Two new exhibitions at McIntosh Gallery are aiming to challenge and break down social and economic structures in an original response to urban culture.
The Vancouver Carts: Photographs by Kelly Wood and Below the Belt: Film/Video from the Great Lakes Region curated by Christine Negus opened on Nov. 3 and will be available to explore until Dec. 10.
While each exhibit uses different mediums, they both speak to industrialization in a surprisingly optimistic and realistic light.
The Vancouver Carts is a photo series taken by Kelly Wood to explore an active economic structure, hidden from the more upper-class urban landscape. The exhibition consists of exactly what it says — shopping carts. But these carts are featured outside of their grocery store environment, instead inhabiting downtown streets, sidewalks and storefronts.
“I began photographing Vancouver's 'cart culture' in 2004 and 2005,” Wood explains. “Documenting the urban phenomena of repurposed shopping carts by the homeless and enterprising binners.”
She defines 'cart culture' as the multifaceted uses for shopping carts amongst those living on the streets — carts become a livelihood and a means for transportation of goods.
Wood uses the term “binners” to describe street workers who collect recyclables using shopping carts. As her photography series grew, Wood found and shot over 100 carts to “produce a photography series emblematic of the conjoined realities of homelessness and ongoing gentrification in [her] home city Vancouver, a Canadian city with one of the highest housing costs in the world."
The photos now hanging in the McIntosh Gallery hold images that scream for recognition and acknowledgement of issues of poverty and ownership, the divisions of wealth and material culture.
The symbol of the shopping cart, as Wood explains, communicates a revival of otherwise deteriorated urban communities.
Walking amongst the large-scale images is an eye opening, raw experience of an ordinarily ignored aspect of urban culture.
Negus’s neighbouring exhibit Below the Belt is a curated collection of short films by nine contemporary artists who have lived in or are currently living in the Great Lakes region, known as The New Rust Belt due to the area’s link to declining industry and aging factories in southern Ontario.
“In the face of decay, works in this screening re-contextualize industrialization,” says Negus. “In terms of approaching this curatorial project, I wanted to look at industrialization not simply as a ‘before and after’ scenario but to view it through the eyes of people making work in the region.”
The video curation presents an eccentric variety of film that challenges the viewer to take a moment and reflect on loss and destruction, the broken and the abandoned.
Negus admits that while the piece stems from a devastating topic, the works range from satirical critiques to intimate perspectives of “the cyclical nature of the process of growth and death.”
The compilation of the film is both subtle and unsettling, thought provoking and demonstrative of the variety of work being produced “below the (rust) belt” despite its industrious decline.
The pairing of both Vancouver Carts and Below the Belt is a unique look at suburban life presented through unexpected subject matter. The exhibitions will be displayed at the McIntosh Gallery until Dec. 3, open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.