Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Story of the Olympics So Far...

... has been mostly negative, at least to judge by the international media--especially the British tabloid press, which has already dubbed Vancouver 2010 the "worst Olympics ever."

From Georgian luger Nordal Kumaritashvili's tragic death on opening day, to criticisms of the lack of French and ethnic diversity during the Opening Ceremonies, to faulty ice-resurfacing machines in Richmond, to poor weather and cancelled tickets on Cypress Mountain, to out-of-province anarchist vandals trashing Bay storefront Windows on Granville Street, to an Olympic torch imprisoned behind chain-link fencing, to general transportation woes galore, and now a strike by restaurant workers at YVR: it seems VANOC can't catch a break.

It would be easy to sit back and nurse one's Schadenfreude if the longer term consequences for the local communities whom we were all told would benefit from Vancouver's two shining weeks in the global spotlight didn't look so grim: shops, businesses, and restaurants outside the downtown core that stand idle and empty, regular customers having been scared away by unnecessary traffic restrictions and general scare tactics about the difficulty of getting around the city; an arts community that, notwithstanding the just showcasing of the city's immense creative talent and imaginative resources during the Games, is still facing cuts of upwards of 90% in the upcoming provincial budget at the beginning of March; and community and social housing activists who have seen the grand promises to push to end homelessness made in Vancouver's Bid Book and the Inner-City Inclusiveness Statement evaporate amid cost-overruns.

Better to sit back and nurse a beer at The Candahar Bar on Granville Island (1889 Cartwright Street, 3rd Floor), which is what Richard and I did last night (taking the Olympic line trolley to get there--here's hoping that, regardless of Bombardier's claims that it wants its loaned cars returned, that's one transportation legacy that remains). A project by artist and curator Theo Sims, The Candahar Bar is a working reconstruction of a Belfast public house, complete with authentic Northern Irish bartenders pulling pints for thirsty installation participants/spectators. Produced by North Vancouver's Presentation House Gallery (in conjunction with the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad), the installation, open noon to 4 pm and 8 pm to midnight daily, coincides with a nightly line-up of artist's talks, performances, discussions, and DJing sessions programmed by my good friend and SFU English's current Writer-in-Residence, Michael Turner.

Last night was a series of music, sound, and performance art pieces called "Clamour and Toll," guest curated by the Or Gallery's Eli Bornowsky. Richard and I stayed for Christian Nicolay and Ya-chu Kang's opening "Recipe for Morning Rituals," a whimsical sound and theatrical experiment in which the performers mime waking up and doing exercises, before going on to "play various instruments and/or objects to compose the dream you just had." That was followed by Absurdus' "Strains of Liquid," a "noise experiment" that uses John Cage-like principles of indeterminacy to creative "electroacoustic conversations" between amplified violin and keyboard, digitized music via computer, and ambient sound.

All in all a most enjoyable way to block out the white noise that has become the cacophonous meta-discourse on these Olympics.

For something really worth listening to on the subject of the Olympics, check out the following conversation being launched by W2 Community Media Arts and Abandon Normal Devices tonight down on West Hastings:


Abandon Normal Devices and W2 Launch Cultural Collaboration Between Vancouver 2010 and London 2012

February 16, 2010 - Vancouver, BC - On February 18, 2009, Abandon Normal Devices (AND) and W2 will launch a four day programme constituting the only Games-time cultural collaboration between Vancouver 2010 and London 2012. The programme will feature academics, artists, producers, activists and scientists from the UK, Canada, Netherlands and the US.

The speakers will come together for debates and film screenings that consider the impact of the politics of ability and disability on the Olympics, the implications of genetically modified athletes and surgically sculpted children for the future of sport, and the connections between environmental debates and the Games.

The programme will take place at W2 Culture + Media House at 112 West Hastings on February 18th, 20th and 21st. It is produced in association with FACT, Tenantspin and Dada for Vancouver 2010 and the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad programme in England’s Northwest.

AND is an environmentally-friendly collaboration and will be entirely webcast. Some of the speakers will participate by remote video and interested audiences can participate in the live-streaming debates and discussions by visiting and selecting W2 TV.

Admission to AND is by donation. Check for a list of speakers.

Feb 18 CONTRACT: 7pm-9pm

An Olympic Games raises a number of exciting and challenging questions for a city. It proposes new spheres of investment, the redistribution of funds, inclusion and areas of exclusion, new laws that affect civil life and a vast, global media profile. How do these structures affect the obligations of citizens and institutions who become bound by collaborative contracts? And how does the scrutinization of this work by traditional and new media affect local identity and global perceptions? What can be learned from Vancouver 2010? How can this inform London 2012? How is work by artists contributing to urban city and citizenship development?

Feb 20 COMPETE: Faster, Higher, Stronger 4:30pm-8:30pm

The Olympic Games are measures of human excellence but what happens when those measures are disrupted by self-augmentation and body modification? Our biological apparatus is in flux, vulnerable, yet re-imagined by technology. What will ability and disability mean in an era of genetically modified athletes and surgically sculpted children? How are artists contributing to this research and debate? For example, genetically screening for ‘perfect pitch’ may produce ideal singers, but whose ideal? Alternatively, what will the integration of future technology within biology mean for how humans communicate with each other via performances (dance, music or sport)?

Feb 21 INFECT: Environment, Pollution, Resilience 7pm-9pm

The third Olympic pillar after sport and culture is the ‘environment’. Yet, the 21st century environment is characterized by debates about climate change, pollution, global warming and new forms of disease. Our desire to transcend our biology is inextricable from the complex ways in which our own resilience can be suddenly brought into question, as manifested by the ‘swine flu’ pandemic, itself a new(s) virus. Can humanity be ‘fixed’ or are utopian projects merely processes of normality maintenance? How does artistic research engage with and inform the health, wellbeing and environmental agenda?

AND, which is based in England's Northwest, is a cross-regional festival of New Cinema and Digital Culture. It is part of the cultural legacy project of the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. AND exists to create a space where artists and filmmakers can offer striking new perspectives, and visitors can enjoy, discuss and interact with ideas, in a festival that questions the normal and champions a different approach.

W2 Community Media Arts is a highly anticipated project opening in 2010 at the landmark Woodward’s redevelopment in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. In the lead-up to opening, W2 is operating the 13,000 sq ft W2 Culture + Media House across the street at 112 W Hastings. W2 provides a vibrant and complementary focal point in the redevelopment of Woodward’s and acts as a catalyst in the revitalization of the Vancouver Downtown Eastside by emphasizing the development capacity by and for DTES residents.

An overview of W2 Culture+Media House is covered by City of Vancouver's Snap 2010 Stories seen here:

For more information, please contact Irwin Oostinde, Executive Director of W2 at 604.689.9896, 1.877.689.9896, mobile 604-644-4349 or e-mail


No comments: