Vancouver Biennale Quest University Residencies

Vancouver Biennale Quest University Residencies

In 2015 the Vancouver Biennale invited four artists as part of its ongoing residency program (other artists were brought in, earlier in the year) to stay at Quest University in Squamish and create publicly accessible art. This is a short promotional video I made, with excerpts from longer interviews with each of the artists.

Biennale Residency

Artists who have had work in the Vancouver Biennale

Tamar Frank, a Skype interview

Tamar Frank, an artist who works with light installations, was commissioned to create a large permanent work on two apartment towers in Vancouver. When the work was complete, residents in nearby towers complained about the brightness of the LED lighting. This is an interview I did during the controversy for my series on public art, but it is not part of the two-dvd set.

Tamar Frank website

The story in the media

Marie Khouri, Sculptor

Marie Khouri interviewed in her studio at Capilano University in 2011. (Not included in the series.)


l’Ecole du Louvre, Paris, France
Les Ateliers du Louvre, Paris, France

“Vancouver-based sculptor, Marie Khouri, represents the broad multi cultural and diverse demographic of Western Canada. Her childhood roots reside in the Middle East, but the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War forced her family to move to Canada.
In her early adult years, Marie moved to Paris where she discovered her passion for sculpture and received her fine arts training at Les Ateliers du Louvre. On her return to Vancouver, a retrospective of her life took form in her sculpture, reflecting a passion for innovation and spontaneity. Her practice has been greatly influenced by Henry Moore’s idea of direct carving in which the materials are repeatedly shaped in hand until the right balance of organic forms is found.
Khouri’s sculpture is unconstrained, pushing the barriers of the medium where the surfaces reveal the entire process and the finished sculpture reveals the evolutionary method by which it was created.”

Thesis: Public Art Private Views

Underlying this website and the series of 23 short films (available on a two-DVD set from public libraries*) is my Master’s thesis. It describes the project, its goals and methods of investigation, elaborates on the variety of public art seen and experienced today, elaborates what “public space” and “public sphere” means in relation to our cities, describes the challenges of situating art in public spaces, and offers conclusions with regard to the challenges of situating art in the public realm.

I wrote it to be readable by everyone, not just a professor or external examiner familiar with the topic. It’s 94pp long including four short appendices. The thesis refers to the documentaries, but for my MA project I created a separate, single DVD with three twenty-minute films.

The paper can be downloaded here:

Not to make things more complicated, but if you were to go to Simon Fraser University’s thesis repository, SUMMIT, you can find (and download) not only the paper but also links to the three films submitted as integral to the thesis project (you’ll require Adobe Flash to view the films):


this artist thinks big


Oriflamme – Tianjin, China

Composed of fin-shapes attached to a mast 68 metres high, the sculpture stands out boldly against this new cityscape. Most strikingly, this is not a static work: in perpetual movement, it interacts with external forces like the wind. The fins are activated by a system of electromagnets which simultaneously attract and repel each other. The work is lit up at night by dynamos that store its dynamic energy. — Vimeo post

This is the work of French artist Jean-Bernard Metais


Few cities in Canada have the funds or the imagination or the courage to permit an artist to build something as imposing as the works created by Métais in Europe and China.

“Making art in the public sphere,” says Métais, “means building a bond with a place and the people who live in it. My sculpting is essentially based upon the experimenting I do with the place I work in. The elements I bring into play are not an attempt to explain the location; they try to create a resonance, a sensorial bond between people and their environment.”

Métais often uses words to convey ideas that aim to reveal the location’s function and unique character. The words he chooses, usually short, are significant for what they represent, but also for their expressiveness, imagery and poetic richness. This work with words also entails design research with the graphics themselves, to make them an integral part of the work’s aesthetic dimension. Herve-Armand BECHY

In the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, he has integrated art within an historic site, Fort Lambert. “The Wave,” the artist says, “creates a wholly new perspective on the fortress, an alternative vantage point between the visible and the invisible, yesterday and today.”


Litanie (2007), Valenciennes, France


Placed precisely at the former location of [Valencienne’s] belfry (an ancient 14th century edifice that collapsed in 1840), Métais’ work is a 45-meter high arrow that marks the spot, regenerating an emblematic link to local history. The belfry, a lookout tower characteristic of northern French cities in the Middle Ages, was a meeting point where diverse crowds would gather daily to conduct business, debate rules and laws, and celebrate events… It was above all a neutral, open forum where people could come to share and discuss news.

To valorize the location of the Place des Armes, Métais designed a light yet stark structure: a giant needle that points to the sky. Aside from its formal function as a monumental landmark, the work also acts upon the square like a “rumor”. The structure is filled with thousands of whispering voices, with words of local significance, secrets shared by people of the city and its surroundings. —

In this video we see the fabrication and installation of “Litanie” for the city of Valenciennes. (Videos supplied by the artist, on


Métais has been given carte blanche to design a 61 acre public park in Jurong, China (population 1,000,000). The location of one of the largest archeological sites in the world, dating back to 150 BCE, Jurong is close to Nankin, the former capital of China.

Jurong 2142

Lisbon’s monumental found-object animals


Artur Bordalo

Artur Bordalo (aka Bordalo II) is a street artist who has created a series of wall-sized animal murals using paint and clever reconfigurations of recycled trash. Among his “found” materials are scrap metal, tires, tubing, and crushed bumpers — anything that has been produced, used, and thrown away to last an eternity in the landfill. Stunningly, Bordalo has turned such tarnished objects into delicate feathers, soft fur, and complex exoskeletons, paying a bold homage to the animals he represents. In a clever blend of 2D and 3D art, the creations emerge from the walls like brilliant optical illusions, demanding our attention and curiosity. (Hayley Evans, Beautiful/Decay)

bordalo-1 bordalo-7

More images can be found in these articles:

And in Bordalo’s Facebook photo stream.


is it money well-spent?

Vancouver’s Board of Parks and Recreation, which is composed of elected commissioners, is considering funding an installation created by Lead Pencil Studio for a park on the city’s east side, bordering neighbouring city of Burnaby.


There is concern that public money is being spent recklessly at a time when Vancouver is facing transit cuts (if a referendum fails to pass), a persistent and growing homeless population, and its standing as the world’s second-least affordable city to live in.

Tara Carman, writing in the Vancouver Sun: (complete article)

Staff are recommending approval of the $450,000 installation, entitled Home and Away, designed by Lead Pencil Studio. Artists drew inspiration for the sculpture from three historic structures Hastings Park is known for: the old bleachers and scoreboards at Empire Stadium, a constructed ski run built there in the 1950s and Playland’s signature wooden roller coaster. The bleachers, with the “home” side in blue and the “away” side in yellow, will be about 15 metres high, 30 metres long and hold a maximum of 150 people, according to a park board staff report. It will be located at the northwest corner of Empire Fields and visible from Hastings Street.

Empire Stadium 1954-1993

Empire Stadium 1954-1993


Playland's venerable wooden rollercoaster, constucted in 1958 and still going strong

Playland’s venerable wooden rollercoaster, constucted in 1958 and still going strong

Five days before the Board was to vote on funding the proposed work, I wrote them:

Dear Commissioners,
Much as I enjoy public art—my MA thesis was on public art in Vancouver, I produced a 23-episode series of short films on public art, and I’m giving a talk at the Harmony Arts Festival this summer in West Vancouver on public art—I do not support the proposed work for Hastings Park.
My reasons:
1. Public perception. In a time when this city is unaffordable to many, not only to potential home-buyers but to those who struggle to make enough to pay the rent, this expenditure is going to be seen as a shocking waste of public monies.
2. Too large, too imposing, and potentially too dangerous, even with guardrails. With the vertical insertions of the PNE’s Playland rides next to the park, another vertical structure, playful as it is, is too much for one area.
3. The Park Board could still assign those funds to art, but in a more low-key, spread-out series of projects, not necessarily installations of permanence.
4. What if the Park Board were to set aside these funds toward a major and exciting project to be built in a few years—for instance, something by Antony Gormley, or another artist of international calibre?