The city of Vancouver is now recovering from the gigantic spectacle that took place last month. As stated in earlier blog posts, the international spotlight allowed for more public artworks to be shown. The abundance of light-based installations situated in public spaces throughout the city might have encouraged visitors to experience creativity (did they? not sure), however, they also added to the visual spectacle of our city that was projected to the rest of the world (at least I hope they did). Some pieces perhaps contained more of a critical message (many throughout the downtown Eastside) while others were meant to be more celebratory (ideally positioned for the cameras). For a good overview of the art on display throughout the Olympic time period, click here.
Vectorial Elevation, by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, is a piece that is more on the celebratory side of things, funded by the Cultural Olympiad. It does, however, make one think about the spectacle of light projections and when and how we include them in our society. The piece was positioned over English Bay for the duration of the Olympics, and consisted of searchlights that were ultimately controlled by participants who submitted geometric configurations through the internet. People from all over the world interacted with the work online by creating personal designs for the light beams, which they could then view and archive on a personal webpage.
I attended a talk the artist gave in early February at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Lozano-Hemmer is internationally recognized for his massive light installation works. The artist provided background on this piece by discussing how it was originally developed in 1999-2000 for Mexico City. I found it interesting that he included some discussion of the history of search lights, which is all available on the Vectorial Elevation website (excellent site).
It wasn’t until the final weekend it was up that I actually ventured over to English Bay at night to see the work in person. Being underneath the beams of light was truly remarkable. I think, for me, the ‘spectacular’ aspect of the experience was the joining of the piece with the natural surroundings. Yes, one is surrounded by the city but if you have ever been to that spot on the beach (or any beach in Vancouver, really) it does not feel like you are in the city, but instead have escaped for awhile. The experience transported me to a quiet summer’s night by the lake, looking up at the stars. Yet, at the same time, I found myself thinking about the global contributors to this piece and, in some strange way, feel connected to them through this larger experience. Since I have had more time to reflect on this experience, I wonder how much the latter feeling was influenced by the Olympic energy in the city and the patriotic fans that accompanied me on the bus that night.
In an attempt to share this solitary experience at English Bay, underneath the fantastic light beams, I attempted to capture the sights and sounds of Vectorial Elevation…