Past Exhibition

January 11—February 7, 2008

Carol Sawyer

Vacant Lot

Vacant Lot is a portrait of a large piece of land that was originally part of Vancouver’s False Creek, filled in 100 years ago to make a railway freight yard. The land has gradually turned into a meadow since the rail yard was taken out 20 years ago. Vacant Lot uses video and photographs to capture the odd combination of contradictory elements found here: wild and manmade, urban and rural, natural and artificial.

The installation has two video components: one is projected large on the gallery wall and a second plays on a small monitor. The larger video examines a corner of the lot that contains 5 large mechanized billboards with rotating panels. Skateboarders frequent this area, which they call “Ghetto Spot”. The products the billboards advertise (“Wolverine” shoes for example) seem ironic in relation to the site. The video is composed of carefully framed fixed-camera shots that recall the formality of large format fine art landscape photography. Not much happens – the lenticular billboards rotate, birds fly by, raindrops distort reflections on the surface of puddles. The sound of skateboarders can be heard during much of the footage, and they occasionally enter the frame. At just over 18 minutes in length, the video is contemplative and somewhat hypnotic: the regular rhythm of the billboards and slow pacing of the editing create a meditative parallel to the overlapping cycles at work in this place: seasonal, social, economic, etc.

In the second video a backhoe can be glimpsed through cottonwood trees, the remains of a homeless person’s campsite clamped in its jaws. The short sequence loops endlessly, the backhoe materializing in a slow dissolve, then moving out of the frame again. The still photographs focus on details: bird footprints in mud, broken glass, a bench made from salvaged materials, and other rather forlorn remnants. A large panorama shows two development proposal signs, their text overlaid with graffiti.

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