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.
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.