We left Chinatown around two in the afternoon. We both decided the day before that we should spend some time away from East Georgia Street. On Hastings Street, we pointed out a lot of things—colourful Korean lettering on the window of a high rise (you translated: We are Vancouver Language School!), a chocolate-themed café (a half serious “We should go there sometime.”), a fleet of docked seaplanes and the expensively dressed people approaching them on the thin boardwalk (People pay to fly around in circles over the water? It’s something to do.). I didn’t detect an iota of judgment when I pointed out two places that I recognized from the movie 50 Shades of Grey (where Vancouver unconvincingly portrays Seattle).
When our city is cast as other cities, Vancouver’s rain disturbs the illusion. For us, the appearance of rain fractures too much the high-end allusions to San Francisco, Philadelphia, Mumbai, Shanghai, or Pyongyang, exaggerating how mercurial our city can really be. Sure, our corporate architecture can be dressed as generic downtowns, and the surrounding tri-cities are passable as stretches of Middle America, but set designers know that Vancouver rain against an ‘American’ skyline won’t work. It seems a trifle, but the rain is ours. Our relationship to the rain is informed best by huddling under awnings, and deeply subscribed to the free economy of stray umbrellas. Locals may spurn the rain for drenching our days off and hindering attendance at events and parties, but it seems fitting to erect a monument to it. Enter The Drop.
A single colossus of a raindrop, rendered in an eye-quenching blue—a blue synonymous with “clarity,” the blue used on contact lens packaging, the quintessential drinking water blue that is also sky blue, a benevolent blue—frozen the moment before it fist bumps the earth, a sign of cosmic rapport between citizenry and an elemental powerhouse. The Drop is executed with the bravado and ceremony of classical worship: a large-scale icon of celestial property, implying the requisite fear of annihilation. No one around seems to be scared, so the powers-that-be must be pleased with this representation.
We approach this giant raindrop poised on the seawall overlooking the Burrard Inlet, slanted like an exclamation point written quickly in the middle of a run-on sentence. (Where is the best place to stand, beside or in front of it?) The closer we are, the less menacing it seems overall. Two women in neon jogging attire pause for a stretch and a chat on the nearby seawall; yellow patio umbrellas flutter above fatigued conference attendees. Around us, people take pictures of everything from the North Shore mountains to the Convention Centre’s architectural embellishments. Along the tourist-beaten path of the urban nature walk, we are two locals who have strolled just 30-minutes from home on East Georgia. Yet I can’t resist striking my own pose: a rigid upper body holding up my index and middle fingers. Take a picture! Just for fun. Peace, Vancouver.
Steffanie Ling is an independent writer and critic. She is editor of Bartleby Review, a free pamphlet of criticism and art writing in Vancouver, and a curator at CSA Space.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Inges Idee is a Berlin-based artist collective formed in 1992. Its members are Hans Hemmert, Axel Lieber, Thomas Schmidt, and George Zey. While maintaining individual artistic practices, their collaborations focus on site-specific works for public spaces, commissioned across Canada, Europe and Asia. Each work develops from a social, historical and intuitive analysis of the site, in addition to surveying the architectural and urban layout of the surrounding area. Based on their research, Inges Idee explores how a “concrete intervention” can raise subtle and unexpected aspects for citizens or visitors encountering a public artwork. Their work strives to evoke an immediacy of experience, opening the gaze to other aspects of reality.
The City of Vancouver’s Public Art Program celebrates 25 years of creating extraordinary artworks for public spaces. Every two weeks during 2016 we’ll share the story of a unique artwork created through the program. Over 260 pieces have been commissioned since 1991 through civic initiatives, community grants or private sector rezoning requirements. These are only a few of the key pieces that have helped to define Vancouver as a unique place and a world-class city for public art!