WARREN ARCAN, SHELLEY GUHLE, JOSH SCHAFER, TERI SNELGROVE, SUSAN STEWART
October 21–November 25, 2000
Suspects (Performance for the Police) is the second in the series A Set of Suspicions.
The starting point for Suspects (Performance for the Police) stems from a long-standing proposal by the Vancouver Police Department to improve policing of the Downtown Eastside by installing surveillance cameras in key locations. This controversial initiative has the support of some businesses and neighbours and is opposed by others on the basis of privacy issues, as a breach of civil liberties that would be unacceptable in less impoverished neighbourhoods. These police cameras would join the already established use of video surveillance on private property such as office towers, shopping malls and business enterprises.
The four artists were invited to consider what might constitute ‘suspicious behaviour’ in the context of this neighbourhood and to develop work in response to the presence of video surveillance in the neighbourhood and beyond.
Susan Stewart’s work, “scene unseen”, is a three channel video installation which uses still images and text, interview footage, and surveillance images to investigate the lived effects of the heightened surveillance in this neighbourhood upon the people who live here. Completed throughout the summer of 2000, “scene unseen” seeks the views of residents about who exactly is protected by surveillance technologies, and who is expected to pay the price of that protection.
Artist Shelley Guhle has collaborated with immunologist Josh Schafer on “A Survey of Bio-design Carcinomal Interfaces” which animates time-lapse footage of cells mutating in a laboratory on the UBC campus. The installation uses projected Flash animation, drawings and a closed-circuit monitor to investigate the observational methods of science that are applied on a broad social level in surveillance technology. In the context of Suspects, the work also draws attention to the cultural fantasy of the inner city as a breeding place of disease and other social ills.
Warren Arcan’s interactive installation “Oopsy-Daisy” allows the viewer to observe on video the theft of children’s toys that Arcan has placed on a street corner close to the gallery. Shot from an upstairs window across the street, the videos reveal the complex task of interpreting the documents of crime. Is the artist causing the theft to be committed? For whom is the toy stolen? How might this document be used? And do we as viewers have the information we need to interpret these acts? “Oopsy-Daisy” confronts key issues surrounding video surveillance and its promise of security.
Teri Snelgrove has worked in close collaboration with Arcan, Guhle, Schafer and Stewart on the production of their work over the summer and early fall. Her video document of the three projects that make up Suspects (Performance for the Police) will include production footage and images of the final installation in the gallery, and will be released, along with A Set of Suspicions publication, early next year.
A Set of Suspicions
Artspeak’s Carrall Street location is part of a neighbourhood that faces contradictory pressures and changes: the area is well traveled by tourists; gentrification is taking place through artist’s live/work developments; high density new housing on the north side of False Creek rubs shoulders with the abandoned storefronts and decay of East Hastings Street. The ubiquitous presence of location film crews in the area allow for a sense of overlapping fact and fiction—one may encounter a snowy Edwardian English scene played out on Gastown’s cobble streets only to turn a corner and interrupt a gritty crime narrative (actual or virtual) taking place behind the dumpsters in the alley. If you are familiar with this neighbourhood you will have noticed that the codes of gesture, utterance, dress and deportment are significantly broader and more diverse than other areas of the city. Homelessness and other socio-economic factors make for a confused boundary between private and public space. An acute awareness of threat and security is heightened by the notoriety of this neighbourhood in media representations. Public and private policing merge and cross the very visible yet mobile boundaries between the various terrains of short and long term inhabitants.
A Set of Suspicions presents a fall series of exhibitions and events by artists investigating ideas of threat, security and suveillance. The works use the gallery space to index specific off-locations: the proposed street cameras just beyond our doors; the hyper-watched financial district of London, England; a university biotech lab; and the mobile ‘watching machines’ that orbit the earth. A Set of Suspicions integrates visual art, writing, video, performance, electronics design and music composition to consider the proliferation of technology, privacy and public identities and cultural habits of interpretation.
Artspeak is a member of the Pacific Association of Artist Run Centres (PAARC). Artspeak gratefully acknowledges the support of the Canada Council, The Province of BC through the BC Arts Council, the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Foundation, Canadian Heritage, our Board of Directors, volunteers and our members.
A Set of Suspicions has been generously supported by the Vancouver Foundation and The Canada Council through the Interdisciplinary Arts Program.
Jocelyn Robert thanks the Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Quebec for their support.
Suspects (Performance for the Police)
Title: Soft Architecture: A Manifesto
Artists: Warren Arcan, Shelley Guhle and Josh Schafer, Teri Snelgrove, Susan Stewart
Directed by Teri Snelgrove
Produced by Artspeak
VHS Running Length 26:38
(includes A Set of Suspicions publication)
Teri Snelgrove worked in close collaboration with Arcan, Guhle, Schafer and Stewart on the production of their work over the summer and early fall of 2000. Her video document of the three projects that make up Suspects (Performance for the Police) includes production footage, images of the final installation in the gallery and interviews with the other artists. The process of their production is placed firmly within the context of the public debate around the police camera proposal and the subsequent development of a ‘Four Pillars Approach’ to address the drug trade in the neighbourhood, part of the City of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside Revitalization Program. As this strategy heads into a phase of public consultation, her document extends the discussion initiated by the projects beyond the exhibition space and contextualizes the work within the contested ground of public policy development.