Urgent Imagination: Art and Urban Development

Part 1 (Multi-site exhibition): September 12 — October 31, 2015
Part 2 (Conference): October 2-3, 2015

Urgent Imagination is a two-part project that proposes creative alternatives to Vancouver’s current mode of developer-driven architecture and urban planning.

Urgent Imagination: Part I is a multi-site public art exhibition that will take place on the exterior of the Western Front building and surrounding areas throughout September-October 2015. The works, produced by five artists, collectives and architects, respond to the invitation to create artworks and proposals for a multi-acre site in Mount Pleasant that will inevitably be developed, one block from the Western Front. Participating artists include Assemble (London), Nils Norman (London), Other Sights for Artists’ Projects (Vancouver), Urban Subjects (Vancouver/Vienna), and Holly Ward (Vancouver).

Urgent Imagination: Part II is a two-day conference that will be held at the Western Front on October 2-3, 2015 that will address these proposals in a broader discursive environment to examine how art and creative thinking can influence issues of urban planning and spatial justice. Free and open to the public, the conference will critically engage issues such as: the limits of terms like “creative class” and “community consultation”; the potential for art to be an agitator or mediator, rather than a contributor to gentrification processes; and issues around scale, scalability, urban density and affordability.






7:00pm // Welcome and Introduction

7:30pm // Artist Talks by Urban Subjects and Assemble

8:30-9:00pm // To Build a Better City: Selected Films about Art and Urban Development

To Build a Better City (City of Vancouver/CMHC/National Film Board, 1964)
People’s passion, lifestyle beautiful wine, gigantic glass towers, all surrounded by water (Neïl Beloufa, 2011)
Backup (Kate Craig and Margaret Dragu, 1978)
Inflatables Illustrated (Ant Farm, 1971-2003)
TROLL or The Voluntary Ruin (Andreas Angelidakis, 2011)
Kitchen Table Talk 4: Art and the Power to Change Community (Eugenia Butler, 1993)
I Am An Artist (Les Levine, 1975)



10:00-11:30am // Politics and Urban Spaces

Am Johal (Director, SFU Vancity Office of Community Engagement)
Seema Jethalal (Managing Director, Daniels Spectrum in Toronto)
Bob Williams (Former Vancouver City Councillor)
Mike Lombardi (Vancouver School Board Trustee)
Caitlin Jones (Executive Director, Western Front)

12:00-1:00pm // Artist Talks by Holly Ward and Other Sights for Artists’ Projects

1:00pm // “How to Remember” // A reading by Meredith Quartermain from her collection of short stories, I, Bartleby (2015)

Lunch Break

2:00-3:30pm // Communities, Culture and Consultation

Annabel Vaughan (Principal, publicLAB RESEARCH + DESIGN)
Geraldine Dening (Architect and Senior Lecturer, Leicester School of Architecture)
Brian McBay (Director, 221A)

3:30-4:30pm // Open Panel // Moderated by Jeff Derksen


Artist Biographies

Assemble are a collective based in London who work across the fields of art, architecture and design. They began working together in 2010 and are comprised of 18 members. Assemble’s working practice seeks to address the typical disconnection between the public and the process by which places are made. Assemble champion a working practice that is interdependent and collaborative, seeking to actively involve the public as both participant and collaborator in the on-going realization of the work. They were recently nominated for the 2015 Turner Prize.  More info

Nils Norman is an artist living in London. His projects
 challenge notions of the function of public art, and the efficacy of mainstream urban planning and large-scale regeneration. He has completed major public art projects, including a pedestrian bridge, small playgrounds and a landscaping project for the City of Roskilde, Denmark. He has participated in various biennials worldwide and has developed commissions for Sculpture Center, Long Island City, NY; London Underground, UK; Tate Modern, UK; Loughborough University, UK; Creative Time, NYC and the Centre d’ Art Contemporain, Geneva, Switzerland. He is a Professor at the the Royal Danish Academy of Art and Design, Copenhagen, Denmark, where he leads the School of Walls and Space.  More info

Other Sights for Artists’ Projects is a collective of individuals with expertise in curation, project management, presentation, delivery and promotion of temporary art projects in public spaces. Based in Vancouver, Other Sights is dedicated to challenging perceptions, encouraging discourse and promoting individual perspectives about shared social spaces.  More info

Urban Subjects is a cultural research collective formed in 2004 by Sabine Bitter, Jeff Derksen, and Helmut Weber based in Vancouver and Vienna. Together they develop interdisciplinary artistic projects focusing on global-urban issues, the texture of cities, and civic imaginations. In 2014 they curated the exhibition The Militant Image – Picturing What Is Already Going On with Camera Austria, Graz. Currently they are working on the publication, The Militant Image Readerforthcoming in Fall 2015 by Edition Camera Austria. As part of their ongoing research on the urban affects of Olympics and Expos, Where the World Was: Cities After Global Mega-events, in July 2015 they held a research residency at the EXPO in Milano, Italy.  More info

Holly Ward is a Vancouver-based interdisciplinary artist. Her work in sculpture, installation, architecture and drawing examines representations of social progress and the utopian imaginary. She received her BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (1999) and her MFA from the University of Guelph (2006). Recent projects include Persistence of Vision, a solo exhibition at Artspeak andNews of the Whole World, a commission by the City of Vancouver Heritage Foundation, which could be seen on the Hamilton street side of the CBC building in downtown Vancouver from Feb 2011 to Feb 2012. For her 2009-2010 Langara College Artist in Residence project in Vancouver, Ward constructed The Pavilion, a 22’ diameter geodesic dome to act as catalyst for a series of exhibitions, readings, workshops and experimental performances. Ward is represented by Republic Gallery, Vancouver.  More info


Co-presented by SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement, 221A, and Emily Carr University of Art & Design, with the generous financial support of Arts Council England, the Koerner Foundation, the the British Columbia Arts Council.