MOV Set to Launch A Provocative Photo Exhibition on Vancouver Activism

Thousands of people fill the Vancouver Art Gallery lawn as part of Occupy Vancouver, a global movement to protest corporate greed, chronic unemployment and government inaction, 2011. JASON PAYNE/PNG

Vancouver has a long history of public protest by ordinary citizens, as recently evidenced by an anti-racism demonstration, which promoted love and tolerance, at City Hall last month.

The Museum of Vancouver (MOV) has collected photo imagery and multimedia material in a stunning showcasing of a rich trajectory of activism in the city from the early 1900s to the present. It certainly will be a provocative and engaging visit.

From September 28, 2017 to Feburary 28, 2018, City on Edge: A Century of Vancouver Activism at the MOV (1100 Chestnut Street) will invite visitors to consider the city’s and Vancouverites’ active engagement with perceived injustices in social, economic, political, labour, and cultural contexts.

Thousands of striking Vancouver municipal workers march from Science World to Vancouver City Hall. The municipal strike lasted eighty-eight days, 2007. JASON PAYNE/The Province

The exhibition is based on an upcoming book, City on Edge: A Rebellious Century of Vancouver Protests, Riots, and Strikes, by Kate Bird, a retired librarian with the Pacific Newspaper Group. Bird co-curated the exhibition, along with Amir Ofek and Viviane Gosselin, Director of Collections & Exhibitions.

Visitors will be immersed in 650 photographs sourced from the rich archives of the Vancouver Sun and The Province newspapers. They show an array of powerful scenes from a hundred years of grassroots demonstrating, rioting, striking, and protesting. They include the 1907 anti-Asian race riot, the Komagata Maru incident of 1914, the shore workers’ strike at the Battle of Ballantyne Pier in 1935, the Daily Province strike in 1946, anti-logging protests at Claquot Sound in 1993, and recent Kinder Morgan demonstrations.

Striking students at Port Hammond public school in Haney in the 1930s, with one sign declaring “we want a descent school.” STAN WILLIAMS/Vancouver Sun

The impact of the photographs will be heightened by short films, large digital projections, and audio recordings of rallies that locate the visitor in the thick of intense protest.

While many of the issues protested were and are controversial, they all signal the power and willingness of Vancouver citizens to come together in community and speak out for change. Some of them, like the anti-Asian race riot and the Komagata Maru incident, are part of a shameful history of distrust of Others. Many other protests led to outcomes that Vancouverites now take for granted in terms of various rights and freedoms enjoyed. The array of local and global causes in the images and films is vast, including Indigenous rights, the environment, urban development, and government legislation. Rioting surrounding sporting events and concerts is also a part of the wide ranging exhibition.

Several hundred people walk along the waterfront in the Downtown Eastside to protest the inaction by police in trying to locate more than 20 missing women, 1999. STEVE BOSCH/Vancouver Sun

The aim of this exhibition is to connect these various disconnected incidents in an arc of events that attests to the power and resilience of social democracy at work. The curators of City on Edge want visitors to be energized by the transformation of public sites into spaces for community, dialogue, vocal expression, and mobilization in the name of change. How have these protests affected their lives? What are their own connections to some of these issues and grassroots initiatives, both on a local and global scale?

A woman protests at a memorial service to honour the several hundred pro- democracy student protesters killed at Tiananmen Square, 1989. PETER BATTISTONI/Vancouver Sun

The MOV is also hosting a talk called Archiving Activism on November 30, 2017 at 7pm. Kate Bird and a panel of experts will discuss the recording, preserving, and archiving of primary material related to activism.

Further info about this exciting exhibition can be found on-line.

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