Yes, this is Vancouver

On June 15 (Fri) the Museum of Vancouver is hosting a dialogue, Is This Vancouver? Reflections on the 2011 Hockey Riot Boards. As we remember, the boards drew crowds post-riot, and “citizens” etched their reactions towards the unrest into multiple slabs of plywood. The riot was an affective response to a year of media hype and build-up and it disturbed Vancouver’s carefully polished identity as a benevolent and beautiful city. Taking issue with a tarnished reputation, the apologizers (along with the media narratives) aimed to rectify the city’s image by casting the rioters outside of it and anthropomorphizing the city into a scorned lover.

What the clean up crew and apologizers did, however, was reify the neo-liberal strategy of representing a city in a homogenized way – and this was/is done by white washing the legacy of colonialization, submitting to prudence and order, and supporting forced isolation. As archival objects, the boards are the only valorized material and canonical representation of the riots. The apologizers want to “nail you via social networking”, “come and get you with Facebook”, and “feel sorry for you”. Colonial corporations, namely the Hudson’s Bay Company, are the first to get their windows smashed, but have the quickest bounce back. The HBC’s boards are up to the hilt in drawings and apologies (“we’re so sorry Vancouver!”) while smaller businesses are either completely blank or marked with acerbic racial commentary (“Fake Niggas!” written across an East Indian restaurant). Examining the plethora of commentary has been an interesting process for me once intersected with spatiality and affectivity.

I think the public uproar was often comical, but it manifested in something quite serious that effects people who agitate Vancouver’s glossy exterior. I’m interested in the residual traces, not necessarily of the riot or momentary class awaking, but of the citizen-against-citizen onslaught of snitching, scorn, surveillance, policing, depression, and the unquestioning will to obey. The writing on the boards speaks to the future of taking the streets and the future of that messy word “activism”. From making the “tag” a necessary citizen right to reducing and containing outrage, the effects are imminent as we see with the Concealment of Identity Act and the problematic of Occupy Vancouver.

The dialogue is by donation (no one will be turned away) and I’d really like people with a different perspective on riots (not necessarily “the riots”) and the boards to come and add their insights. Keep in mind the boards will be in an upcoming exhibition at MOV – they will go through a selection process and represent the fury. I hope a different type of analysis inspired by the dialogue will find its way into the exhibition narrative. See you there.

Here are the details:

Is This Vancouver?  Reflections on the 2011 Hockey Riot Boards

Friday, June 15, 2012 at 6:30 PM

Museum of Vancouver

By Donation

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