Serial Images and Reading the City

A week ago I visited the Surrey Arts Centre for the Among the Plazas and the Courts: Writers Reading the City event. Presented in partnership with Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Creative Writing program.

With all the changes happening in Surrey, I thought it would be interesting to hear how the expression of ‘city life’ is changing in writing and art. After all, art imitates life, right?

Upon entering the Arts Centre, my first stop was the gallery to check out Beyond Vague Terrain: The City and the Serial Image. This exhibition showcases a combination of photography and serial images to represent ideas of the city.

Some of my favourites:  Sylvia Grace Borda’s . A very bold, yet somber collection of  backdrops and bus stops in Surrey. Did you know that there are 1100 bus stops in Surrey? Enjoyed the larger -than- life stops of the city.

Another winner is Vancouver Apartments by Chris Gergely,  a series of photographs of walk up apartment buildings in Vancouver. I spent a lot of time in front of these, examining the way these apartments invite us in through their glass doors. Retro in the urban. Some of the photographs made me feel like I was standing in front of an-old time stage. I’ll never see a walk up apartment in the same light again.

Millennium Line by Khan Lee is composed of a series of photos that continued the length of 3 walls, simulating a panoramic ride with the vantage point from the top of a moving Skytrain car. 300 000 stills were used in the piece. If you ride the train, you’ll appreciate this meaningful combination of stillness and movement through serial photography. The art exhibit runs to March 18th & I highly recommend that you check out all the fabulous displays. Grab a coffee at the gallery cafe, take in some art, and contemplate the city.

There were four writers on the panel of Reading the City that evening, locals Sadhu Binning, Jeff Derksen and Cecily Nicholson, and Portland-based writer, Matthew Stadler (who told me he ventured to Vancouver via rail. Must do that sometime). Each read selections and provided commentary on their own works and other authors, reflecting various aspects and ideas of the city.

I enjoyed all the writers, their perspectives and heart they brought to the readings and discussions. Sadhu Binning recited a colourful poem reminiscing about the people who  lived on his route when he worked as a postman in the 1970s. Cecily Nicholson gave an emotive and insightful  depiction of life in a Whalley neighbourhood written after coming home from her experience of the G20 in the summer of 2010. Jeff Derksen was clever, playful and thought- provoking with his style of writing. The questions he poses through his work made me more aware of Capitalism within the context of the urban environment. Matthew Stadler was quirky and highly intriguing. His mention of the ‘in- between city’  and how the city landscape is portrayed by people and literature. Very relevant in today’s world of constant change in our environments.  I was inspired by all these unique individuals.

I was very thankful that I spent some time at this event taking in these forms of expression. Remember, you don’t have to be a connoisseur of fine things to appreciate and enjoy art. Art is a tool for learning and discovery that is open for everyone to enjoy.  As I sat in the program room that had reached capacity, I realized that I was sitting amongst a diverse group of people from all generations and backgrounds living this experience together.  I spoke with some of the people who seemed like regulars and others who seemed to be visiting the art space for the first time. It truly was a feeling of community & we are fortunate to have these spaces and places to get together.  There’s art waiting for you in the city, so make a point to check out what’s going on at the Surrey Arts Centre.






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