BORN IN A BURNING BUILDING

Real Vancouver Writers’ Series began it’s journey at in the Perel Gallery at 112 West Hastings Street, across from the Woodwards Building, in Vancouver’s downtown eastside on Wednesday February 3rd, 2010.

The building was called the W2 Culture and Media House and was run by the arts and technology non-profit organization W2 Community Media Arts. Real Vancouver was a part of a roster of diverse artists, agitators, cultural and social justice organizations who produced events, art installations, and community gatherings during the 2010 Winter Olympiad.

The exterior windows of the top three floors at 112 West Hastings Street were illuminated nightly by an art installation by Montreal artist Isabelle Hayeur called Fire with Fire.

Every night that the writers and community gathered for Real Vancouver the building was literally burning down around us.

Click on the link below to see Fire with Fire and take note of the architecture and appearance of the block in 2010 versus the polished and gentrified veneer of today.

Fire with fire.

Text from Hayeur’s Vimeo link above

Documentation of a 3 channels video installation commissioned by The Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad, Marlene Madison curator. The work was presented at W2 Community Arts Building, 112 West Hastings Street, Vancouver.

15:00 loop | 2010

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.