Heather and Ivan Morison
site-specific installation at Vancouver Art Gallery Offsite
October 2, 2010 to May 30, 2011
Photo: Rachel Topham, Vancouver Art Gallery
Heather and Ivan Morison
Drawings for Offsite proposal (2010)
Vancouver Art Gallery Offsite
is located on West Georgia Street
between Thurlow and Bute streets,
Offsite is the Vancouver Art Gallery’s outdoor exhibition space in the heart of urban Vancouver that offers a rotating program of innovative public art projects. Launched in July 2009 with the photo-based work of O Zhang and followed in January 2010 with a sculptural installation by Ken Lum, Offsite: Heather and Ivan Morison is the third project in the series.
Heather and Ivan Morison explore architecture as it relates to ideas of escape, shelter and refuge. A site-specific project designed for Offsite, Plaza hovers between sculpture and architecture. Rising nearly three stories high, the walls of the pavilion lean outwards towards the street as if they have been torqued in all directions by an extraordinary force. The interior platform is raised above the water, propped up by crossing diagonal supports, and the roof is open to the sky. The walls are made of heavy timber beams, burnt to a dark charcoal using a Japanese technique for preserving and protecting wood from the elements called shou-sugi-ban. Visitors can enter the space, and in so doing, they become part of the artwork.
Plaza mimics the most prosaic form of the urban built environment—the gridded box—and forcefully twists it by a mere 8-degree shift, enough for its walls to seem on the verge of collapse. The warping is, however, halted at a precise point, suspending the structure in a play of distortions and perceived imbalances, where it appears to be carefully held in balance between falling and flight, weight and levity, solidity and transparency. Plaza evokes a pivotal moment of architectural and societal transformation and metaphorically suggests that the mechanisms which underpin the modern city are far more fragile than we imagine. Its burnt surface and collapsing form infer a cautionary tale for the future, as well as an invocation to transform the modern city.
Similar to other large scale projects by Heather and Ivan Morison, the construction of the work was part of a broad community-based effort. The work was made using salvaged wood collected from beaches, development sites and construction yards throughout Vancouver and milled on site. Individuals and local businesses generously donated materials and labour, including lumber, hardware, propane, architectural and engineering expertise. The coordination and construction of the piece was led by the Great Northern Way Scene Shop, a not-for-profit shop affiliated with the University of British Columbia. Members of the construction team included carpenters, artists, labourers, as well as Bladerunners, a job training program for at-risk youth in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. Numerous volunteers from the community generously offered their time and energy milling and burning countless feet of timber.
Heather and Ivan Morison work collaboratively and make art as an active engagement with materials, histories, sites and processes. Over the years, their practice has incorporated activities as diverse as gardening, kite flying, sky writing and science fiction. The Morisons have made site-specific projects internationally including the establishment of an arboretum in a remote village in Wales.
Heather and Ivan Morison are based in Brighton, UK and Arthog, North West Wales. Their work has been exhibited widely in the UK and abroad, including Tate Britain, the Barbican and the 52nd Venice Biennale. Their new book Falling Into Place, a fictionalized account of their large shelter works of the past few years, was published by Bookwooks in late 2009. The artists are represented in Canada by Clint Roenisch Gallery, Toronto.
Offsite is organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery and funded by the City of Vancouver through the Public Art Program. The Gallery recognizes Ian Gillespie, President, Westbank; Ben Yeung, President, Peterson Investment Group; and the residents at Shangri-La for their support of this space.
Offsite: Heather and Ivan Morison is curated by Kathleen Ritter, Associate Curator. The project is made possible by in-kind donations from ParkLane Homes, Superior Propane, Taiga Building Products and Elia Kirby Productions.