Walking along Nelson (just past Homer Street) in downtown Vancouver, I noticed plywood hoarding covering a building. It was hot and I was slightly disorientated, but I could have sworn the hoarded building was a new glass and concrete structure. Was it about to be demolished? Had squatters taken over the site? No, none of the above. I looked closer.
The building is the home of the Vancouver Contemporary Art Gallery. It was boarded up because it was being used as an art installation..
Graffiti covered the hoarding. I read the words, and decided that it was a ‘stream of consciousness’ rant about the world in general – Syrian civil war, technology, and random miscellaneous phrases. The words didn’t move me. So what was the point? Was the hoarding the art or were the words the art?
The last time I saw plywood on windows was during the Vancouver Stanley Cup riot (2011) – people had written messages to the city on the boards covering the smashed windows of the Hudson’s Bay department store.
The words on the plywood after the riot were sincere and heartfelt – these words seemed boring and calculated. Even the font style was uniform – written by the same hand.
But if it was an actual ‘graffiti covered hoarding’ on a building would it still be art?
Graffiti is scrubbed off most buildings, but if a curator says it is more than just ‘graffiti’ then it’s allowed to exist in the world. Not just an eyesore.
I was tempted to add a phrase to the ‘art.’ Would I have been defacing the ‘art’ or enhancing it?
I decided it was a graphically captivating display.
As a contrast to Vancouver’s clean, condo-city status, the messy graffiti made me stop and look and think. The graffiti was dull. But the overall effect caught my attention. It made me look, and I guess that’s what art is supposed to do.
So, do you think it’s art?