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

December 2001

This box was the first one for which I began to spend a lot of time making gifts which were meant to be taken and exchanged by the curious.  It was also when I began to include bits of text to accompany each gift, a theme that I would repeat often in the future. However, most significantly, it was when I began to collaborate and commune with my dead grandmother through the medium of her poetry. 

My grandmother was a well known and prolific Canadian poet, a two time Governer General Award winner and an Officer of the Order of Canada.  She published many books and has appeared in dozens of anthologies, the BC book prize for poetry is named in her honor.

I constructed the box at my friend’s house on Quadra Island one fall weekend.  The symbols on the exterior are a mix of Norse, and my own made-up runes, which can signify whatever you choose them to be.  I gathered dozens of film canisters and inserted a peculiar assortment of trinkets and gee-gaws inside of them.  A sample appears in the photos below.  I then gathered up one of my grandmother’s books of poetry, titled “The Phases of Love”, and set about dismembering it in order to include glimpses of her words inside the gift canisters.  A touch of colour was added to each parchment and then they were sealed up. 

The whole experience left me greatly satisfied and alert to the world.  I felt a deep connection to my grandmother (who had died four years earlier); a person whom I had often considered an amusing nuisance when she was alive.  I never went in for poetry all that much, and I will confess to having a paucity of interest in her works, having read almost none of her vast catalogue. 

The volume that I had cut apart was signed by her, in it she simply wrote “Love to my grandson at Christmas, 1987.  Love Dee”. The closeness I felt to her through this symbolic act, of physically cutting to shreds her work and words, and arranging the fragments. This completed my relationship with her, we were good friends now.

Otherwise, the box went up and came down without a hitch, I took no notes, but do recall that one of the film canisters was returned with a note and some chocolate inside (which I did not eat).  I also spoke to an older (late 60's) lady who lived at the corner and apparently enjoyed the offering boxes.  She told me that another woman who lived up the street had put the box up.  What!  Imposter!  Although through questioning it was revealed that she merely ASSUMED it was this other woman.  Therefore, no one was claiming my work for their own.  Why would they.

Box Installed

Offering content examples.  Bits of Grandma's poems.

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