Freezing Water #7 had become a familiar and loved sculpture in Vanier Park, just east of the Maritime Museum. It was an installation for Vancouver’s 2009–2011 Biennale, erected in 2009 just prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics. In September 2014, apparently eroded beyond repair, workers cut it into pieces, and loaded it on a flat bed truck headed for the scrap heap.
Created by Chinese artist Ren Jun, it was a fluid stainless steel sculpture 30 m in length and weighing over 6000 kg. Despite its weight, it seemed to float horizontally above the surface of the park like a bird taking flight. In the form of the sculpture and with its highly polished finish, Ren Jun tried to capture “spilt water as it puddles and morphs into mercury–like shapes.”
Ren Jun is part of a movement in China which has been described as “Cultural Imperialism.” Traditionally, this term has many connotations. It can mean one culture being dominated by the culture of another. We have seen recently the overwhelming influence of social media created in the West on cultures in the developing world. This can be both positive and negative. For Ren Jun, especially with his water sculptures, he explores and celebrates China’s explosive growth both economically and culturally and examines its value with nature. He has become a pioneer of contemporary public art in China.
It is a time of great changes in China which include celebrating its cultural past as we can see with the current exhibition, Forbidden City, at the Vancouver Art Gallery. It’s also a time for artists to try to express these changes and their social impact. A-maze-ing Laughter at the foot of Denman near English Bay expresses some of this social change in the macabre grimaces on the faces of the sculptures.
The demise of Freezing Water #7 is unfortunate, but it does have a vertical twin: Water #10 situated on River road in Richmond, BC.
For more related pictures of Freezing Water has melted, please visit The Source website at www.thelasource.com and go to the Street Photography section under “Columns.”