Features

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On a clear summer day, Vancouver residents flock to their favourite park like animals to an oasis, laying out blanket, and nervously plucking at blades of grass. Traditional Indigenous sites, colonial clearcuts, the result of an over-zealous urban planning committee, an impromptu lunch spot, or anything in-between, Vancouver’s parks run the gamut of the good, the bad, and the ugly. We decided to ask some local musicians about the parks closest to their hearts the results are a hazy collection of industrial backwash, natural serenity, fuzzy feelings, and slow afternoons.

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Kitsilano Beach Park

“One summer I got a flat tire biking down Yew Street. There was a cold spicy chicken burger from Wendy’s in my backpack, which I ate on a bench near the ocean. One person in a wetsuit swam really far, displaying a stamina I could not comprehend. It was a pretty good afternoon.”

– Lauren Nelson, Fuzzy P

Harbour Green Park

“I like it here the most because Coal Harbour is both empty and familiar at the same time. It’s futuristic. It’s great.”

– Dorothy Neufeld, Swim Team

Crab Park

“I moved to Vancouver from Montreal in 2010, and having been a fan of Japandroids, I was determined to find out where they were photographed for their No Singles cover art. Soon after moving here, I started dating someone who wanted to show me around the city; he brought me to Crab Park one summer evening to watch the fireworks, and as we stood on the pier, the mystery solved itself I was standing right where their album cover was shot. It was a magical, starstruck moment, and everything has been downhill since then.”

– Jeff Cancade, Devours

W.C. Shelley Park

“W.C. Shelley Park is overall kind of gross, but has perks. If you’re trying to get rid of old furniture or electronics, Shelley Park is your zone. Also a hotspot for cigarette smokers, so if you’re into cigarettes you may bump into some like-minded folk who frequent one of the three benches in the park.”

– Franco Rossino, Dumb

New Brighton Park

“Ever wanna get lost in nature, but not so lost that you forget about global shipping vessels? Then I’ve got the place for you: it’s peaceful, it’s strange, it’s grassy and industrialized, it’s a miracle of the paradoxical modern world and there’s a damn outdoor swimming pool right next to a beach. It’s New Brighton, and I’ve never seen a cop there.”

– Allie Lynch, Supermoon

Tea Swamp Park

“There certainly is a place for everyone at Tea Swamp Park. After nightfall, expect the unexpected the uncanny wisdom of anonymous drunken monologuing or perhaps the surely uncomfortable public displays of sexual affection splayed out upon the parks pointedly placed benches, decorative boulders, or on very special summer nights, the tenderness of Mother Earth’s grassy boudoir.”

– Nik Barkman, Bored Décor

Memorial West Park

“For 2 years I lived in Dunbar and I used to go that park a lot. One day me and my roommates hung out there for hours and by the end of the day we became best friends.”

– Omar Prazhari, Mutual

Crab Park

“It’s a good place to jump into the water and build an immunity to filth.”

– April-Lee Johnson, Passive

Trout Lake

“Trout Lake is my favourite park because you can walk around and look at all the dogs, and have a huge party with all your friends. If you sleep in your car there it feels like you are camping, but you can still go to Bon’s in the morning.”

– Phoenix Robson, Skunt

Stanley Park

“Stanley Park is the main attraction, for me it’s all in the colours that mix of green and blue skies, browns and sunshine just gets me all the time! It’s perfect for a bike ride, a little shade picnic and just a long walk to take it all in.”

– Missy D, Missy D / Laydy Jams

Prince Edward Park

“In the summer of 2013 Felix and I would hang out in the wee hours of the night at Prince Edward Park, after work. Sometimes the daycare there would leave their bucket of sidewalk chalk we found it and used the chalk to write about how sad we were. Eventually we would write a song about the park, too.”

– Victoria, Dad Thighs

Sunset Beach Park

“Sean and I don’t have a dog but we really like them, so we often walk down to the dog friendly beach at Sunset Beach Park and watch the doggos play like a couple of creepers. We never pet the dogs because we feel like it would draw attention to the fact we don’t have a dog. We are always the only people without a pup.”

– Amie Gislason, Little Sprout

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Gabi Dao

An Ear For An Eye: Gabi Dao's Sonic Space

When we listen, where are we, and where is the sound? What does it mean to listen to others and have an experience of a space that has no physical location? These are questions asked by Gabi Dao, media artist-in-residence at the Western Front, an artist-run centre known for its new media cross-platform and multimedia exhibitions, residencies and workshops.

When I meet Dao, the artist is articulate and energetic despite having spent the morning toiling over grant applications. Dao chuckles that the process has prepared her well for answering questions about her practice.

Dao’s installations make use of both visual and sculptural elements, as well as sonic and interactive ones. “I’m interested in sound, and how it exists ontologically.” Dao describes her practice as one that is responsive, in active dialogue with a given context. “No matter how psychedelic and affective and deep from your intuition [ideas] come from, I feel like they are always responding to what happens in real life.”

Dao’s artistic preoccupation with space and location has long roots. As a second-generation Chinese-Vietnamese immigrant, both of her parents were affected by displacement following conflict throughout the ‘70s. Dao herself has the experience of growing up at the intersection between the traditional culture imparted by her upbringing, and her day-to-day experience absorbing and creating culture in contemporary Vancouver.

Gabi Dao || Photography by Duncan Cairns-Brenner for Discorder Magazine
Gabi Dao || Photography by Duncan Cairns-Brenner for Discorder Magazine

She moves through her practice with a keen awareness of how identity and culture is constructed and tied to place in the sense both of current location, as well as more abstract spaces, removed in time and distance, whose effects are nevertheless potent in individual consciousness. “My practice looks at these conditions, these forces, that shape values families, governments, cultures and how layered they are, and how they intersect […] Identity is this really contingent thing, hinged on external factors. As well, what are the forces that make culture and determine what it is, which determine what culture is good and what culture is bad? Different experiences, especially aesthetic ones, are so controlled and mediated by the social landscape that humankind has created for itself.”

Gabi Dao || Illustration by Kalena Mackiewicz for Discorder Magazine
Gabi Dao || Illustration by Kalena Mackiewicz for Discorder Magazine
Gabi Dao || Photography by Duncan Cairns-Brenner for Discorder Magazine
Gabi Dao || Photography by Duncan Cairns-Brenner for Discorder Magazine

The Western Front is a weathered wood-slat heritage building which stands in humble contrast to the modern condo housing on the opposite corner. We enter the Grand Luxe Concert Hall, the setting of Dao’s Slow Wave, a festival that has featured unconventionally intimate performances by Yu Su and Scott Gailey, Soledad Muñoz (alongside Samira, Prado and Nvrsne) as well as a sound workshop hosted by Tom Whalen (Tommy Tone).

Unlocking a door I had never noticed before, she leads into a narrow corridor stuffed with audio equipment and old cassettes the Front’s archive and then on to two smaller rooms, both equipped with rippled modular wall-mounts: sound dampers. This is the recording booth and audio-editing suite where Dao spends much of her time granted 24-hour access as a condition of the residency  at work on the production of a podcast series Here Nor There which is in dialogue with the concert series.

Gabi Dao || Photography by Duncan Cairns-Brenner for Discorder Magazine
Gabi Dao || Photography by Duncan Cairns-Brenner for Discorder Magazine

I ask Dao what her partnership with the Western Front and New Media Curator Allison Collins, has lent her in terms of resources. On top of the equipment for recording and editing, as well as curatorial input, Dao exclaims, “The camaraderie! The staff are all so generous and knowledgeable, it’s like a family restaurant here. I’m constantly humbled. And I’m not expected to produce anything, necessarily. I can use this time to just workshop, think and talk to people I wouldn’t get to talk to. It’s a lot about feeling supported.”

Dao describes her intentions for the podcast as producing a forum “to discuss what’s happening in the community through what people are doing, their relationships with what they’re making, and with the city.”

Gabi Dao || Photography by Duncan Cairns-Brenner for Discorder Magazine
Gabi Dao || Photography by Duncan Cairns-Brenner for Discorder Magazine

During and now after her time at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Dao has been involved in the studio-cum-gallery spaces Avenue and DUPLEX. As such, she has witnessed and dealt firsthand with the difficulties that weigh on creative individuals in metropolitan centres, especially emerging artists. Finding and maintaining cultural spaces means facing the constant menace of rising housing costs, development and rezoning, dilapidated infrastructure and personal burnout. “It’s a dire time,” Dao observes, “and it always will be.”

However, Dao has faith in the capacity of artistic practices and objects, stating what is needed is “a place for visibility. For me, that means that [the art] can now elicit a conversation […] We as artists, as artistic labourers, need to go into the world and exchange and dialogue and have real effects, make something happen in a direct or indirect way.”

Gabi Dao || Illustration by Kalena Mackiewicz for Discorder Magazine
Gabi Dao || Illustration by Kalena Mackiewicz for Discorder Magazine
Gabi Dao || Photography by Duncan Cairns-Brenner for Discorder Magazine
Gabi Dao || Photography by Duncan Cairns-Brenner for Discorder Magazine

Through podcasting, Dao hopes to create a space not for just for visibility, but audibility. “Dialogue and discussion have this great capacity, and listening is so hinged on community. You’re always listening to someone else. Sound is this social architecture, this structure for congregation. It literally builds something it’s so present, but it’s in the air at the same time, totally ephemeral.”

“It’s hard here,” Dao states, “and I just realized that we just need a place to talk. I’m asking what the role of a voice is, what it means to talk and give space to voices, and what it means to listen. Space is a resource! And that is something that I have hoped to extend to others through my residency.”

 

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Gabi Dao is artist-in-residence at the Western Front for Spring and Summer 2017. Her residency will conclude with a public exhibition this Fall. More information at front.bc.ca/events/gabi-dao.