Hastings and Gore

On the south east corner, the First United Church is all lit up and the roofline gables covered with Christmas trees. It looks very pretty. On the northeast corner, women are working. On the northwest corner, a guy is selling single smokes. On the southwest corner, hanging above the sidewalk - Wendy.


The Georgia Viaduct, just off Main

Late night cars turning off Main, cutting through the fog and climbing up the on-ramp, me on the shadowed sidewalk leaning over the railing, cold hands fumbling with knots, someone stretched out down below, pressed tight to the concrete overhang, still or sleeping; a bower of sorts- Inga


Keefer, just off Main

A cold night, Chinatown dark and almost deserted. I come out of the alley and slip into the empty storefront doorway and start to set up my ladder and out of the shadowed stairway that leads to the rooming house above comes a voice - "So, what're you doing there?".

James says he keeps an eye on the building and I say I'm putting up a decoration, a kind of tribute to someone who died and since the store has been empty for a long time, I didn't think anyone would mind. He says he doesn't care, but asks suspiciously if I'm one of those guys that are, you know, into old buildings and I say no, its only a sort of art project. He asks what the symbolism is and I say there's no real symbolism, its just my way of remembering people from around here. Something that probably makes sense to no one but me, but something that I have to do.

We talk about the neighbourhood as I'm hanging the garland. He says he's been down here 5 years and never had any problems, I say I've been down here around 15 and we both agree that it's a pretty good community. He asks if I'm going to do a whole bunch of publicity, you know, call all the media down to watch me putting the garlands up. I say no. He's glad, he says he's tired of people coming in and doing stuff for the DTES only when the cameras are running. I say I'm mostly putting them up for people to come across on their own and maybe wonder about the name and think about someone they've known who's died.

He seems to like this idea. He watches me finish tying up the garland and as I'm climbing down off the ladder he reads out loud the name - Cara.

The last week in November


Princess, just off Alexander

There's a vacant lot not far from the studio, where a run-down apartment complex used to be. The building always seemed to be at the centre of some kind of incident. Lots of screaming, sirens, yelling and crying.

It was razed a couple of years ago and is slated to be redeveloped for supportive housing. In the mean time, the site has become a dumping ground.

This past summer, someone planted a few vegetables and some flowers and slowly, some of the native plants are working their way back up through the concrete.

Today the sun almost came out; I slipped through the fencing and dropped down into what used to be the basement level. Amongst the rubble and the foundation walls which have been tagged and then painted over - Brenda.


Heather - in the studio

Remembrance Day

Nothing seemed to go right yesterday. Arguments, cuts, anxiety. Walked the streets for hours, trying to find the right spot to install the latest garland; but no luck. It got darker and colder and by early evening I was a complete mess. Then, sometime after 6 o'clock, in the middle of a dark alley, I remembered what the project was really all about.


Powell & Heatley

The first garland goes up

Late afternoon, already dark and a drizzling rain. Walking along Powell Street, I felt kind of nervous and conspicuous with my ladder and an armful of garland, but no one payed me any attention. I'd scouted out the spot on the bus earlier today, thought it would be good as it's on the morning commuter route into the city. At the foot of the overpass that leads to the docks, under an awning full of holes where the old Anchor club used to be - Sarah.



Step 1 - Letters

A little bit about the project

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.


Evergreen: A synopsis from the proposal

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.

figure 4- Maiden's Garland ( Peakland Historical Website)

26 names

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.

figure 3

Material and conceptual concerns- from the proposal

figure 2

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.



Sourcing the garland

About two years ago, when I firstly came up with the idea for text garlands, I found some cheap garland, played around with it a bit and decided it had just the right look. I thought that it'd be easy to get in bulk and affordable enough for a large scale project. Early this spring, I finally secured funding to start working on Evergreen (Thanks to the B.C. Arts Council) and I was eager to get started. Unfortunately, garland was not in season. I searched everywhere, was able to snag the odd bundle of tinsel covered garland at the Sally Ann, but I needed lots - somewhere between 1000-2000 feet of it.

When I wasn't combing through the thrift stores, I was trolling internet liquidation worlds, exchanging polite yet ineffectual e-mails with PVC Christmas tree manufacturers in China, visiting Dollar Store warehouses throughout the Fraser Valley and drawing a blank everywhere. Of course I should have been snapping up the Boxing Day sale stock last Christmas, but a family crisis and the weather kept me snowed under for most of the winter and by the time I scratched my way to the surface it was spring again and already too late. So, short of ordering a shipping container full of PVC branches from Shenzhen or driving to an industrial park on the outskirts of Scottsdale, Arizona, it looked as though I was going to have to start knitting my own garland out of shredded garbage bags. Hmmm... interesting thought, but not quite right.

I was beginning to feel desperate. I'd planned to begin installing the first garlands in mid-autumn and I was worried I wouldn't have enough material to even get started, let alone complete all 26 pieces. Then this thursday, I just had a feeling that there was garland somewhere out there in the city. I hopped on a bus and headed up Kingsway, to the closest Canadian Tire I could find ( where I'd come across the original 'test' garland ), walked in to the store just as they were peeling the shrink wrap off pallets full of Christmas stock. I scrambled through aisles of half empty cardboard boxes and there, at the back of the store was a clerk, banging shelves together and piling them high with 'the' garland!

I told him a bit about the project, said I needed all the garland he had, he told his manager and she very graciously gave me a discount and before I knew it I had a convoy of clerks pushing shopping carts full of garland through the store and out to the parking lot . I'll skip over the details of me racing up and down Kingsway, trying to find somewhere to rent a minivan on short notice. Suffice to say, that in the end the enthusiastic Canadian Tire crew helped cram the van full of over 1000 feet of garland. Many thanks for their generous support of Evergreen.

Festooned - A Mini Van Full of Garland


Garland- where it begins


1. a. A wreath or festoon, especially one of plaited flowers or leaves, worn on the body

or draped as decoration.

b. A representation of such a wreath or festoon, used as an architectural ornament or

heraldic device.

2. A mark of honour or tribute: an accolade: received garlands of praise.

3. Nautical – A ring or collar of rope used to hoist spars or prevent fraying.

4. An anthology, as of ballads or poems.

tr.v. gar-land-ed, gar-land-ing, gar-lands

1. To ornament or deck with a garland.

2. To form into a garland.

[ Middle English, from Old French garlande, perhaps of Germanic origin; see wei- in Indo-European roots.]

Study for evergreen