Fillip 20 — Fall 2015

Elegy of the Non-event
Nathan Crompton

Stan Douglas’s depiction of police and protesters on the night of the 1971 Gastown Riot is at this point an iconic public artwork in Vancouver. The photographic mural, Abbott & Cordova, 7 August 1971 (2008), has now sat in the atrium of the Woodward’s development in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood for almost five years—long enough to allow for a multiplicity of encounters and reflections.

Time, if not history itself, seems to threaten any last word on this work. Past events and their many layers, not to mention the inherent challenges of photographic representation, have held any definitive interpretation at bay. Despite its strong presence in the city, and the contested nature of the work’s Downtown Eastside site,1 the debate about the artwork has arguably been limited, and the relationship between the image and event has been left largely unexplored.2 It is therefore worth returning to Abbott & Cordova, Stan Douglas’s first public artwork since Television Spots (1988) and Monodramas (1991).3

Abbott & Cordova is mounted as a massive outdoor photomural behind a frame of steel and glass, resembling an oversized, backlit billboard. The thirty-by-fifty-foot image is double-sided, equally visible from both inside and outside the building. At the centre of the mural are the two cross streets named in the title, Abbott and Cordova, passing in front of what was then the Woodward’s department store. In one corner of the image a moving barricade of officers wearing riot gear pushes up against protesters; in another, a group of officers drag a demonstrator toward the open rear doors of a paddy wagon; at the edges of the scene, mounted police attempt to corral pedestrians while other protesters crisscross the street. Portraying events from the evening of August 7, 1971, Abbott & Cordova re-creates the aftermath of a “smoke-in” organized by Vancouver’s hippie and countercultural youth at nearby Victory Square. The event was organized as a protest against the city’s excessive drug laws and frequently aggressive police practices. While it began as a countercultural celebration, the gathering ended in a police riot a block away from Victory Square, at the intersection of Abbott and Cordova. Abbott & Cordova recreates the riot in its final hour; Douglas composed its image from multiple overlapping photographs taken on set at a location just inside the Vancouver city boundary, in a parking lot next to Hastings Racecourse.

According to Douglas, he modelled the mural on a famous aerial photograph of London’s 1936 Battle of Cable Street taken by David Savill,4 when, on October 4 of that year, British communists, socialists, and anarchists—as well as Jewish and Irish Londoners—clashed with the British Union of Fascists (BUF). During that event, the BUF leader Oswald Mosley attempted to lead a march of sympathizers directly through the city’s East End but was met with strong popular resistance, despite protection for the BUF by the Metropolitan Police. Savill’s photo, taken for Britain’s early-twentieth-century Topical Press Agency, captures a bird’s-eye perspective of Cable Street from a building above it. Within the frame, a barricade lies in the background as demonstrators flee the police, looking over their shoulders as they run toward the camera. While it is tempting to see Abbott & Cordova as an art-historical inheritor of the traumatic 1936 photograph, I propose instead that it is a descendant of a different depiction of those 1936 events—the festive Battle of Cable Street mural on the outside of St. George’s Town Hall in London’s Whitechapel neighbourhood, painted between 1979 and 1983 by Dave Binnington, Paul Butler, Ray Walker, and Desmond Rochfort.

Savill’s black-and-white Cable Street photograph is an intense yet haphazard document when compared to the colourful, stylistically belaboured Whitechapel painting, but both offer large compositions that testify to the gap between event and image. Like Abbott & Cordova, the Whitechapel mural operates as a commemoration of a historic conflict, carrying the anti-fascist battle of Cable Street 1936 into the realm of allegory. In place of a scene of traumatic violence, both of the works construct a rich visualization of the riots that is animated, stimulating, and theatrical. As compositions, they successfully condense multiple images of complex events in order to create a carnivalesque rendering of the past. Consider the onlookers in Douglas’s meticulously produced image: the scene contains officers, riot police, hippies, and protesters. But these primary actors are joined by a set of minor figures: older onlookers, probably retired seasonal labourers; a couple walking home from a date; a shopkeeper observing the kerfuffle; and two young boys sitting on a curb in the foreground, less than a metre from what might otherwise be imagined as a brutal arrest. The boys, who invoke the onlookers in Hieronymus Bosch’s The Adoration of the Magi (1485–1500), or more recently, Rodney Graham’s Leaping Hermit (2011), seem totally unfazed.5 It is worth noting that the couple on the street corner appears to be, in the moment of portrayal, out on the town and therefore irritated or puzzled—anything but scared—by the activities at the intersection.

It is possible to conclude that the proximity of these different figures to the central conflict between police and protesters diminishes the presence of violence in the image, suggesting instead an almost leisurely crowd. Instead of a social realist police riot, the scene resembles the busy landscape of a Where’s Waldo? book or the radical youth in Jean-Luc Godard’s Tout va bien (1972) as they bounce off fumbling riot police at the checkout tills of a French supermarket. In this respect, Abbott & Cordova is a consummate social mural, bringing to mind a work like Jack Shadbolt’s About Town with the United Service (1943). Shadbolt’s mural contained more than two hundred and fifty figures painted on ten panels roughly nine by twenty-three feet, depicting a busy daytime scene on a central street during wartime Vancouver. The social mural as a form, with its saturated vernacular, is by definition a sociological compendium: it brings all character types (or “prototypes,” according to Shadbolt) into the totality of the picture. The Diego Rivera–inspired About Town with the United Service, painted on a now demolished wall in Vancouver, employed a characteristic style and perspective in its rendering of “a comprehensive picture of Vancouver.”6 Just as with Douglas’s skillful merging of multiple photographs to make his single image, Shadbolt made “hundreds” of preliminary sketches and watercolour studies to prepare for the final act of painting.7

I would argue that with Abbott & Cordova, this aspect of the image as “social mural” effectively bridges the previous countercultural celebration at Victory Square with the police clash itself. The image is theatrical, but this isn’t solely the by-product of the spatial implausibility of the figures, with their affective proximities. Depending on one’s interpretation of the historic event itself, which I will discuss, the onlookers in Abbott & Cordova appear self-consciously detached and the protesters are deflected rather than absorbed by the intensity of the clash. Abbott & Cordova is more an image of theatrical representation than a representation of subjective absorption—an obvious fate that the work shares with theatrical images more generally. This does not, however, prevent the work from offering an accurate account of the police riot. Even when Douglas takes liberties with historical detail, the difficulty lies not in whether the audience is presented with an accurate depiction of events of August 1971; the depiction is accurate. The problem lies elsewhere entirely.

In her treatment of Douglas’s mural, media scholar Nora M. Alter frames the riot as an “event,” in the Badiouian sense of the term.8 For Alter, the intersection of Abbott and Cordova becomes what Alain Badiou would call an “evental site”—the place where a political process breaks from the “ordinary inscription in ‘what there is,’” pushing its participants to “decide a new way of being.”9 Serge Guilbaut similarly invokes Badiou in his analysis of the image.10 More recently, Douglas has also drawn on this concept to account for the importance of Abbott & Cordova.11 From this perspective, the clash of August 1971 is read as a rupture. Due to its intensity as an “urban trauma,” according to Guilbaut, the police riot has been relegated to minority status in history. For Alter, Guilbaut, and even Douglas, the mural is therefore an act of fidelity to the riot-event, because it preserves a lightning flash on the retinas of a forgotten history. It registers an indiscernible break in the social fabric—a break that, for the subjects who upheld its principles (i.e., the rioters), rendered any kind of social restoration not only difficult but logically impossible.12

Yet I cannot help but feel that the image, as it hangs in the Woodward’s atrium, falls short of an urban trauma. Despite its scale and imposition on visitors to the site as radical spectacle, the composition is mild and the aesthetic effects are anything but offensive, as testified to not only by the congruity of the work with its surrounding architecture, but also by the lack of critical response to the piece on the part of the public, journalists, letters to the editor, etc. When Abbott & Cordova was unveiled, two curators wrote that the work’s supposedly “heightened form of realism” served to “resurrect the controversy of a political event that many would prefer not to remember.”13 Despite the analysis put forward by the curators, these effects do not materialize in the work.

When one stands in the Woodward’s atrium is one therefore witnessing art’s inability to stay true to the political event? I would argue that this kind of claim does not capture the issue at hand. In a similar vein, and equally unsatisfactory, Abbott & Cordova has been criticized for its inability to offer a representation of historic resistance, since the police are suspended in a frame that they dominate. A second and more convincing claim vis-à-vis this work is the wider inability of theatre (and by extension art) to represent a political event. From the position of a playwright, Badiou himself insists that theatre cannot be asked to represent the Real of politics. As a matter of its own aesthetic principle, theatre cannot capture the absorption of the political subject. Theatre is, therefore, prohibited from entering the interiority of politics, according to Badiou. At the level of theatrical representation, there can be no theatre of the political event.14

Despite these attempts to answer to a supposed contradiction between image and event, I would suggest that it makes more sense to understand Douglas’s mural as a faithful representation of a non-event. Rather than invoking an unrepresentable occurrence, is Abbott & Cordova not a clear pictorial expression of a specific historic moment, mediated through the allegorical capacities of theatre? Failure is a mainstay of image making as much as politics. But between the axis of transformation and failure, the latter strikes hardest—in this case—at the site of politics. Failure lies not with the aesthetic operations of Douglas’s image so much as with the failed radicalism of the hippie rebellion itself.

If viewers receive an initial shock when first viewing Abbott & Cordova, this experience is not so much due to political affect as it is the effect of the work’s ability to present an image-architectural spectacle executed on an impressive scale and with technical mastery. For some critics, the presentation of the work as public art merits criticism with respect to its design, display, and framing.15 Structure, glass, lighting, darkness, transparency, and monumentality—these elements of display seem to sit already too well within the experience of Vancouver’s urban landscape. This line of criticism, within larger architectural and urban concerns, might help to make visible the political economy of the technical apparatus and larger setting of the work. Yet this materialist critique lacks historicization, playing instead on tropes of a critical geography that have become increasingly vacant in recent years. When looking at a work like Abbott & Cordova, history demands that its trace be brought to bear on the narrative content and actual signification of the work itself, based in this case on operations proper to theatre as social allegory. With this necessary shift, the “moral” of the work (any social allegory delivers a moral) suddenly becomes more visible. Rather than representing an event, one might say that Abbott & Cordova redeems a past. Or put another way: the Gastown Riot is not a political event but rather a redemptive allegory for the failed resettlement of Gastown in 1971.

To get to this point about allegory, we might need to take a slight diversion into the minor literature of the period. Helen Potrebenko’s novel Taxi! (1975) gives a glimpse, from the window of an indentured taxi driver, into the brief historic moment when the hippie counterculture youth settled in Gastown in the early 1970s, having moved east from their Kitsilano stronghold. Potrebenko’s feminist, working-class analysis of the counterculture pervades most of her work, making her novels an important point of reference. Potrebenko was part of a movement that, despite overlapping ideals, felt no fascination with the advances of the counterculture. For the protagonist of Taxi!, Shannon, the emerging counterculture figures as a tool in the hands of the ruling class, serving to reconstruct the separation between youth and workers. Youth are pitted against the supposedly conservative working class while being encouraged to stay out of the labour market: There had to be further means devised to keep youth off the labour market. The most successful of these was the hippie philosophy. Hippies did both the necessary requirements for the benefit of the bourgeoisie. One was that they should stay off the labour market without complaining about it or causing trouble, which they did by pretending they had thought it all up themselves. Secondly, by devising a distinctive style of dress they isolated themselves from the regular workers and didn’t muck up the work ethic.... Rather incidentally, hippies also started a whole new consumer market for rotting capitalism to benefit from. Ragged jeans, groovy shorts, and the like, as well as music, commercial revolution, and popularization of detachment.16 For Potrebenko, the structural crisis of 1970s capitalism—particularly growing inflation and unemployment—is therefore contained and temporarily resolved by cultural rather than economic means.

Shannon’s analysis of the counterculture is not so much antagonistic as dismissive, channelled through her blasé familiarity with the city as she takes calls from areas as far flung as suburban Shaughnessy and Marpole. Significantly, the events of August 7, 1971, do not make their way into the pages of Taxi!, despite a special entry for “August 1971.”17 Instead, countercultural youth take the stage as faux lumpen, and in these terms Taxi! depicts the transformations of the area surrounding Abbott and Cordova: “Long-haired entrepreneurs changed the ugliness of Water Street into the ugliness of Gastown and now instead of old men begging, there were young men begging.”18 This description of the Gastown counterculture recalls another novel by Potrebenko, Sometimes They Sang (1986), in which readers encounter Odessa Greeneway, the politically active daughter of dispossessed Eastern European farmers. Odessa is involved in the women’s movement and the New Left and similarly dismisses her left-leaning countercultural friends as rich kids without a political vision: “They ripped their clothing and refused to clean up after themselves and called this politics.”19

Today, Potrebenko’s ironic pairing of counterculture and ruling-class culture (“long-haired entrepreneurs”) is perhaps less awkward than at the time it was written. When Potrebenko wrote Taxi!, the historical realignment of capitalism was only barely underway: neoliberalism and the “new spirit of capitalism” were merely a faint vision in the minds of defeated postwar elites. It would take at least another decade for the creative energies of the counterculture to be converted into a new source of cultural capital, entrepreneurial initiative, and a new generation of educated managers.20 The housing economy in particular would take at least another two decades to be fully liberated from the constraints of postwar planning and social democratic compromise. This political and economic shift has its cultural expression as well, captured perhaps best in Jeff Derksen’s quip about “counter-top culture” in his 1993 poem “Interface,” highlighting the merger of countercultural enthusiasm and late-capitalist condo culture.21 The same poem delivers the point in less discreet terms, with the simple line: “General failure of hippies.” The transition from counterculture to urban entrepreneurial elite, or “creative class,” has been analyzed more seriously in a recent collection of critical essays by Derksen.22

The early 1970s, and the year 1971 in particular, was a period of intense political upheaval in Vancouver. On the one hand, it was the beginning of a current among the social democratic left still in existence today. Greenpeace started in Vancouver in 1971, and politicians of the left like Ellen Woodsworth (Coalition of Progressive Electors [COPE] politician in the 2000s) and Svend Robinson (New Democratic Party [NDP] politician in the 1990s and early 2000s) began their political careers with their election to the student society at the University of British Columbia in 1971.23 The co-op movement was also flourishing at the time, with the creation of dozens of housing co-ops throughout the city. Numerous economic cooperatives were also created, including the Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), founded on August 2, 1971, a few days before the Gastown Riot. And, on the other hand, it was a period of mass action by Maoist and Trotskyist union organizers, the New Left, the women’s movement, and diverse social movements in Vancouver. In 1971 the Vancouver Tenants’ Council engaged in mass economic actions, including a five-month rent strike at fifteen Wall & Redekop buildings across Vancouver.24 Indigenous organization was at a new height in Vancouver then, too, following rejection of the White Paper in 1969–70 and the formation of the new “big organizations” in British Columbia between 1969 and 1971, opening a new chapter in the book of province-wide First Nations self-determination.25 In 1969 there were two women’s groups in British Columbia, and by 1974 there were more than one hundred.26 And, January 1971 witnessed the escalation of tactics by the Militant Mothers of Raymur to force the municipal government to construct basic public infrastructure in Vancouver’s Strathcona neighbourhood.27 By the end of the decade these movements had developed their own set of distinct demands and organizational imperatives but also significant forms of multisectoral class struggle and unprecedented intersectional struggle.28

Art historian and critic Leah Modigliani has argued that, while the Gastown Riot may seem a frivolous expression of bourgeois discontent in a larger context of committed politics, “[it] should be considered in relation to the broader context of anti-war and civil-rights demonstrations in the 1960s.”29 But is this not how the hippie rebellion is always depicted, standing in as the universal signifier for the broader leftist geist? In the telling of history, the hippies should not be seen as economic freeloaders (as establishment representatives would have claimed at the time), but rather as freeloaders of history, jetting to the forefront on the backs of a rebellion and uprising—the elements of history itself—created by the actual organizing of the women’s movement, gay liberation, and new forms of mass struggle at all levels of society and economy.

One might also point here to the role played by the aesthetic avant-garde, in relation to which the counterculture also represented a specific ambiguous placeholder. The early 1970s in particular witnessed an explosion of new artistic production in Vancouver. In 1969–70 Image Bank was founded by Michael Morris and Vincent Trasov, and in 1971 organizations like Intermedia were at the height of their activity (Intermedia was an important early version of the artist-run centre in Vancouver). In the wake of these experimentations, institutional artist-run culture was inaugurated with the opening of the Western Front and Video Inn (Satellite Video Exchange Society) in 1973. This institutionalization was itself ambiguous. At times the movement productively veered away from a mimetic critique of professionalization and corporate rationality. At other times, it risked being thrust into a series of Situationist traps (à la Mr. Peanut for mayor of Vancouver) and eventually into a set of countercultural settler mythologies about returning to the land and nature—for example with works staged at Morris and Trasov’s Babyland residence and along the Sunshine Coast.30

Institutionalization seemed to operate in a productive dialectical tension with these countercultural tendencies, but institutionalization also posed its own problems, again in relation to the question of mass politicization of various groups in Canada during the early 1970s. If the aesthetic avant-gardes were counter-hegemonic, there is a real question about the emerging cultural formations they were aligned with, as well as a lingering albeit secondary question about assimilation into and co-optation by non-critical practices. As Marina Roy writes, “the eventual institutionalization of artist-run centres and alternative community groups, set up through various funding programs, was also a way of keeping more activist, oppositional groups under wraps.”31 Regardless of the political positions held by the aesthetic avant-garde in 1971 Vancouver, and leaving aside any necessary relation to counterculture as a distinct bourgeois formation, it is clear in retrospect that the counterculture drew its historic currency from a wider sequence of events unfolding in the early 1970s.

If the story about the role of the counterculture has been exaggerated both politically and aesthetically in Vancouver, this is especially true with regard to the fate of the Downtown Eastside itself. The redemptive position put forward by Abbott & Cordova, repeated in interviews with Douglas,32 is that the Downtown Eastside would not have suffered “decline” had an early version of an urban social mix been supported by civic government.33 Here the myth of aforementioned revolutionary hippies is extended to the domain of urban planning, according to which municipal land-zoning decisions after the riot “caused” poverty in the surrounding area.34 This thesis seems to suggest not only that migrant and seasonal workers in the Downtown Eastside would have benefited economically from the mere presence of the counterculture but that the conservative municipal government took active measures to prevent this dangerous union. According to Michael Turner, this was the specific objective of municipal planning in the wake of 1971, when the government “redesigned Gastown in 1972 to keep the hippies from mingling with the unionized resource workers.”35 This exaggeration of the critical, political, and organizational role played by Gastown counterculture not only serves to position contemporary gentrifiers as positive agents of revitalization, but also to actively revise the history of the early 1970s in Vancouver.

A major theme for Potrebenko is the Hegelian ruse of history, in which progressive goals are bent to the interests of capital. We sense an awareness of this dialectical reversal in numerous works by Douglas. For instance, in the video installation Win, Place, or Show (1998) the hard-won social housing of the postwar period doubles as a site of social control, “deployed by planners in the interests of neutralizing class antagonisms and maintaining a pre-existing social order.”36 Likewise, much of Douglas’s work can be understood as a redemptive attempt to retrieve and redeploy these contradictions, constructing counterfactual possibilities within a given narrative of closure. Win, Place, or Show is set in a Strathcona high-rise that was never actually built under the postwar housing surge of the Marsh Plan.37 Inconsolable Memories (2005), Video (2007), and works from the Crowds & Riots series (2008) operate in a similar vein of redemption and memory. Rather than being tied to the abstract machinery of irredeemable failure, the images work to activate the contours of an undefined past.

Instead of rehabilitating a lost object of history, these works produce the paradoxical “memory of a history that never transpired,” as Stan Douglas puts it.38 Is this also true for Abbott & Cordova, 7 August 1971? I would argue that it performs a reversal of Douglas’s customary operation. With Abbott & Cordova, the result is less the memory of a history that never fully transpired and more the paradoxical memory of a realized history. Read in these terms, Douglas’s mural enables the Woodward’s project to stand in as a living monument to the early pioneers of the creative class—the youth of the 1970s who struggled, and initially failed, to settle a working-class neighbourhood.

  1. Canonized moments in the history of social conflict at Woodward’s are often bookended by Bloody Sunday (1938) and Woodsquat (2002). During the depression in 1938, Communist-led sit-down strikers occupied the downtown post office to demand wages and benefits. After their violent eviction by the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) on Bloody Sunday, workers smashed the windows of Woodward’s on their way back to East Vancouver. Woodsquat followed a similar trajectory of mass occupation and VPD eviction. Between September 14 and December 14, 2002, homeless activists and allies occupied the abandoned Woodward’s building to stop the building’s sale to a private developer and to demand housing justice in the Downtown Eastside. For comprehensive writings on the event, see “Woodsquat,” special issue, ed. Aaron Vidaver, West Coast Line 37, nos. 2 and 3 (Fall/Winter 2003/04). Woodsquat was followed by a decade of anti-gentrification organizing on Woodward’s block, led initially by the Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) and subsequently by the DTES Neighbourhood Council (DNC), until the depoliticization of the DNC in 2012.
  2. For her piece on Abbott & Cordova in 2009, Douglas remarked to Leigh Kamping-Carder that “nobody was upset about this project.” Kamping-Carder added that Westbank, the real-estate developer who commissioned the piece, was reportedly “thrilled” with the final work. Douglas responded to their enthusiasm in these terms: I was very surprised. I was actually waiting for someone to—I was kind of disappointed that nobody was upset about this project, about this idea. I thought I was being very subversive, and no one’s complaining. What the hell’s going on? Stan Douglas, quoted in Leigh Kamping-Carder, “At the Gastown Riot,” Walrus, July/August 2009,
  3. Television Spots and Monodramas are a series of video shorts that appeared in local television advertisement slots, depicting scenes of everyday urban life, set in late ’80s and early ’90s Vancouver.
  4. Stan Douglas, Stan Douglas: Abbott & Cordova, 7 August 1971 (Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp, 2011), 16.
  5. In The Adoration of the Magi, Bosch doubles spectatorship by placing onlookers into the landscape, employing an aesthetic device (the triptych) to produce minimal distance between the primary scene and the peripheral spectators. The work has rightly been invoked to describe Graham’s Leaping Hermit, in which another triptych is used to centre the protagonist (the leaping hermit) while foregrounding spectatorship (in this case a spectator is played by musician-performer Johnny de Courcy). In Douglas’s mural, the onlookers perform a similar role as spectators, but the device of separation (if not detachment) is the theatricality of the image as such.
  6. Jack Shadbolt quoted in Scott Watson, Jack Shadbolt (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1990), 32.
  7. Watson, Jack Shadbolt, 32.
  8. Nora M. Alter, “The Moving Still: Stan Douglas’s Abbott & Cordova, August 7, 1971,” in Stan Douglas: Abbott & Cordova, 60.
  9. Alain Badiou, Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil, trans. Peter Hallward (New York/London: Verso, 2001), 41. For more on “evental site,” see Alain Badiou, Being and Event, trans. Oliver Feltham (London: Continuum, 2005), 173–77.
  10. Serge Guilbaut, “Lightning from the Past: Police, Pot, Public, and Stan Douglas’s Abbott & Cordova,” in Stan Douglas: Abbott & Cordova, 27.
  11. Stan Douglas, “Stan Douglas and Helga Pakasaar, Sunday May 25, 2014,” interview at Presentation House Gallery, Vancouver, YouTube video, 53:58, posted by Presentation House Gallery, May 27, 2013,
  12. See Alain Badiou, Being and Event, trans. Oliver Feltham (London: Continuum, 2005).
  13. David Liss and Bonnie Rubenstein, “Still Revolution: Suspended in Time,” exhibition essay (Toronto: Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, 2009), 31,
  14. Alain Badiou, Rhapsody for Theatre, trans. Bruno Bosteels and Martin Puchner (London: Verso, 2013), 35–36.
  15. See Andrew Longhurst, “Astheticization and Consumption in Advanced Capitalism: The Woodward’s Development as a Landscape of Class Power,” Trail Six: An Undergraduate Journal of Geography, no. 6 (2012).
  16. Helen Potrebenko, Taxi! (Vancouver: New Star Books, 1975), 10.
  17. Ibid., 78.
  18. Ibid., 26.
  19. Helen Potrebenko, Sometimes They Sang (Vancouver: Press Gang, 1986), 28.
  20. See Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Gregory Elliott (London: Verso, 2005).
  21. Jeff Derksen, “Interface,” in Writing Class: The Kootenay School of Writing Anthology, ed. Andrew Klobucar and Michael Barnholden (Vancouver: New Star Books, 1999), 204. Originally published in Dwell (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1993).
  22. See Jeff Derksen, “How High Is the City, How Deep Is Our Love,” Fillip, no. 12 (Fall 2010) and also Jeff Derksen, After Euphoria (Zurich: JRP|Ringier; Dijon: Les presses du réel, 2013).
  23. See Graeme Truelove, Svend Robinson: A Life in Politics (Vancouver: New Star Books, 2013).
  24. Bruce Yorke, “The Tenant Movement in BC from 1968 to 1978,” Mainlander, November 9, 2012,
  25. Paul Tennant, “The Formation of the New Organizations, 1969–1971,” in Aboriginal Peoples and Politics: The Indian Land Question in British Columbia, 1849–1989 (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1990), 151–64. The 1969 White Paper was officially called the “Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian Policy” and proposed to eliminate Indian status at the federal level. For a brief contextualization of the period from a contemporary perspective, see Glen Coulthard, “#IdleNoMore in Historical Context,” in The Winter We Danced: Voices from the Past, the Future, and the Idle No More Movement, ed. Kino-nda-niimi Collective (Winnipeg: ARP Books, 2014), 32–36.
  26. “Summer of Love: How They Changed the World,” Vancouver Sun, August 14, 2007.
  27. “Militant Mothers of Raymur,” Viaduct (blog), June 25, 2008,
  28. In 1978, for example, an important political sequence was initiated surrounding the Muckamuck Restaurant dispute, in which feminist, trade union, and First Nations working-class activists sustained a three-year strike and picket action at the site of their former employer. Janet Mary Nicol, “‘Unions Aren’t Native’: The Muckamuck Restaurant Labour Dispute Vancouver, B.C. (1978–1983),” Labour/Le Travail, no. 40 (Fall 1997), 235–51. For a foundational anthology on intersectionality, see Patricia Hill Collins and Margaret L. Andersen, eds., Race, Class, & Gender: An Anthology (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2004).
  29. Leah Modigliani, “The Vancouver Occupations of 1971,” C Magazine, Autumn 2012, 14.
  30. See Luis Jacob, Golden Streams: Artists’ Collaboration and Exchange in the 1970s (Mississauga: Blackwood Gallery, 2002).
  31. Marina Roy, “Corporeal Returns: Feminism and Phenomenology in Vancouver Video and Performance 1968–1983,” Canadian Art, Summer 2001. Sara Diamond’s analysis of the matter is also relevant: The lessons of the Roosevelt era in the U.S., which saw the absorption of the radical movements of the 1930s through meagre but widely accessible state funding, were not lost on the Trudeau government, itself a product of populism and the mass media. Sara Diamond, “Dating Documents: The Practical Aesthetics of Early Vancouver Video,” in Vancouver Anthology: The Institutional Politics of Art, ed. Stan Douglas (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1991), 63.
  32. Alexander Alberro, “An Interview with Stan Douglas,” in Stan Douglas: Abbott & Cordova, 17–18.
  33. For at least a decade, geographers have discredited the theory of social mix. For an exemplary text, see Loretta Lees, “Gentrification and Social Mixing: Towards an Inclusive Urban Renaissance?” Urban Studies 45, no. 12 (2008), 2449–470.
  34. Stan Douglas, interview by Am Johal, “My Work Reflects These Dark Times We Live In,” Inter Press Service News Agency, November 1, 2007,
  35. Michael Turner, “Gastown Follies,” Bartleby Review, November 2013, 3.
  36. Sianne Ngai and Nancy Shaw, “Site/Stake/Struggle: Stan Douglas’s Win, Place or Show,” in Double Vision: Stan Douglas and Douglas Gordon, exhibition catalogue (New York: Dia Centre for the Arts, 2000), 13–31.
  37. The Marsh Plan was a postwar redevelopment scheme for Strathcona headed by city planner Leonard Marsh, following the Marsh Report published in 1950. Rhodri Windsor-Liscombe, “A Study in Modern(ist) Urbanism: Planning Vancouver, 1945–1965,” Urban History 38, no. 1 (2011), 124–49.
  38. Stan Douglas, quoted in Lynne Cooke, introduction to Double Vision, 9.
About the Author

Nathan Crompton is a writer based in Vancouver. He is an editor of The Mainlander, an organizer with the Vancouver Renters’ Union, and is currently completing his PhD in French history at Simon Fraser University. He has contributed art criticism to October and the Bartleby Review.

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