Friday, March 25, 2011
Abandonment Issues: A Homeless Man As A House
I must preface this post by stating that I visited this house in Vancouver, BC, before identifying as an urban explorer and was still in full-on street art mode. These shots are from May/June 2010. I have since learned of a code that has changed the way I think about entering these abandoned locations, so as to preserve them for others enjoyment and to not heat off spots and in turn get them sealed up. That said, this place was slated for destruction when prolific Vancouver graffiti artist and dear homie Open5 and I hit it. I had no pasties, so while Ope was crushing a two floor beast, I sprayed up my jerm IX stencil on everything in sight. My photos reflect a time when street art was my primary focus, before I turned the camera on the buildings themselves earlier this year.
When I stumbled into this house's face, my immediate response was that of loud boisterous laughter - laughter so loud that it freaked out the tiny elderly woman walking behind me. The funniest thing was that this very house was my actual destination that morning because I needed to photograph the work that Open5 and I had done inside just a few days before. I was quite taken aback -- and as the laughing faded, the installation really spoke to me. I was reminded of a 19 year old jerm, standing in front of the duplex on Blank Street in the 'single parent projects', as they were dubbed. He was staring at the house where he was raised, only to feel the house was somehow looking back at him. The clash of past and present blended together seamlessly in that moment. I also had thoughts about perceived identity and how in today's society, many people see themselves through acquired possessions such as homes. At the intersection of Scotia & 4th, I stood as still as a mannequin in a boutique window on Robson street and stared at the house - and the house stared back at me, again. With our eyes locked, I asked aloud, who did this?!
Given that there was a demolition notice on the door and that the back half of the house had suffered severe fire damage, I was sure that life would never again show its face here. But Graeme Berglund had other ideas. Graeme is a local artist represented by the Douglas Udell Gallery in Western Canada. He works in various mediums and is very active in Vancouver's art community in several capacities - too many to name. He is also a founding member of The Cheaper Show. I asked Graeme for some insight into this installation, this was his response...
"I took a photo of Corey, a sweet guy that panhandles up by Brewery Creek in Mount Pleasant every night. Corey is from Newfoundland. I told him I wanted to paint an image of his face. He said yes. This house at Scotia and 4th is rather iconic for this hood. Zoe from Red Light Sting used to live here and make noise in the basement. Melissa Jeffers did a stint. It was infested with some bike couriers for a while (all rad dudes actually). Then one night the back half caught on fire. I've enjoyed watching this house sit and decay... and seeing artists slowly started bringing it back to life. Office Supplies Inc. did a couple of series back there that I was feeling a lot. There is demolition notice on it as of the other day, so I thought I'd do something as a little farewell. This is my painting of Corey. A homeless man as a house."
This response hit home with me. In my early teens, I spent a few years as an amateur couch surfer and was on many occasions homeless. I perfected living life in the alcoves at the top of staircases in high-rise apartment buildings. These are the memories that Graeme's response triggered in me. I'd love to hear your own thoughts and reactions to "A homeless man as a house."
This post was originally written for my old Vancouver Street Heart column on Beyond Robson.
A few weeks ago I returned to Vancouver to record the final four tracks for my upcoming album and to celebrate the release of my dear friend and renowned author Timothy Taylor's new novel The Blue Light Project. While back in my old turf I stopped at many of my favourite spots, and like many of them, this house was gone, nothing but a muddy parking lot remained. But surely enough, it was surrounded by Open5 and crew, making me feel at home in my old home.
click here to check out all of jerm & ninja IX's ABANDONMENT ISSUES