|The Vancouver and Vienna based artists, Sabine Bitter and Helmut Weber, present We Declare: Spaces of Housing, a project with and through Gallery Gachet that addresses the sites and institutions where decisions and declarations regarding housing are made (ranging from local communities, to the provincial capital, and up to the United Nations).
The situation-specific project brings these spaces of symbolic and real power into the gallery through large-scale photo-based images mounted on the walls.
By collapsing the scale of these spaces and bringing them into a new relation, We Declare points to the difference between what Henri Lefebvre called the representation of space and the spaces of representation.
If space is produced by social interactions, the installation We Declare creates visible alliances between the collectively organized community space at the Gallery Gachet, the context of the neigbourhood, and the desire to push the coherencies of artistic and political practices.
A beginning point of this exhibition is the crisis in access to housing that Vancouver is facing at this moment (as well as the coming crisis that the Olympics will bring), but the question of the potential of a socially attuned artistic practice in a city that is both cultured and globalized is also a beginning point. Yet, We Declare aims to approach these issues and
potentials by understanding that the situation of Vancouver is specific in the way that this crisis has developed and grown as well as part of a global urban tendency that continually pushes property rights over the right to stable housing.
Since the Olympics were awarded to Vancouver, the already overheated real-estate market and gentrification of the inner city has resulted in the conversion of 1,300 SRO rooms to other uses. With more than 10,000 British Columbians homeless, and 56 homeless deaths in the province in the past two years, the exhibition and programming intends to interject in the debate as a cultural project.
The particular impact of another hallmark event on the inner-city after the example of Expo 86, where over 1,000 low-income residents were displaced, is reflective of a particular civic amnesia endemic to the social psyche of Vancouvers political orientation, but also in line with urban revitalization projects in urban centers globally.
Vancouver Flying University
The talks and discussions that are part of the exhibition try to bring local actors and differential knowledges in dialogue with people who work against gentrification and the breaking of the right to housing and the right to the city in other places and other spheres. The exhibition is a platform, a mixing machine, and a declaration that begins with the notion of art practices as an imperfect yet necessary form of public research in a time when the spaces and ideas of what and where the public might be are under pressure.
As part of this trajectory of art as an activity with a social sensibility and use, We Declare therefore launches the platform Vancouver Flying University initiated by independent journalist Am Johal in collaboration with writer Jeff Derksen and Urban Subjects (US).