growth forests—topping trees, floating log booms downstream, sawing huge logs into small slices—at a time when it was widely believed that the natural world would always recover from whatever damage humans inflicted upon it.
The short, short works of 10 Seconds in Time are most comfortably viewed while sitting at a picnic table in the CBC’s public plaza. Among the slickly edited promos for the TV network’s news and entertainment programs, the 10-second videos flash by almost subliminally. At much the same length as each edit in the CBC ads, they’re nearly gone before you realize what they are. From Claxton’s revisiting of footage shot at a 1967 “Be-In” to Coupland’s wonderfully colourful variations on the ubiquitous QR code and Laiwan’s tender tribute to the relationship between two Chinese Canadian grandmothers, these very brief works ask us, paradoxically, to stop and consider. They remind us of the necessity of taking time out of our rapidly firing, dashingly edited, overstimulated lives to consider what we’re seeing. To pause and be mindful, really mindful, of our everyday experience.