5 days a week I passed the dark man who never failed to move me as few street people have, and he was most clearly a member of that tribe. He sat under the Burrard St. bridge on a chair in the community garden, leaning his elbows on his thighs looking down at the ground between his legs, dreaded hair hanging forward. Sadness/loneliness/despair, all emanated like mist, almost visible for its strength. His chair sat amidst a garden that spoke of hope and renewal as spring dawned. The juxtaposition making his presence all the more poignant. People walked, cycled, ran and drove by and I never saw anyone give him a glance.
Then one day he was gone, him and his chair vanished. I almost gasped for the lose. I looked around hoping that he, looking for some privacy, had moved deeper into the garden away from the street – but no. After a week went by and he didn’t return, I finally caught someone tending the garden. I asked him what had happened to the dark man. He told me the city had sent some workers to take him away, that some people had reported that they didn’t like him, thought him garbage, that some children had been scared of him at night. One of these men insisted that he was litter and would not listen to the pleas of the gardeners. They threw the dark man away.
The dark man was a sculpture, made by an anonymous artist and mysteriously placed a month previous in the night and discovered the next day by the gardeners… and me. The dark man was art in the most powerful way – he made us feel something – sadness, loneliness, anger, disgust, fear. His presence moved the garden from just a pretty place to part of a work of art.
I think this incident speaks to our society’s growing demands of instant gratification. If something disturbs/moves, we have neither the time nor the inclination to ask why, to delve deeper. Art demands self exploration, demands we maintain an open mind. Parents lost yet another opportunity to teach their children something valuable when they failed to open a dialogue about why they feared the dark man, explored why he looked like he did etc. This is the same distorted thinking as exhibited by the woman in the US who demanded that The Diary of Anne Frank be banned from the school library because it made her daughter uncomfortable!!!!! Missed opportunities.
I found the “No Fun Vancouver” campaign irritating, that it was created by bar owners trying to sell more liquor. Gawd knows that I enjoy my wine but I don’t see the correlation between more fun and more booze necessarily. For me, Vancouver fails to be a fun city because of city hall’s control issues when it comes to spontaneous creativity. Everything needs a permit, nothing is allowed to blossom and bloom organically. Public art being the biggest victim, they have to have meetings to angst and survey and blah blah blah. Bureaucracy at its worse. 5 people complain and city hall freaks. As if you could get more than 2 people to agree on anything. So we go beige, builder’s beige at that.
We lost the “Device to Root Out Evil” by Dennis Oppenheim because it made people uncomfortable. Really? Why can’t we say that it is ok to feel uncomfortable? Why are we trying to wrap ourselves in bubble wrap?
I called City Hall and talked to a nice gentleman who made all the right noises but had no power to actually do anything other than pass it on and promise me a call back, which never materialized. So I needed to write it to process and let it go. But it isn’t going anywhere. I am still pissed.
What about you? How does this make you feel? Do you think we should allow more spontaneous creativity?
Update: It has been over a week and still no call back from the City of Vancouver so I called again. The lady assured me that my report had been passed onto the Parks Board (case #4736410) and she would do her best to light a fire under their butts (my words) to call me back.