Ride Along the Water

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Hello! My name is Renee and I am a curatorial resident working with Joni Low on the web component of Laiwan’s Fountain project. I am intrigued by the project because I love my city. Vancouver is a beautiful place for many reasons and one of its best features is its proximity to the water.

Vancouver was built around water; from industrial developments like the Hastings Mill on the Burrard Inlet and fisheries along the coast to recreational parks and prime waterfront real estate, water is a significant part of this city.

Laiwan’s art piece explores the history of the city through water in search of the “mystery beneath our walk.” I grew up in the suburbs and always dreamed of living in the city. Vancouver was an exciting place to be and I couldn’t wait to live near the water, but I never thought of the history of the city or how it came to be. This project explores how water shaped and influenced the people and communities of Vancouver. It is fascinating to uncover something unimagined about the city you live in and that is exactly what I get to do with this project.

I began my research for the Fountain Project by taking a bike ride. I live in the Fairview area and decided to cycle the pathway around False Creek – a body of water full of yachts, sailboats, paddlers and aqua buses. The area is made up of apartments with amazing views, parks and restaurants on the water. I passed joggers, commuters and people taking their dogs for a walk. It was a cold, sunny day so I stopped at Science World to admire the dragon boats and put on my gloves. It is interesting to me how much this area must changed and evolved as the city did. False Creek was once an industrial area full of loggers and fishermen. It was a busy harbor that ran all the way to Chinatown.

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I biked into the city and stopped to admire the public art installation of the project on The Wall at CBC. The image selected by Laiwan for the photographic mural shows two Chinese boys running on the docks beneath the old Georgia viaduct. Their reflection ripples in the water, the harbour is full of fishing boats, and the boardwalk is made up of wooden planks. The image is of an area of Vancouver that doesn’t exist anymore. My next stop at Keefer and Columbia was where the old viaduct used to be and where False Creek once ended. It shows how drastically the city has changed through industrial developments and city planning. The water where the boys once played has been filled in and a busy street now takes up the space where the shore once met the land.

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I stopped for a while and walked through Chinatown. This is a part of the city I remember from my childhood. We would drive down to Chinatown for dim sum or the Chinese New Year’s parade. Sometimes we would come here with my dad after his dragon boat practices on False Creek. He is a traditional person and felt that we should visit this neighbourhood and connect with our Chinese heritage. It is an area that holds its traditions and culture. Many immigrants came to Canada for a better life in the new city of Vancouver. They worked in the mills and the mines and although the city has changed their presence is still felt. The Chinese immigrants left their mark in Chinatown and in the surrounding Strathcona area.

I biked through Gastown and down Hastings street. I weaved through Strathcona, the original neighbourhood of Vancouver. The area, which is notorious for its rough streets, is an example of the city’s changing diversity. Vancouver’s evolution and division of wealth is shown in the streets where expensive boutiques and million dollar apartments are just around the corner from streets crowded with the homeless and poor. The original settlers once occupied Strathcona, but eventually moved up and out of the neigbourhood. They were replaced by the working population, many of whom were immigrants, that built a community of their own near their workplace and the water.

Laiwan’s project reflects the history of Vancouver through the metaphor of fluidity. Change is constant and a city is always flowing and altering. We are often too close to the picture to see all the changes around us. In today’s media age, we have a constant flow of information at our fingertips. We have access to so much, but how often do we internalize this information? My goal is to create an interactive space that provides stories and information that will give individuals a new perspective on Vancouver and its waters. I’m looking forward to uncovering and retelling some of Vancouver’s hidden history and revealing how water helped shape the city it is today.




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