Venews

8EAST

author
Clara Dubber
photography
Patricio Cartas
illustration
Jules Francisco

Where Selectors’ Records was located in Chinatown, there is now an art-space inspired by its predecessor. It’s 8EAST, a joint project between the Unit/Pitt Society for Art and Critical Awareness and the New Orchestra Workshop (NOW) Society. The two organizations aim to create “a social space for culture,” according to Kay Higgins, U/P’s Executive Director. Managed by Higgins and Lisa Cay Miller, an avant-garde composer and NOW’s Artistic Director, 8EAST technically opened in July. But this fall, it will fully come into its own when it launches a retail component and begins hosting more events.

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Witch Gong Game II/10 (1994) Barry Guy graphic score, commissioned by the NOW Society || Photography by Patricio Cartas for Discorder Magazine

U/P was founded in 1975 and NOW Society in 1977, and while 8EAST is a way of returning to their respective roots, the organizations are approaching this venture with independent motivations. Higgins explains that for U/P, 8EAST represents a combination of their present and past by celebrating its move away from traditional gallery shows, and also celebrating their activist spirit of the 1980s. For NOW, 8EAST is a return to having a designated space for improvisational new music. Miller sees it as a place to exercise “the daily practice, which for [NOW] involves being present and listening.”

1_Venews_JulesFrancisco_forDiscorder_August2018Though 8EAST resists the title of “artist-run centre,” it is inspired by the energy of artists who founded the first official ARCs in the 1970s. These centres provided space for interactions that did not necessarily have a purpose beyond experimentation and cultivating culture. While influenced by ARCs, Miller maintains that “it’s valuable for 8EAST to not [become] an organization.” She continues, “I want to have a […] continuous discussion about how things are working. […] We can do that without being an organization, almost easier.”

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Illustration by Jules Francisco for Discorder Magazine

So, how exactly can you interact with the space? NOW will be hosting new music events, as well as a listening station where people may experience recordings. There will also be a small shop for merchandise created by artists working with NOW and U/P as an homage to Selectors’ Records. As Higgins suggests, the shop atmosphere is “an entry point that’s not intimidating.”

One of the first large projects at 8EAST will be a community meeting series meant to develop concrete plans for how artists’ organizations like U/P and NOW can best use their resources and capacities to resist the effects of displacement and inequality. This includes acknowledging their own complicity. Higgins considers it a step towards fulfilling an obligation “to use whatever organizational resources we have in a way that does not do harm, and hopefully counteracts some of the harm already done to our surrounding community.” Miller believes that their artistic communities will recognize that they “have a responsibility wider than just [themselves].”

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Photography by Patricio Cartas for Discorder Magazine

U/P and NOW are choosing to participate in complex discussions that are being had by organizations across Vancouver that are waking up to their culpability. As Higgins explains, “[artists] have been using poor neighbourhoods for cover and […] been giving very little back.” She continues, “Though artists are seen as a mid-stage of gentrification, [they’re] victimized by it as well.” In this, Higgins sees commonality between the precarity of artist centres and the precarity of sensitive neighbourhoods. 8EAST is meant to act as a gathering space for artists to learn how to engage in these conversations with compassion and accountability. Higgins acknowledges, “There’s so much to […] engage with and [we’re] coming to it fairly ill-equipped.” As a starting point, 8EAST plans to offer their space to activist organizations and community organizers as an attempt to minimize the violence of their presence.

Through 8EAST, U/P and NOW hope that their communities will come together in art and dialogue, and mark a new era of artist-run centre.

 

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8EAST is located at the corner of East Pender and Carrall Street, and on the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. Visit 8east.ca for upcoming programming.

Rickshaw Theatre

author
Kat Kott
photography
Sara Baar
illustration
Marita Michaelis

Attending a show at the Rickshaw Theatre is a very unique experience. Right from the entrance, the venue feels comfortable. The staff out front seem happy to be where they are. The ground facing the stage is angled down very slightly, so that those who are in front are lowest, and those in the back of the audience area are higher. There are spiral staircases leading from the carpeted main lobby to the washrooms, and there are movie theatre seats just behind the main standing area. Most unique of all, with regards to the Rickshaw, are the meticulous yet genre-defying lineups.

Rickshaw Theatre || Photography by Sara Baar for Discorder Magazine
Rickshaw Theatre || Photography by Sara Baar for Discorder Magazine

I spoke with Mo Tarmohamed, owner of the Rickshaw, about the venue and the experience that the place aims to provide. He had previously been an accountant, but decided to change careers for something a bit more close to his interests. The previous owner had converted the Rickshaw into a music venue and, upon Mo’s asking around about buying a music venue, offered up the theatre to purchase.

Rickshaw Theatre || Photography by Sara Baar for Discorder Magazine
Rickshaw Theatre || Photography by Sara Baar for Discorder Magazine
Rickshaw Theatre || Illustration by Marita Michaelis for Discorder Magazine
Rickshaw Theatre || Illustration by Marita Michaelis for Discorder Magazine

“I am always looking for new music.” Mo said, when asked about the shows he enjoyed going to, “ I never got particularly stuck in one era.” This ideology can be seen in the shows hosted at the Rickshaw. Bands range from hardcore punk and death metal to indie singer-songwriters and shoegaze artists. “I just wanted to diversify as much as possible. I wanted to make sure one night you could have Sharon Van Etten, the next night, Mayhem.” Whoever’s set to play, you can be sure that Mo supports them.

Rickshaw Theatre || Photography by Sara Baar for Discorder Magazine
Rickshaw Theatre || Photography by Sara Baar for Discorder Magazine

Most features of the Rickshaw can be attributed to two things: firstly, it was started as a kung-fu movie theater in 1971, and in 2009, was renovated into a live music venue. The staircase, the marquee out front these are all relics of the time the Rickshaw was a theater. Second, the space is meant to be fully focused on the performance. Aspects such as the friendly bouncers and staff, the minimalistic bar, and the slanted standing area (a relic from when the ground was covered in theatre seats), all have the simple goal of keeping the audience’s attention on what’s happening on the stage. “Everything’s pointed towards the stage.” Mo says that he wants all aspects of interacting with the space, from bouncers to coat check to bartenders, focused on the performer and act accordingly. “Our bartenders will dim their lights during the show. Even they don’t become a distraction to what’s going on.”

Rickshaw Theatre || Illustration by Marita Michaelis for Discorder Magazine
Rickshaw Theatre || Illustration by Marita Michaelis for Discorder Magazine
Rickshaw Theatre || Photography by Sara Baar for Discorder Magazine
Rickshaw Theatre || Photography by Sara Baar for Discorder Magazine

“I was approached by someone who wanted to put a photo booth in the main room,” Mo recalls, “and I was really resistant to the idea. I don’t want distractions. The main distraction should be what’s on stage.” Such focus from a venue to the stage is rare. Mo runs a tight ship in regards to the Rickshaw it’s clear that there’s little wiggle room for anything that doesn’t elevate the audience experience. This focus is often noticed by performers, especially by those unaccustomed to much attention at all. “I’ve had local artists tell me that just being on the stage and getting the lighting treatment and the great sound upped their game a little bit … it feels like a stepping stone.”

Rickshaw Theatre || Photography by Sara Baar for Discorder Magazine
Rickshaw Theatre || Photography by Sara Baar for Discorder Magazine

Located just east of Main and Hastings, attendees and performers alike walk through the stigmatized neighbourhood of the Downtown Eastside to get to the venue, and Mo is well aware of this. He is sympathetic to patron’s potential unease, but finds that the unease wanes with each show attended: “I can understand being uncomfortable initially coming to this area, but once [concert-goers] have been to the venue once or twice, that level of uncomfort simply dissipates.” On behalf of the Rickshaw’s role within the immediate community, Mo said, “The level of stigma is slowly evaporating and I think the Rickshaw is partially responsible for getting people out to this area. I think collectively, we need to do something about this area, but it’s not a scary area.”

Rickshaw Theatre || Illustration by Marita Michaelis for Discorder Magazine
Rickshaw Theatre || Illustration by Marita Michaelis for Discorder Magazine
Rickshaw Theatre || Illustration by Marita Michaelis for Discorder Magazine
Rickshaw Theatre || Illustration by Marita Michaelis for Discorder Magazine

All in all, the Rickshaw is both a music lover and musician’s greatest dream. The Rickshaw is a physical embodiment of devotion to the experience of musicians, dancers, artists, and audience alike. There are no guarantees on what type of performance will be happening on any given night, but you can be sure the night will be authentic.

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Visit rickshawtheatre.com for upcoming Rickshaw Theatre listings.