Archive | October 2016

Vancouver Biennale: Engagement


Here’s one more Vancouver Biennale photo, this one from the 2005 to 2007 exhibition. It’s called Engagement and was created by Dennis Oppenheim, an American. It overlooks English Bay at Sunset Beach Park.

Vancouver Biennale: A-maze-ing Laughter

A-maze-ing Laughter 1

Speaking of cheerful, here are the guys from A-maze-ing Laughter, the hit installation of the second Vancouver Biennale. Fourteen supersize cast-bronze figures with smiling, happy faces completely transformed Morton Park in English Bay when they were installed in 2009.

A-maze-ing Laughter 2

The beauty of A-maze-ing Laughter is that it’s completely interactive in the best way possible. You can’t help but smile at the figures, touch them, imitate them, and, for some of us, climb on them.

A-maze-ing Laughter 3

The artist is Yue Minjun from China. That’s his face smiling back at us.

A-maze-ing Laughter 4

A-maze-ing Laughter is probably one of the most popular public art installations Vancouver has ever had. Like all of the Biennale pieces, it was for sale when the two-year exhibition was over. All of Vancouver wanted the figures to stay exactly where they were, but at first it seemed impossible, due to the hefty price tag of $5 million. But when Yue Minjun saw photos of people interacting with the sculptures, he dropped the price to $1.5 million with the condition that they remain in a public location. Thanks to a private donation by Chip Wilson, founder of lululemon, and his wife Shannon, the laughing men are here to stay.

A-maze-ing Laughter 5

Vancouver Biennale: Giants

 Every city needs art and art has to be in the middle of the people.” — OSGEMEOS

Giants 1

The Vancouver Biennale is a two-year-long outdoor public art installation that takes place every two or three years. The first was from 2005 to 2007, the second from 2009 to 2011, and the latest, the third Biennale, began in the spring of 2014 and finishes up this year.

Giants 2

The installations by world-renown artists are scattered across Greater Vancouver. The most impressive piece of this latest Biennale is Giants by the twin Brazilian brothers, Gustavo and Otávio Pandolfo, who call themselves OSGEMEOS. (Os gemeos is Portuguese for “the twins.”)

Giants 3

Giants consists of murals painted on six concrete silos located at Ocean Concrete on Granville Island. (An aside: this concrete factory is the last vestige of False Creek’s industrial past.) The murals alternate between facing the water and facing inland. They are colourful, and they are cheerful, which seems to be a hallmark of the most successful installations of the Biennale. None are intended to be permanent, but sometimes we just can’t bear to let them go. Hopefully this one will be kept on as well.

Giants 4

Oh, and any guesses as to how much paint was used?

A mere 1400 cans.

Through My Lens: Bayeux


Heh. Why Bayeux? Why today?

Wait for it. It’s because this history geek can’t let the day go by without acknowledging the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings.

Yes, 1066 and all that. The Battle of Hastings is when William the Conqueror of Normandy changed the course of English history.

I haven’t been to Hastings ― yet ― and not so much as the southern coast of England. So here’s a photo of Bayeux, a Norman town in France.

What’s the link between Bayeux and the Battle of Hastings? There’s a pretty famous tapestry in Bayeux called the Bayeux Tapestry. It tells the story of the Norman conquest of England and the Battle of Hastings. I didn’t actually see the tapestry when I was in Bayeux, but I did take this photo.

Expo Lands

Expo Lands 1

When Expo 86 closed its gates 30 years ago today, it finished as a far more successful world’s fair than it ever expected to be. Sure, Vancouver had high hopes for the fair and saw it as a great way to celebrate its 100th birthday, as well as the 100th anniversary of the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway that brought British Columbia into Confederation. A total of 38 countries participated, but it was getting the United States, the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba to all participate that was the real coup. And the number of visitors was far greater than predicted. Most British Columbians credit Expo with bringing the province out of one of its worst recessions.

Expo Lands 2

On October 14, 1986, the question on everyone’s mind was: what happens to the fairgrounds? Prior to Expo 86, the 90-hectare site was an industrial wasteland. Sawmills and railway lands had been expropriated to make room for the fairgrounds (it boggles my mind that Vancouver had working sawmills in its downtown core in my lifetime), but with rezoning came all sorts of possibilities.

In the end, what came to be known as the Expo lands was sold to a single Chinese developer. The price was controversial, but in return for a good deal on the land, the developer agreed to build child-care centres, playgrounds, a community centre, and a school. Furthermore, the condos had to include a certain percentage of family-size units and affordable housing.

Expo Lands 3

The result? A slow and careful development of a entirely new inner-city neighbourhood that, once populated, doubled the number of people living in Vancouver’s downtown core. It’s not completely finished; the last section still remains a parking lot while awaiting the demolishment of the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts ― the remnants of the freeway into downtown Vancouver that never saw completion.

Vancouver is consistently rated as one of the most livable cities in the world and the development of the Expo lands has a lot to do with that rating. Today, the area is covered in condo towers. Agreed, they are not the most creative architecturally. But you only have to take a walk through the neighbourhood and marvel that, only 30 years ago, there was nothing there but a wide swath of empty land.

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Northern Shoveller

One bonus about summer being over is that it means there are only a few more weeks to go until the return of the winter birds. I haven’t seen any sign of them yet, but they’ll be here soon and are most welcome.

This is a Northern Shoveller, one of the dabbling ducks that like to hang out at Lost Lagoon. I myself haven’t seen them that often, but that might be because I first mistook them for the much more common Mallards. From a distance, their colouring looks quite similar. Upon closer inspection, the beaks are longer than a mallard’s and are a noticeably different colour.

Northern Shoveller