Developed under the aegis of a four-year artist residency embedded in a neighbourhood context and supported by the City of Vancouver this body of participatory artistic works investigates the architectures of the neighbourhood, both physical and social. Using the neighbourhood (and specifically A neighbourhood on the northeastern edge of the City of Vancouver - Burrardview) as both site and material this body of work sets out to question power relations between artistic and community institutions in the context of artistically driven “community engagement,” to reconsider what constitutes a “community institution,” and to uncover the web of relations that moves the notion of neighbourhood from that of a site to that of a community.
Realized as three discrete projects enacted over the course of 2015 - 18 each aspect of this body of work approached these questions from a different standpoint.
WNDW (2015 - 17) an itinerant artist-run gallery that inhabited residential windows, took up an institutional position aiming to bring contemporary art out of self-selecting “high-culture” ares of a city and into the quotidian life of the residential street, navigating the strategies of care needed to support the meeting points of community and contemporary art.
ODD JOBS (2016 - 18) took a critical, embedded and relational approach, offering free labour to neighbourhood residents for caretaking and maintenance in the Burrardview neighbourhood. Referencing the history of use of the fieldhouses, the physical site of the artist residency, as homes for parks caretakers, the project is both an homage to George, a parks caretaker and the former resident of the studio in Burrardview, and a parallel investigation into maintenance labour as a catalyst for community engagement - asking the question: which labourers, and what types of labour, are considered to have the potential for “engaging” a community?
A capstone, Corner Store (2018), functioned to combine separate threads of investigation into one project. A multi-site installation, the project directly interrogated notions of social practice and community engagement in contemporary art. Jointly hosted at Access Gallery and The McGill Grocery, an important community institution in the Burrardview neighbourhood, the project saw each site adopt the function of the other, in an attempt to create a reciprocal exchange between artistic and community institutions, disrupting the oft-unidirectional flow of “engagement”
Ultimately the body of work that makes up Neighbourhoods as Networks of Care has multiple sites of impact on multiple scales.
At a neighbourhood level the projects that comprise this body of work provided residents with both new ways to experience the physical site they live in, but also (and more importantly) provided them with methods to articulate the ephemeral aspects of what matters to them about the site they know best.
At an institutional level from an arts perspective, these works illustrate the potential that reciprocal engagement with community-developed structures, institutions in their own right, holds - that artistic institutions “engaging” in community have as much, if not more, to learn from their community counterparts, that visa versa.
And finally, at a municipal or governmental level there is opportunity to demonstrate strategies for, and the value of, creating space to support open-ended artistic interventions in the city scape.
ODD JOBS (2016 - 2018). Maintenance Request
WNDW Gallery (2015 - 17). Christian Vistan + Jasmin Baetz @ 943 E 10th Ave. The Cactus Packing Project
Corner Store (2018). Installation at Access Gallery.
Corner Store (2018). Installation at The McGill Grocery.
ODD JOBS (2016 - 2018). Maintenance Request
Lexie Owen (b 1982, Canada) is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice explores notions of the collective, structures of support and networks of care. Using artistic, curatorial and textual methods her projects seek to create space for intimacies in unexpected ways, investigate the material conditions that surround collective acts, and find unconventional expressions of agency within the gestures and social forms that make up everyday life.
Past and current projects have explored the complexities of self care in times of crisis, the shopping mall as a site of social gathering, the nail salon as a site for feminist community care, queer architectures of belonging, fermentation processes as a map for artistic practice, maintenance labour as a catalyst for community engagement, neighbourhood-developed economic infrastructures and embodied archives of knowledge.