The birth of my child was a joyous occasion and filled me with an overwhelming creative impulse that desperately needed an outlet. Being naturally predisposed to a distrust of artists and their lackeys (promoters, producers, gallery owners, etc.) and outright contempt for the paradigm of art as a commodity (combined with my fear of failure and rejection), I set out to create a work of art that would appear for a brief time in the public sphere, anonymous, unannounced, free of expectation, and open to the world.

I entered into this realm with no long term plan or vision, I just needed to create something and share it with strangers, friends or whoever happened to be passing by my little corner of the world. So I picked a random spot, a telephone pole on the corner of Salsbury and Parker in East Vancouver, (I lived in a house on this corner from 1997-1999). It has been 13 years now, I try to put up at least one work every year, sometimes I manage two. They only last for a few days at most, I put them up before dawn and take them down late at night when their store of goods has been exhausted. It took a few years before I settled on a theme; the works always contain gifts of some sort, an opportunity for exchange, or just a random trinket for someone to take away.

May 1998, the first one didn’t last long . I had worked at it for days prior to its presentation. Painstakingly drawing and painting, I even included some copper work in its final form. To describe it would be difficult; inside a small metal box, there was a Smurf with a chainsaw, against a background depicting a clearcut forest, stumps and logs scattered around the landscape. I believe I featured the words, “Coming Soon” as the banner to my creation. It was up for less than 4 hours. A person with no respect for public art?, or perhaps a zealous patron of the arts? Someone pilfered it, though I never discovered whom. I preferred to imagine that someone was so taken by it that they had to have it at any cost, even if it meant crossing the line into criminal activity. This thought made me very happy, and encouraged me to do more.

Please have a look at the works through the years, and if you or someone you know has had an experience with them, please comment. Tell me your story, what you found, what you left, how it affected your day or your life.

Friday, 21 October 2011

February 2008

A year and a half in between boxes, never had there been so long a gap.  Life was busy, too busy with work, relationships, child rearing (my personal favorite pastime). 

It was a big project as far as my offering boxes went.  I constructed a handmade wooden box to hang on the telephone pole. All gifts were contained in small boxes tied shut with dried grass (Grass idea credited to N).  The photos included below show some of the contents, the usual gee-gaws and knickknacks, as well as some homemade artifacts and treasured collectibles.  The one common thread in each box were miniature books.  I took words and stories of my own, borrowed others from songs, my grandmother’s poetry, geological journals etc. I hand bound and painted or drew on each page of the books (which ranged from 2 to 8 pages long).  Below is a sample from one book (three pages long).

Page 1                   Page 2                   Page 3
It takes                  and god                 but not before
a long time            dies too                 he'll stick it to you

I had an editor (my partner at the time, N) help me with some of the book contents.  Most of the writing that I include in my offerings are of the loving, positive, silly, mysterious or intellectual kind, however, I do like to throw in a few dark and vulgar passages now and then.  This time, my crude words did not make it in, as my editor convinced me they were too dirty and negative to be included, "what if a young child received this", N pointed out.  I reluctantly acquiesced.  Below is an example of what some young child missed out on.

Page 1                                                    Page 2
Drinking the blood of Jesus                   Learning to swim in the ocean
Drinking it straight from his veins          Learning to prowl in his name

Page 3                                                    Page 4
The body of Christ looked unto me        He wants you to suck on the holy ghost
A preacher with cock in his hand           And swallow the sins of man

Poor kid, poor parent, they missed out on a great learning opportunity.

Some other notes I made:

  • Box went up Sunday February 17, 2008
  • Response was good, 44 boxes went the first day
  • Filmed one man taking photos of the box
  • Received a note on the telephone pole saying “thanks for the good vibes”
  • Received: Pottery shard, banana, maxi-pad, tea bags, guitar pick, sun eraser, (Feminine hygiene products are a consistent gift left behind by strangers, presumably women, who are often in a pinch for such comforts).
  • Japanese construction toy
  • $.85 cents,
  • lovely hand wrapped note with Bolivian stamp
  • Another note saying that they received the baby Buddha, so they left a baby beluga pin from the 80’s
  • Saw two more folks taking photos
  • no vandalism
  • came down Tuesday at 1300hrs, one box remained, but with the gift removed.  
A variety of boxes

Box contents

Box installed

Some of the gifts people left behind

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