Platforms 2020: Public Works September Program

Left to Right: Bagua Artist Association, Roadside Diary (2020), digital drawing; Deanne Achong, image from Pandemik Piks (2020), digital screens; Nicolas Sassoon Tree Houses (2020), still from digital animation

The City of Vancouver Public Art Program is pleased to announce its September edition of Platforms 2020: Public Works. The artworks presented this month as part of the Public Works come from an open call process that invited Vancouver-based artists to share works they have made that respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and the current circumstances that we find ourselves in. Each piece highlights the crucial role that art plays in our community at this critical moment. This month’s program will feature works by Deanne Achong, Bagua Artist Association, Randy Lee Cutler, Jackie Dives, Jag Nagra, and Nicolas Sassoon. 

Bagua Artist Association’s Roadside Diary (2020) is a digital drawing illustrating daily scenes of the lockdown, presented on transit shelters throughout the city. In this work, an abstracted road weaves together scenes symbolizing how we are all connected despite our physical distance. Composed of four parts–“The New Normal,” “Gratitude and Appreciation,” “The Divided,” and “Animals Out”–the work intends to reflect the impacts of COVID-19 on vulnerable groups in Vancouver, as well as occurrences of discrimination and violence in our city, and new practices such as social distancing that have changed how we operate in our daily lives.

Deanne Achong’s Pandemik Piks (2020), a series of drawings presented on 18 digital screens throughout the City, was originally conceived on Instagram loosely around the idea of hair. Midway through the project, when the deaths of Breonna Taylor and countless others filled the news, the artist’s feed was populated with black squares. In response to these ambiguous squares the artist scanned, altered and reversed the drawings, creating exploding and flowering hair piks. The series now reflects her thoughts on the world being on fire.

Nicolas Sassoon’s Tree Houses (2020), presented on the VanLive! screen at the corner of Granville and Robson Streets, are two digital animations of rudimentary tree houses rotating endlessly in various shades of grey. Tree houses can take different meanings depending on the context they are found, from survival shelters to recreational structures. Tree houses represent an important form of escape today through a desire to return to a form of innocence or independence, an escape from reality’s contingencies or from an urban environment. 

Randy Lee Cutler’s On the Other Hand (2020) will also be presented on transit shelters throughout the city. On the Other Hand selected from an extensive collage series, composed of cut-outs from National Geographic magazines, embraces the COVID-19 virus by channelling its RNA code to cast spells through hieroglyphic forms. By bringing disparate elements together into new configurations, a lexicon of human gestures and cultural artifacts is cast open to interpretation, resonating with our shared bodily experiences of uncertainty.

Jackie Dives’ photograph Things My Dad Taught Me (2019) presented on a billboard at Broadway and Prince Edward Street is about the death of her father, who passed away from an accidental drug overdose. Dives explains, “After he died I would get on my bike and ride to places that reminded me of him. I would stop and make photographs of things that resonated with me as I reflected on our relationship. As I walked through the Vancouver neighbourhoods where I grew up I found myself compelled to photograph things that looked overgrown, neglected, forgotten. But I saw freedom in those things too, a lack of inhibition that my dad had embodied… These photographs allowed me to reconnect with my dad and remember him in his complexity, instead of his faults.”

Jag Nagra’s Frontline Workers (2020), presented on a billboard at Helmcken near Granville, is a digital drawing based on a warrior character the artist created prior to the pandemic. During the first stages of Covid-19, Nagra re-imagined the warrior as a frontline healthcare worker battling the spread of the virus. It was a way for the artist to cope with overwhelming anxiety from not knowing what Covid-19 would bring during its early stages.

For more information about this program visit: vancouver.ca/platforms

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