Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fire With Fire

On our way back from a performance art piece (that I'll talk about tomorrow), we paused in front of another installation that's been burning up the streets of Vancouver as part of the Cultural Olympiad. Isabelle Hayeur's stunning and haunting installation called "Fire With Fire" (and curated by Marlene Madison) is currently installed in the heart of the Downtown Eastside. Here's what Hayeur's website says about the piece.

"The Downtown Eastside is the oldest neighbourhood in Vancouver; it is also the most run-down. This historic area is infamous for being plagued by social problems due to poverty. Before falling prey to serious urban decay, it has known brighter days, and was even the city’s business hub until the 1980s. Derelict for over twenty years, in more recent ones, it has started to be sought after again. The Downtown Eastside is undergoing a major mutation —witness the newly renovated buildings and the constructions sites that now dot the area.

The coming of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games is accelerating the Downtown Eastside’s transformation by heightening real estate speculation and gentrification; new condo towers and big box stores are appearing. The revamping of the neighbourhood seems more responsive to the expectations of people who are better-off. Tensions between real estate developers and members of the community are palpable, with fears of a form of implicit "social cleansing".

It is striking that the history of the Downtown Eastside began in destruction and disappearance. In 1886, soon after the city was incorporated, the Great Vancouver Fire swept down on the neighbourhood and razed almost all of it to the ground. The video installation
Fire with Fire recalls this troubled period of Vancouver’s history. It also alludes to the neighbourhood’s present conditions by reminding us that many lives have been consumed there, worn down by years of homelessness, drug use, street prostitution, and violence."

Check it out at the W2 space located at 112 West Hastings Street. And while it does play during the day, I urge you to see it under the cover of darkness.

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