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

March 2005

A lot of work went in to this box.  As the images show I constructed a two tiered box that held a number of bottles.  The box was made from a wooden orange crate that I found in the Coquitlam River.  Each bottle contained a topical solution made from a base of grape seed oil, seasoned with various essential oils such as: lavender, pine, eucalyptus, palmarosa, cinnamon, spruce, fennel, tea tree, lemon, lime, grapefruit, and bay.  The result was an aromatic “remedy” that could be rubbed into the skin.  Each bottle listed the ingredients, had instructions for proper use, as well as listing what the remedy could treat. 

A few examples of the remedy labels:

For Union:  Stand facing your chosen partner. Both
take four drops and gently rub them into the heart
region of the other.  Focus gaze into partners eyes
until you are both overcome
Ingredients: Lime, Grapefruit

For Grieving:  With hands crossed over each other,
rub five drops into the pectoral region while in
the fetal position.  Assume this posture until sleep
takes you.
Ingredients: Grapefruit, Palmarosa

For Voyages:  Rub one drop into your forehead
and then go for a walk in the forest. Collect a
handful of moss, a bud from a shrub, and a creeping
insect. Apply four drops to these items and hold them
in your palm while meditating for ten minutes.
Ingredients: Spruce, Palmarosa

I made approximately 60 of these bottles and displayed them in the usual spot.  I also added another sound effect.  This time I pilfered the “quacker” from the belly of one of my son's stuffed animals (A Mallard), and placed it in a tiny box with the instructions “Press here for spring sounds”. Unfortunately someone smashed the little box and stole the “quacker”, (visible in one of the photos following it’s destruction).  I also found a couple of the bottles smashed upon the pavement. Some oaf had destroyed them along with the quacker (this happened sometime in the first 10 hours of putting up the offering box).  Disappointing, but such are the risks of random objects erected in a public place with no oversight. 

My notes say that I received one Loonie, and two notes (see scanned image) from some mysterious people who were moved by the gesture.

There was one very special surprise that I placed in one of the remedy bottles that was unlike all the others.  Instead of an elixir, I put this note:

Greetings.  Please contact this email 
address: P-----------------
to make arrangements for a meeting,

a gift from the heart and the continuation of

this story.

Happily, someone contacted me a few weeks later, and I gave them a series of instructions (via email). They were to go to Uprising Bakery on Venables St. at a certain time on a certain day and speak to a small woman named N____a.  She would reach behind the counter and give them a brown paper bag with a gift inside.  When the stranger arrived, N____a gave the person the bag and remained silent.  When questioned, she revealed no further details to the stranger, and then bade them farewell.

What was the special gift!  It was a handmade book, bound in wood and linen full of original photographs that depicted a fierce struggle between two matriarchal figures set in the alleyways around Commercial Drive. It was amazing!  In its execution it made the works of Roy Arden, Stan Douglas or Jeff Wall look like images taken by a senile old grandparent armed with a disposable camera.

I received an email from the recipient of the gift a few weeks later (after some prompting by me).  They appeared to be unimpressed by the gift, and did not seem to share my unbridled enthusiasm for it.  Oh well. Nevertheless, I was extremely gratified by the whole exchange.  They had carried through with the gambit and now had in their home something of great personal joy to me.  Who were they?  Are they you?

Box prior to installation

Box installed, taken after vandals had disturbed it.

Box with damaged "quacker"


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