Storytelling and performance reveal Vancouver histories

Performance artists improvise movement to story at Bob’s Salon. | Photo by Yvonne Chew

Performance artists improvise movement to story at Bob’s Salon. | Photo by Yvonne Chew

For co-curators Chris Bose and David McIntosh, it was the contrast between their Vancouver stories that inspired Walking Projects: Vancouver, Crawling, Weeping, Betting, a new co-presentation by UNIT/PITT Projects and Battery opera performance.

In the fall of 2012, multi-disciplinary artist Bose and Battery opera cofounder McIntosh met at a pub in Kamloops after being introduced by a mutual acquaintance. This meeting resulted in what they both describe as an epic pubcrawl, but it also led to the sharing of their stories and their eventual artistic collaboration.

Separate histories

First Nations Artist Chris Bose tells stories at Bob’s Salon. | Photo by Yvonne Chew

First Nations Artist Chris Bose tells stories at Bob’s Salon. | Photo by Yvonne Chew

Their initial idea was to create a piece that offered drinking stories as spiritual advice, but when they started writing their stories, the work transformed into something very different. They realized the stark differences in their experiences of living in Vancouver. Bose, who ran away to Vancouver as a teenager, is a member of the Nlaka’pamux First Nation. McIntosh, on the other hand, is a fourth-generation Vancouverite. According to McIntosh, the most striking commonality between them was their movement toward putting their past behind them.

“While [David] slept comfortably somewhere, I was sleeping over a vent,” says Bose. “I learned from other homeless kids different routes in the city that were safe where we could graze and get free food, where we could sleep, wash up, panhandle, and so on.”

Speaking of his collaboration with McIntosh, Bose feels they found a middle ground through creativity. And as the two of them occupy this creative space, they bring to life the untold stories that walk Vancouver’s streets.

“The lived reality of a city is a whole bunch of different narratives, from a whole lot of lives,” says McIntosh. “Defining the history of a place is impossible. It is a way of controlling stories and suppressing stories.”

The tales of one city

The ambitious co-presentation is composed of three unique performances that seek to tell Vancouver’s diverse narratives. The performances occur within and outside the gallery walls, which feature Bose’s artwork and an installation of wooden stakes – each with a white string that holds a copy of the co-curators’ publication of stories with illustrations by Bose.

On Thursdays, the Witching Hour Solos showcase an artist in the gallery space while visitors watch from outside. On Fridays, Bob’s Salon invites the audience to enjoy free wine (selected by McIntosh, who is also a sommelier) while witnessing, and contributing to, improvised performance, dance and storytelling. And on Saturdays, performers take visitors on an improvised walking tour of the city while sharing one of 12 stories written by Bose and McIntosh.

The performers are free to improvise and tell their own stories, or enable the visitor to tell his or her stories, thus creating a complex and thought-provoking layering of stories closely tied to the surrounding space. Bose and McIntosh do not attempt to control the stories, but welcome the visitor to respond, to be involved and to ask, ‘What does this street mean to me?’

“It is asking you to take some responsibility for your own experience,” says McIntosh.

For Bose, the most memorable aspect of visitors’ responses has been the range and depth of interpretation of the poems, stories and art.

“It’s been amazing watching others make new art, film, photo, dance, acting and writing based on 12 stories and memories,” says Bose.

The narratives of a city are fleeting and constantly changing; nevertheless, Vancouver, Crawling, Weeping, Betting creates an artistic space where some of these stories can be told and listened to, where the diverse, sometimes troubling, histories of Vancouver can be revealed.

“Vancouver needs to find itself again, with an Aboriginal identity. You can flush things away, but they still wash up on shore,” says Bose.

Until March 1, 2014
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