Playing with fire in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

0 Posted by - February 19, 2010 - Blog, Installations, Public art

Montreal artist Isabelle Hayeur was contacted by the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad about a year and a half ago, after curator Marlene Madison visited her studio in Montreal.

Her piece, Fire with Fire, is a three story tall video installation projected from the windows of Vancouver’s W2 culture + Media House at 112 West Hastings Street. The neighbourhood of choice is nationally known for being the poorest postal code in the country, plagued with a history of missing women and drug problems, and Hayeur’s work links both to the distant and recent troubles the area has faced.

“I was inspired by The Vancouver Great Fire that destroyed most of the newly incorporated city on 13 June 1886,” explained Hayeur. “I also refer to the architectural conditions of the neighbourhood since the late 80s—to its urban decay after the closure of the Woodward department store. The artwork was motivated as well by the human distress and the poverty of this ‘intense’ area of town.”

The Olympic Games have accelerated the transformation of the downtown eastside from a place where your parents beg you not to stand and wait for the bus by yourself to a neighbourhood with new condo towers and big box stores.

Hayeur has experience addressing such site specific issues, having done previous projects in the both Montreal’s Red Light District and impoverished areas of Brooklyn. “These issues are unfortunately too common,” she lamented.

It took her a five day visit to Vancouver to find the perfect location for the installation, and connecting with the brand new W2 building happened by chance. “I didn’t know them before,” she eplained. “112 West Hastings was the building that seemed appropriate for an art installation. From the outside it seems vacant.”

Fire with Fire can be seen from Hastings up until February 28, and begins daily at dusk.

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