City on Edge cap­tures a cen­tury of protest

The Georgia Straight - - Arts -

tear gas, and send­ing 45 to hospi­tal.

“The ’30s had big protests and a big May Day,” Bird adds. “That was re­ally a tough pe­riod here.”

In­dige­nous protest is also a re­cur­ring theme. One light box shows the 1907 Gath­er­ing of the Sal­ish Chiefs—18 In­dige­nous lead­ers in their re­galia, Chief Joe Capi­lano at the cen­tre, a cer­e­mo­nial blan­ket over his arm. The chiefs had just re­turned from tak­ing their con­cerns about rights and land to Ot­tawa and Eng­land, where they had met with the King. Fast­for­ward to 1974, and you see peo­ple hit­ting the then Van­cou­ver court­house plaza hold­ing signs say­ing “Sup­port Na­tive peo­ples’ strug­gles in de­fence of their hered­i­tary rights.”

“You think of In­dige­nous ac­tivism hap­pen­ing now,” Gos­selin says, “but pic­tures show those acts of de­fi­ance were there early on.”

The show re­veals that Van­cou­ver also has a predilec­tion for street ri­ot­ing—most notably the burn­ing cars and loot­ing dur­ing hockey play­offs in 2011. But hockey in­ci­dents in the past few decades were by no means the first ex­am­ples of sports hooli­gan­ism in the city, Gos­selin says: the pair also found images of Grey Cup ri­ots in the 1950s.

The Gas­town Riot of 1971 plays a cen­tral role in the show. One blownup image de­picts the Battle of Maple Tree Square, with po­lice on horse­back tram­pling young protesters. Thanks to the crack­down, a peace­ful pot smokein turned into full-blown chaos.

City on Edge works hard to an­i­mate all the archival shots, pro­ject­ing them to cap­ture the scale, and adding record­ings of protest noise.

“We have a sound­scape be­cause you can’t talk about protest with­out hear­ing the sound—it’s raw emo­tion,” Gos­selin says, rais­ing her voice above the am­pli­fied fray.

Com­ple­ment­ing the light boxes, pro­jec­tions, and other in­stal­la­tions are archival ob­jects—from a sim­ple, black spray-painted peace sign from the 1970s to a Poverty Olympics plac­ard, and from a hand-knit­ted Pussy­hat to a Vote for Women’s Free­dom blot­ter from 1917.

To­gether, the ob­jects and images re­mind all of us how hard peo­ple here have fought for free­doms—like a woman’s right to vote—that we might now take for granted. “You have to have peo­ple in­vest their time and en­ergy,” Gos­selin says—and their pas­sion, rage, and loud­est voices, too.

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