On Art in Outdoor Public Spaces and Inside the Human Body

Zip line installation. Above Robson Square and skating rink, Vancouver BC. Jan. 2010.
Zip line installation. Above Robson Square and skating rink, Vancouver BC. Jan. 2010. Photo by J. Chong

Several sections of downtown Vancouver streets have been closed and transformed temporarily during the Olympics and ParaOlympics,  into car-free public spaces for temporary public art installations, street performances and for people to  meet, sit down and chat.

Earlier in this blog,  I  highlighted  the wonderful lantern art sculptures on Granville Street near Robson.  The crowds are still happily hanging out, enjoying and photo shooting the free public art. Further up Robson Street, at Robson Square and the Vancouver Art Gallery, crowds are flocking to experience several things, even if “experiencing”  means being a spectator than participant.  For instance, there are those who are whipping across the zip line stretched over Robson Square, its newly retrofitted skating rink and those

Digitized black and white drawings. CUE: Artists' Videos Exhibit, Vancouver Art Gallery, BC. Feb. 2010. Photo by J. Becker
Digitized black and white drawings. CUE: Artists’ Videos Exhibit, Vancouver Art Gallery, BC. Photo by J. Becker

who watch this reality show from below.

CUE: Artists’ Videos at Vancouver Art Gallery
Then ponder over the larger than life video art shows flashing across the huge flat screen mounted temporarily at the Vancouver Art Gallery. The temporary exhibit is somewhat unimaginitively titled: CUE: Artists’ Videos.  Photos featured here are from videos of two different artists.  For five minutes,  there was a series of  digitized black and white watercolour-like,  and mixed media drawings.  A few days later, there was a video  of an underwater dragon dance. The  roiling water performance art was by Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba and titled, “Happy New Year: Memorial Project Vietnam II.”  With the dexterity of swimming dancers, the large leviathan writhed and exploded not only its own colour, but

Underwater dragon dance. Video: "Happy New Year. Memorial Project Vietnam II." Feb. 2010
Underwater dragon dance. Video: “Happy New Year. Memorial Project Vietnam II.” Feb. 2010. Photo by J. Chong

 also amidst changing colour dye explosions in the water. (How did they keep the colour shades pure, after dropping red, green or blue colour dyes during the water dance?)  Some art installations  simply can hit crowds much better outdoors –if people  pay attention.  The art can be more majestic in gesture because indifferent or unsuspecting pedestrians are forced to stop, look or walk by. For outdoor public art, there is never  guaranteed indoor coziness  of a captive audience.

Miracle of the Human Body and Leonardo da Vinci’s Drawings
While at the art gallery, I browsed over the exquisite human anatomical drawings in the exhibit: “Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Man”. For his

The Mechanics of the Human Body. Sketch drawings by Leonardo da Vinci. Vancouver Art Gallery, BC. Feb. 2010
The Mechanics of the Human Body. Sketch drawings by Leonardo da Vinci. Vancouver Art Gallery, BC. Feb. 2010

sketch studies, he found using thin, elderly men and candavers helpful:  “Begin in your book on  anatomy with a perfect man, and then draw him old and less muscular, then stripping him in stages down to bone and then draw the infant within a diagram of the womb. “(Leonardo da Vinci)

Some of his marginal notes are a blend of both technical instruction on human dissection and awed contemplations on the miracle of the human body and its living architecture:   “While human ingenuity may devise various inventions to the same means, it will never devise anything more beautiful, nor more simple, nor more to the purpose than Nature does, because her inventions nothing is lacking and nothing is superfluous”. (Leonardo da Vinci)

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