I thought now would be a good time for some background on the project. I've excerpted a couple of relevant bits from the proposal that I put in to the B.C. Arts Council last winter. The more formal summation of the why's and the hows. Later I'll try and go into some of the more personal aspects of the project. I'd also thought this would be a good time to thank everyone at the Art's Council for their support of the project. As many of you may know, B.C. Arts funding has been seriously compromised this year and it looks like it won't be getting any better soon.
The support of the B.C. Arts Council a number of years ago, through a project grant for one of my very first large-scale installations, and more recently, via professional development funding for an overseas project, has been crucial to my development as an artist. The advice and enthusiasm of Walter Quan and everyone at the council has been instrumental in helping me to pursue my career. I think we have to make sure that the B.C. Arts Council is able to keep on doing what they have been mandated to do.
At any rate, I'm very grateful for their support of Evergreen.
The project Evergreen features a series of text-based sculptural objects that will be installed within the environs of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The individual pieces will in effect be garlands or more accurately, festoons of sculpted and shaped, foliage letters spelling out the first names of the 26 missing women who have thus far been “found” and whose murders have been attributed to one man. The sculpted names depicted in Evergreen will be randomly installed throughout the neighbourhood to both perpetuate the memory of these women and promote a continued civic awareness of and response to the ongoing violence and abuse which is, in reality, pandemic.
As in most serial murder situations the name of the murderer gains a notoriety and immortality usually denied the victims. Their names and lives typically become further disappeared. Such is the case with “Missing Women” of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside( DTES). With this project I hope to keep fresh the memory of the individual women. It is not my place to speak for them or their families and I’m not attempting to do so. First names will be used not only to acknowledge the private nature of individual grief, but also to challenge the acceptance of the circumstances that has contextualized the deaths of these particular women. The 26 names will of course be shared by others from all walks of life, signifying that ultimately, there is no particular logic to violence against women and that the issues that surround the murders of the actual women are of concern to everyone.
The names of the women are : Sereena, Andrea, Heather, Heather, Wendy, Sarah, Tiffany, Cara, Cynthia, Jennifer, Inga, Helen, Tanya, Sherry, Angela, Patricia, Andrea, Debra, Kerry, Jacquelene, Diana, Georgina, Dianne, Marnie, Mona and Brenda.
Materially and conceptually, the sculptural texts of Evergreen will reference the commemorative or celebratory arches which were commonly erected in Vancouver and other developing towns in British Columbia, at the turn of the last century to welcome visiting dignitaries or acknowledge specific events. These structures were usually draped in garlands and festoons of greenery, cut from the surrounding forest and often trimmed and shaped into messages of greeting or mottos of political import (see figures 1,2,&3 ). Evergreen also draws upon the more medieval tradition of the Maiden’s Garland (see figure 4 ), where a flower and foliage draped structure was erected in honour of a young woman who had died an untimely death. The garland was carried over the coffin at the funeral and later, hung in the church until it rotted away.
Both historical precedents for the work presume a level of propriety, worth or innocence associated with the individual or event being acknowledged, while contemporary media reportage of the “Missing Women” continues to construe a level of impropriety and a lack of innocence on the part of victimized women, all the while sensationalizing the victimizer. Conversely, I hope that the Individual sculpted names of Evergreen may become short term sites for remembering the individuals and/ or rallying points for refuting the scripted explanations for the violence that was done to them. Evergreen both alludes to the long term life force of the forest that still, to some extent, contextualizes the Vancouver’s urban experience and most importantly, promotes the notion that the women named will not be forgotten.
I would like the pieces of Evergreen to function in effect, as counter- monuments, in that they will be experienced randomly, outside of typical memorializing structures, using materials that visually disrupt the urban aesthetics of DTES, providing a simulated green space for contemplation, but avoiding a passive monumentalizing and instead, seeking to invoke an active commemoration within the public realm. I’m planning on installing the text garlands by late 2009 and early 2010. I’d like the pieces of Evergreen to serve as a counterpoint to some of the more facile civic “legacy building” that will accompany the 2010 Olympics. I see the project as an action that will ensure that the ongoing gentrification and pre-Games “clean-up” of the DTES does not occlude or preclude an acknowledgement of the issues and identities of those both past and present, who have lived and died there.