Chasing the Clock & Stepping Back in Time

For this post, I thought it’d be interesting to contrast two places/experiences in the city I had recently. First is the artwork at the Canada Line terminus station downtown Vancouver. This is the same space I previously wrote about here where each panel had a list of first lines from songs that all begin with “Here comes…”

The art at this location tends to be time-related, which the current exhibit makes obvious.

IMG_0956IMG_0950IMG_0951IMG_0953I like the bright colours of the vortex clocks, but I don’t find this work as engaging or intriguing as “Here Comes.” Yes, we’re busy and frantic. Yes, we wish we had more time. Does this artwork invite us to stop in a busy area and breathe a little easier? Reflect on something hopeful? Or does it just reinforce the fact that we’re late, need to hurry, walk faster? The sameness of the panels, minus the colours, highlights the relentless regularity of our lives. The tone of the write-up takes a similar doom & gloom stance with descriptions that give all agency to the clock, in which humans are “trapped in its vice forever.” Is its triumph really inevitable? Are we slaves to time? What about all the times we stop people, look at the little girl eating an ice cream cone, listen to a busker belt out melodies; share a conversation with somebody in the grocery line-up?

IMG_0947From chasing the clock, we go to stepping back in time. I was on Broadway Street this morning, meeting friends for coffee & lunch and exploring some shops in that area. My friend suggested we go into a store called Stepback (neither of us had been before) and we were there for almost an hour, oohing and ahhing at its many vintage treasures.

Unfortunately their website doesn’t have any pictures, but you can get a sense of the kind of items they have from this short write-up that VanMag did with the owner two years ago, as well as this blog that has some awesome pictures.

I was especially thrilled as the wedding theme I’m going for is vintage, so I was surrounded by inspiration! The window display was decorated with dozens of old hardcover red books (homage to Valentine’s Day) and pewter dishes. The store contains a stack of suitcases from the 1940s, typewriters, Scrabble letters, eye exam & bicycle posters, plenty of hardcover classics & dictionaries, wooden block letters, old postcards, stamps, matches, wooden chairs, and more. This store may even rival my love for Urban Source!

I will be stepping back there again, taking all the time in the world.

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Here Comes the Revolution

As you’re making your way from Waterfront Station on Cordova Street to the underground platform for the Canada Line, a wall of poems meets your eyes. Like a list of flights at an airport, or arrival times of the SkyTrain line, these lists of ordinary and extraordinary things are paired with specific times in no apparent order. 6 minutes and 43 seconds until desire. 3 minutes and 4 seconds until the sun. 7 minutes and 48 seconds until the revolution. Alex will show up in 3 minutes and 22 seconds; Larry’s a little faster at 2:06. Is he the special boy in the line above?

There are so many arrangements and re-arrangements to be made from these simple, profound lines. They stop me every time. They make me think twice about the transit I am about to hop onto. Am I really waiting for the train or am I waiting for something else? What am I counting down? And is there panic or is there excitement? Do I want goodbye or do I want to squeeze out the night?

When I stopped to take photos, it was late evening. There were still enough people walking by that it was difficult to get the empty shot below. Since the font on the plaques is a very faint white, they’re difficult to read unless you stop. No one was looking at them until I got out my camera and started taking pictures. And then it seemed everyone walking by was looking. Was noticing.

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I remember walking downtown on Canada Day. My friend and I passed The Province building, looked up at it, and, at the same time, backed away in panic. The angle we were looking from made us convinced it was going to fall, like Chicken Little and the Sky. I’ve never been that tripped out by a building before. It was the weirdest optical illusion and we kept looking, wondering how can this be? I’m sure we looked strange with our necks cranked upward but then we started seeing other people walking by with their necks cranked up too. My friend and I looked at each other and smiled: we had started something.

(Here comes the revolution)

I recently did an interview with a contemporary painter who said art is about teaching people to see. To really see. To stand under or stand in front of something and let the work move you. After the SkyTrain and Province skyscraper experience, I’ve come to think maybe it’s not just artists who can teach people to see. Maybe there’s space for in-between people to draw a line of attention that connects eyes of see-ers to things waiting to be seen. By simply looking at something a little out of the ordinary and a little magical—and stopping for it, maybe regular people like you and me are more noticed than we think. Maybe we can direct eyes; teach people to see.

See differently, see past, see better, see through, see ourselves, see anew.