Category Archives: Theatre

Art and Anarchy

Downtown Eastside artists give the Cultural Olympiad the middle finger


There are many reasons to hate on the Olympics. Housing promises have been abandoned, the cost of living is rising, and millions of city dollars are being wasted—all for the sake of the 2010 Games.

Gord Hill's "Resist 2010"

Gord Hill's "Resist 2010"

So, if you like art, and want yet another reason to shake a fist at that hideous tooth-shaped Olympic countdown clock, mark your calendars for Friday, March 13. The unlucky night marks the beginning of an underground anti-Olympic art show called Art and Anarchy.

Art and Anarchy is the brainchild of 12 anti-authoritarian artists, who are concerned with the Olympics’ slick marketing and cultural appropriation. The show’s overarching message is pretty clear from its posters, which simply read: “Fuck the Cultural Olympiad.”

In the basement of the historic Tellier Towers (located at 16 East Hastings) Art and Anarchy will be showcasing a radical collection of sculptures, carvings, paintings, jewelry and video art. Pieces by Gord Hill—a well-known carver, illustrator and Olympic resistor—will be on display along with a barricade used during a tent city protest.

The artists, who do not receive any funding for their work, hope to show the Downtown Eastside’s creative community the perils of accepting Olympic money. From the use of aboriginal artwork in Olympic marketing campaigns to the use of state-sponsored art to block out scenes of poverty—Art and Anarchy aims to let local artists know they are being exploited rather than supported.

Street performer and anti-poverty activist David Cunningham is one of many Art and Anarchy members who believe community art in the Downtown Eastside is being used to disguise capitalist plunder. Cunningham has lived and worked in the Downtown Eastside for 10 years, and has avidly spoken against other gentrifying projects such as the Carral Street Greenway.

“We see this style of community art as an aesthetic of social cleansing,” he says. “The only opportunity VANOC has to represent itself in the neighbourhood is to give money to artists. This creates a façade of progressiveness, where they can claim to be investing in the community.”

Cunningham says community art is sometimes used as a physical barrier, to divide and disguise parts of the neighbourhood. “As we move closer to the Olympics, art is being placed over fences. Art is literally being used as walls in the Downtown Eastside.”

“We want to recapture what is now been exploited,” he says.

Continue reading


No Eastside love for the Cultural Olympiad

Coming up in March, a Downtown Eastside art show has a simple message to share. Fuck the Cultural Olympiad.

Artists and community activists have come together to criticise the 2009 Cultural Olympiad.

Artists and community activists have joined forces against the 2009 Cultural Olympiad.

Yes, the folks organizing Art and Anarchy aren’t ones to mince words. They are joining a larger cultural front against the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Street performer and anti-poverty activist David Cunningham is one of many A&A artists concerned with the “socially-cleansed” cultural aesthetic churned out by Olympic promoters.

Cunningham and a growing group of anti-authoritarian artists aim to criticize the Olympiad for it’s use of community art to “disguise capitalist plunder.”

Beginning Friday March 13 and running until the 19th, the basement of the historic Tellier Towers (located at 16 East Hastings) will be the site of radical theatre and art exhibition.

I certainly plan to check it out.

Opening night begins at 8 pm, and continues between 3 and 8 pm through the rest of the week. Photo courtesy of Roland.

$2.5 million Cultural Olympiad invades the Eastside

Vancouver-based musician Matt Good thinks Olympic money would be much better spent on poverty relief in the Downtown Eastside.

He’s certainly not alone. With a crumbling world economy, growing city debt and increasingly visible street poverty, it’s no surprise many Vancouver residents are reconsidering their support for the two-week, $6 billion event.

But despite extensive criticism, the Olympic machine keeps on rolling. To remind us all of the inevitable 2010 Games (or perhaps convince us this whole shebang is really worthwhile) the folks at VANOC have launched a seven-week cultural festival.

The 2009 Cultural Olympiad kicked off with a Chinese New Year celebration throughout the streets of Chinatown, Feb. 1.

The 2009 Cultural Olympiad officially began February 1 with a Chinese New Year celebration.

Yes, the 2009 Cultural Olympiad is upon us, which boasts over 400 events spanning from February 1 to March 21. Many Canadian musicians have been scheduled to appear (including Chad VanGaalen, Hawksley Workman, Broken Social Scene, Tegan and Sara, Joel Plaskett and of course Sarah McLachlan) as well as a wide variety of art, dance and theatre exhibitions.

Continue reading

Lives Were Around Me (and David McIntosh, too)

What is theatre without a stage?

Well, in the case of David McIntosh’s latest creation Lives Were Around Me, it’s a one-of-a-kind guided exploration of history and storytelling in Vancouver’s historic city centre. Every Tuesday until the end of February, three audience members at a time are invited to reconsider their understanding of the Downtown Eastside and beyond.


David McIntosh invites a small audience to reconsider Vancouver's history in Lives Were Around Me

The show is hosted by Battery Opera, inspired by James Kelman‘s novel Translated Accounts, and performed by Adrienne Wong, Paul Ternes, Aleister Murphy, and (of course) the city itself. I asked McIntosh a few questions about his sold-out show.

Continue reading

Singing his praises

Bruce: The Musical celebrates Downtown Eastside activist


How do you pay tribute to the man who gave a voice (and a loud one at that) to Vancouver’s most disenfranchised neighbourhood?

Playwright Bob Sarti poses with an image of the late Bruce Erikson

Playwright Bob Sarti poses with an image of the late Bruce Erikson

Some visit Bruce Erikson Place—a social housing project on Hastings Street erected in his honour. Others have joined the Downtown Eastside Residents’ Association—a charitable community organization Erikson founded in 1973.

But former Vancouver Sun reporter and long-time Downtown Eastside resident Bob Sarti had something different in mind when he wrote Bruce: The Musical. With the help of award-winning composers Bill Sample and Earle Peach, Erikson’s legacy has now been warmly commemorated in a two-act musical drama.

Bruce: The Musical premiered on Thursday Nov. 6 at Russian Hall, and plays every night until Nov. 16. The theatrical production brings to life many moments of Erikson’s remarkable biography. Complete with singing, dancing, and even a couple of Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotel cockroaches, the play is an enjoyable, albeit cheesy way to get acquainted with the Downtown Eastside’s colourful history.

Continue reading

Healing the heart

Downtown Eastside festival showcases community’s talent


“Memory is the mother of community.”

Heart of the City Festival photo by David Cooper

Heart of the City Festival photo by David Cooper

These are the insightful words of Downtown Eastside poet Sandy Cameron and the mantra of the upcoming Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival.

Cameron is a social conscience within the neighbourhood and one of hundreds of artists and organizers participating in the 12-day arts celebration beginning Oct. 29. The Heart of the City Festival aims to give a creative voice to a diverse community that has endured many historical struggles.

Continue reading