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The great artist's take on Vancouver's Hogan's Alley is a masterpiece
It’s sort of insane that Stan Douglas isn’t more of a household name in his native Vancouver. Sure, everyone involved in the art world knows and loves him, but he’s never crossed over to the general cultural canon the way Emily Carr or even Doug Coupland have, notwithstanding that if you went into most serious art galleries in New York or London or Paris or Sao Paolo, Douglas’ would be the only name they’d likely recognize. In January it was announced that Douglas would represent Canada at the 2021 Venice Biennale (that’s the art equivalent of winning an Oscar), but it remains to be seen what the 2021 Biennale will even look like. But throughout it all I suspect Douglas has zero interest in joining the “general culture canon”, but it does help with helping get your message out.
Take his groundbreaking Circa 1948 piece, a collaboration with the National Film Board of Canada where Douglas uses technology circa 2013 to recreate Vancouver’s long-bulldozed Hogan’s Alley neighbourhood. It was a piece that the international press couldn’t get enough of (here’s a fawning review from The Guardian at the time) but in Vancouver it, for the most part, remained the purview of the fine art crowd and that’s just crazy. The piece is stunning on many levels: its technology was cutting edge (and a change of departure from the photoconceptualism that had been Douglas’ bread and butter) and it’s a small miracle that it doesn’t seem dated (technology wise) today; it’s immersive in a way that draws in even the most jaded observers; and it’s wildly ambitious. Here’s a video form the influential Art21 project that talks about Douglas’ process and you download the actual Circa 1948 experience here.
It’s been an (overdue) week of reexamination for many people, so here’s one that’s ripe for anotherlonglook.