Launched in 2009, Offsite is an outdoor exhibition space in downtown Vancouver at the Shangri-La Hotel on West Georgia Street. The program offers a rotating program of innovative public art projects by local and international contemporary artists. The artworks explore issues related to the surrounding urban context and the social and cultural conditions of our times. Artists are encouraged to take a site-specific approach in creating new commissions of temporary pubic artworks for Offsite.
Offsite is organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery and funded by the City of Vancouver through the Public Art Program with the support of Ian Gillespie, President, Westbank; Ben Yeung, President, Peterson Investment Group. Thanks to the residents at Shangri-La for their support of this space. Offsite is generously supported by the Michael O’Brian Family Foundation.
ARTWORKS TO DATE:
The following are excerpts from descriptions provided by the Vancouver Art Gallery:
OFFSITE: O ZHANG (Guangzhou, China)
July 20 to November 29, 2009
Offsite launched with three projects by O Zhang, a young photographer who critically examines issues of identity in contemporary China. Presented in the main space is Horizon (Sky), a series of images for which O Zhang revisited the rural context of her youth, documenting young female subjects posed on a country hillside before the camera for the first time. Pictured individually and enlarged to monumental proportions, their unconventional stance differs from popular media representations of young girls. The strength of the series is in how the subjects return their gaze to the viewer—unabashed, bold and powerful—while the vibrant colour of the blue sky behind them signals hope and emancipation. These images reflect a positive vision of the future of China as a powerful force in a new global economy and in particular the role that women might play in its transformation, something evident in the role of the artist herself.
OFFSITE: KEN LUM (Vancouver/Philadelphia)
From Shangri-La to Shangri-La
January 22 to September 6, 2010
Ken Lum created a new site-specific work based on squatters’ shacks that were erected on the shoreline of North Vancouver during the mid-twentieth century. By the 1950s there were a number of people living in self-built cabins along the intertidal zone that became known as the Maplewood Mudflats, perhaps the most notorious of the squats in the Lower Mainland. This mudflat community was among the last examples of a local tradition of unofficial inhabitation along the shoreline. Due in part to the ambiguous legal jurisdiction over intertidal areas, these makeshift dwellings were largely tolerated until local governments intervened to make way for private development and, after a long conflict with the residents, burned the shacks to the ground in 1971. The Maplewood Mudflats were well documented by the artists and writers who lived there and memorialized in such documentary films as Mudflats Living and Livin’ on the Mud. Although the community was forced to leave the area, their keen appreciation of the natural cycles surrounding them was part of the impetus that later saw areas of this district preserved in a park and sanctuary.
Ken Lum chose three cabins to reference in his installation here: one that Malcolm Lowry occupied, one built by the artist Tom Burrows, and one inhabited by Dr. Paul Spong, who later led Greenpeace’s “Save the Whales” campaign.… They evoke the utopian character of the mudflat community, its refusal to accept conventional structures of inhabitation, and its displacement in the seemingly inexorable advance of urban development. …
OFFSITE: HEATHER AND IVAN MORISON (UK)
October 2, 2010 to May 1, 2011
Heather and Ivan Morison explore architecture as it relates to ideas of escape, shelter and refuge. A site-specific project designed for Offsite, Plaza hovers between sculpture and architecture. Rising nearly three stories high, the walls of the pavilion lean outwards towards the street as if they have been torqued askew by extraordinary force. … and the roof is open to the sky. The walls are made of heavy timber beams, burnt to a dark charcoal using a Japanese technique for preserving and protecting wood from the elements called shou-sugi-ban. …
Plaza mimics the most prosaic form of the urban built environment—the gridded box—and forcefully twists it by a mere 8-degree shift, enough for its walls to seem on the verge of collapse. The warping is, however, halted at a precise point, suspending the structure in a play of distortions and perceived imbalances, where it appears to be carefully held in balance between falling and flight, weight and levity, solidity and transparency. Plaza evokes a pivotal moment of architectural and societal transformation and metaphorically suggests that the mechanisms which underpin the modern city are far more fragile than we imagine. Its burnt surface and collapsing form infer a cautionary tale for the future, as well as an invocation to transform the modern city. …
The project is made possible by in-kind donations from ParkLane Homes, Superior Propane, Taiga Building Products and Elia Kirby Productions.
OFFSITE: ELSPETH PRATT (Vancouver)
June 29, 2011 to January 8, 2012
For the fourth installation at Vancouver Art Gallery Offsite, renowned sculptor Elspeth Pratt draws on architectural forms as inspiration to investigate how the built environment circumscribes public space. While her artworks negotiate the line between abstraction and representation, her ideas are manifest through her use of ready-made industrial materials that refer to or negate traditional ideas of permanence and value associated with sculpture.
Pratt’s new project examines how forms of spatial organization become a naturalized force within the urban environment. Pratt transforms Offsite through subtle dislocations in the existing architecture—rigid angles become curves, opaque surfaces are lined with reflective skins, and dark stone is covered with bright vinyl. These formal changes work against the impulse to standardize our built environment, and instead propose an architecture that is variable and unpredictable, opening up new possibilities for imagining space within the urban fabric of Vancouver. Inspired by the Aqua Tower in Chicago (2009) by Studio Gang Architects, Pratt’s transformation of Offsite reorients our perception of the space and its architectural framing. Pratt’s work deftly comments on ideas of ornamentation in contemporary architecture while challenging the implied neutrality of spaces designed for public access. …
OFFSITE: KOTA EZAWA (San Francisco/Berlin)
February 2, 2012 to September 16, 2012
Kota Ezawa’s large-scale wooden tableau features a group of people raising their hands to vote in what appears to be a town hall meeting. The work is a visual representation of democracy by one of its most prevalent signifiers: the vote. Ezawa’s rendering is made from a found image and remains faithful to the original source by maintaining the photograph’s basic structure and framing. By eliminating details, the image refers less to a specific group of individuals, and more to a general sign of a collective body united in a common purpose. Presented at a larger-than-life size, the artwork takes on a monumental scale. The flat, wooden construction is evocative of a stage set or façade, while the exposed supporting structure behind suggests that the status of democracy is fragile and needs to be continually reinforced. In light of recent events in which the demand for societal reform has become an urgent issue both abroad and at home—from the Arab Spring to the Occupy movement—Ezawa’s portrait of democracy could not be more timely.
OFFSITE: DAMIAN MOPPETT (Vancouver)
Large Painting and Caryatid Maquette in Studio at Night
November 8, 2012 to April 1, 2013
Damian Moppett’s artistic practice uses a wide variety of media to question existing notions of mastery, craftsmanship and value. … Images of the artist’s studio appear frequently in Moppett’s work, showing the studio as both a site of experimentation and a theatrical setting for the performative nature of art making. Images of Moppett’s studio are visually dense, cluttered with objects, materials and artworks in process, in a working space often dramatically lit. Moppett then turns this documentation into finished paintings or drawings, making the representation of the process of creation the subject of his work.
Building on the sense of theatricality inherent in these works, Moppett’s project for Offsite represents the studio as a kind of stage set. Starting with his artwork Large Painting and Caryatid Maquette in Studio at Night (2008), Moppett transforms the painting into a three-dimensional space, taking shapes from the painting and reproducing them as large-scale cut-outs in metal. Painted with bold colours, the shapes are propped up in the outdoor space as if from a pop-up book. Moppett’s project turns a reproduction of the artist’s studio into a sculptural artwork, one that viewers can experience at a larger-than-life size.
OFFSITE: MADEIN COMPANY (Shanghai, China)
April 25, 2013 to September 29, 2013
Made from a seemingly random selection of materials sourced from nearby construction sites, Shanghai-based artist collective MadeIn Company’s installation at Offsite prompts us to think about perception. At first glance Calm appears to be debris from a recent disaster, demolition or construction project, but upon closer inspection we see the pile of rubble slowly undulate, as if it were a mirage. In a state of constant flux, this site-specific sculpture evokes the endlessly changing cityscape that has become typical in present day China and elsewhere.
Calm’s ambiguity and unexpected ability to move provoke us to question ways of observing, believing and understanding facts, and remind us that the truth often differs from what it seems. In this context, Calm comments on the concerns that arise alongside urban development and the gentrification of residential neighbourhoods, whether in Vancouver or Shanghai. … By mimicking ruins, Calm also questions our faith in an unsustainable economy. …
OFFSITE: MARK LEWIS (Canada/UK)
October 18, 2013 to March 30, 2014
Mark Lewis’ silent moving images use the formalist language of cinema to explore the experience of urban environments in various parts of the world. For this first projection at Offsite, a diverse selection of Lewis’ recent films is featured continuously on an eight-day rotation over the project’s four-month duration. Offering a poetic view of routine everyday situations, Lewis’ non-narrative, slow moving pictures both contrast and complement the surrounding cityscape.
Choreographing the movement of the camera or film rather than the subjects he captures, the artist creates works in which neither the outcome nor characters take priority. For example, one film plays the footage backwards, another uses a single aerial pan to capture the Beirut skyline and another rotates the image at a 180-degree angle to depict the world upside down. By focusing on the conventions of film and camera techniques, Lewis encourages viewers to not only look for a narrative, but to also consider the formal aspects of how films are made.
While moving images are increasingly used in the built environment to create a monologue of digital advertising, this presentation offers something different—it creates a space to consider how such images are constructed and how this might affect the way they are perceived.
Equipment for this project was kindly provided by TELUS Communications Inc. and Westbank.
OFFSITE: BABAK GOLKAR (Vancouver)
Time to Let Go…
APRIL 25 to SEPTEMBER 28, 2014
Time to Let Go… is a site-specific installation by Vancouver artist Babak Golkar that encourages viewers to liberate their frustrations by screaming into large terracotta vessels.
Screaming is believed to have a therapeutic effect because it immediately releases tension. Uncontrolled bursts of emotion, however, are inappropriate in most public situations—until now. Golkar’s installation presents a socially acceptable and constructive situation that asks people to literally let go and formulate more effective ways of dealing with raw and natural emotions.
The project emerges from Golkar’s interest in spatial analysis and its relationship to communal space. Responding to the difficulty of viewing art from a distance, he initiates audience engagement by creating practical vehicles for visual and physical interactions. As participants handle the vessels, they are also asked to consider ceramics, an ancient art medium that is characterized by its slow, hand-crafted production—which stands in opposition to the fast-paced, digitally driven world we inhabit today. The scale, form and positioning of the sculptures on top of burlap sandbags evoke references to cannons and trenches used in warfare. Rather than offering destructive means to manage stress and anger, Time to Let Go… presents an alternative to negotiate tension in a socially acceptable and constructive situation.
OFFSITE: ROBERT YOUDS (Victoria)
For Everyone a Sunset
OCTOBER 21 2014 to MARCH 30, 2015
Victoria-based artist Robert Youds takes his cues from the built environment to construct an enigmatic light sculpture. For Everyone a Sunset transforms ordinary materials such as aluminum, salvaged glass and neon lighting to create cinematic plays of light that activate its surroundings.
As viewers move past the aluminum chambers filled with sheets of laminated glass and neon tubing, the individual modules become compositions of light and shadow that are further augmented by changes in natural lighting throughout the day. While the installation is associated with the subject of architecture, it avoids any particular built form. Instead, For Everyone a Sunset triggers an array of pictorial possibilities amidst the surrounding cityscape.
OFFSITE: REENA SAINI KALLAT (Mumbai, India)
May 14 to October 12, 2015
Mumbai-based artist Reena Saini Kallat traces human movement and cultural exchange around the world. Woven Chronicle is comprised of an intricate web of handwoven electrical wires that entwine to resemble a chain-link fence. The strands form a map of the world overlaid with migration routes that connect people and commodities while simultaneously contributing to cultural barriers. The work references the active transfer of information and energy that results from the mobility and intersection of travellers, and is further accentuated by an ambient soundtrack that evokes the buzz and reverberations of telecommunications, industry and travel.
In the context of Vancouver’s changing urban and cultural landscapes, Woven Chronicle returns to the origins of ethnic and cultural diversity. While Canada celebrates a myriad of ethnicities and cultures, issues of discrimination and inequality are still felt among immigrant and resident populations. The porous surface of Kallat’s map reveals proverbial holes in the naïve utopian idea of a unity through diversity, offering a contemplative sketch of the globalized world.
OFFSITE: ELIZABETH ZVONAR (Vancouver)
November 5, 2015 to April 17, 2016
Vancouver artist Elizabeth Zvonar conjures romantic sentiment and melancholic undertones in The Experience, a bleached-out collage and light installation boldly positioned in downtown Vancouver during the dreary winter months.
Combining materials and strategies used in advertising, the site-specific public artwork draws tangential connections between thoughtful inquiry and advertorial amusement. A pair of sunglasses is placed in the foreground of a celestial landscape from Mars, creating a scene that reads like a postcard from the future. The 105-square-metre digital collage is accentuated with gel-filtered lighting and framed by a reflective pool of water and colour.
In The Experience, Zvonar continues her practice of appropriating imagery from various sources and media, including advertising, contemporary fashion photography and counterculture. … In its totality, The Experience combines classic summer imagery with references to hippie ideals of the 1970s psychedelic music scene, forming a new hybrid that ultimately prompts viewers to reconsider the passage of time and the limits of temporal reality.
OFFSITE: MARINA ROY (Vancouver)
Your Kingdom to Command
JUNE 2 to OCTOBER 10, 2016
Marina Roy uses both natural and processed materials to create a 25 meter mural and tree fountain that stands out in contrast to the glass and concrete office towers in downtown Vancouver. Repurposing a tree salvaged after the 2015 windstorm into a fountain, surrounded by a mural painted with bitumen and latex paint, Roy’s installation Your Kingdom to Command speaks to transformation in nature, largely due to human industry
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!