Vancouver Coastal ...
... a nomad’s guide to the floating world
Commissioned by the City of Vancouver’s Cultural Services Public Art Program and working with the theme of "Coastal City", Vancouver Coastal: a nomad’s guide to the floating world is the title of a text-and-image based work meant for installation at transit shelters. There is a certain fictional quality to the term "coastal city", metaphorically on the verge of the imaginary, the otherworldly, the historic and the futuristic. From a distance, the work mines the history of travel books from the early 19th century Baedekers to more recent and popular guides such as Lonely Planet and Frommers. While these guidebooks are meant as references for the worldly globetrotter, they nonetheless fulfill the desires of armchair vacationers and urban travellers alike. Upon closer inspection, one notes that the poster is a composite of two images. The smaller of the two images is an excerpt from a larger print, an ocean wave pattern from a woodblock print by Japanese ukiyo-e master Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) from a series of prints depicting shipwrecks. "Ukiyo" is a Japanese term meaning "the floating world", a reference to the pleasure-seeking urban lifestyles of Edo-period Japan (1600-1867). The larger image is a photograph of Vancouver's False Creek shoreline with objects introduced into the image. One might ask: what is an ikat fabric, a piece of imari-inspired china and a silvered cruciform-topped cruet stopper doing on the shoreline? And what could it all mean?
Vancouver Coastal: a nomad’s guide to the floating world is a work that references contemporary and historic nomadic life. Recent events involving travel, global weather patterns and natural occurrences in the Far East and our own West Coast shores have shown evidence of unexpected material and climactic exchange resulting in an archaeological array of accidental artefacts washing up on all shorelines along the Pacific. After all, cultural exchange is not limited to capitalistic trade. These artefacts are accidental travellers, nomadic ephemera that unwittingly influence our cultural landscape and a testimony to the independent life of objects. As the primordial ocean is the birthplace of life, the coastline is the threshold of humanity, our culture and our civilization. As the knowledge of our culture expands through the exchange of ideas, the history of trade can partly be told through the history of our coastline. From anecdotes predating the Galleon Trade1 to our present-day container cargo ships, our waterways and oceans tell the story of cultural exchange, some through trade while others through natural happenstance. Vancouver Coastal: a nomad’s guide to the floating world is both laden with truth and a work of fiction made possible through subjective and speculative storytelling. It epitomises how our coastline embodies our cultural makeup and experiences, and is a catalyst in triggering memories and starting conversations. Regardless of whether these stories are truth, fiction or somewhere in between, they nonetheless allow us to share our experiences without judgement.
Paul de Guzman, May 2016
1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manila_galleon. The Galleon Trade, also referred to as the Manila Galleons, is used to refer to the trade route between Manila and Acapulco from 1565 to 1815. The Manila Galleons were also known as “La Nao de la China” or “The China Ship” since it carried mostly Chinese goods shipped from Manila.