№ 5

Van City Blues

Vancouver images by Roy Arden

CBC Arts Online

I’ve long admired artist Roy Arden’s work. Many years after we met, he gen­er­ous­ly passed along a dig­i­tal file of Type­writer, Van­cou­ver, 1981–85, which became the home page to this site. The text below is the intro­duc­tion to a pho­to essay that may be found in full at CBC.ca.

For more than 25 years, Roy Arden’s pho­tographs of Van­cou­ver have act­ed as a look­ing glass and a cri­tique: of a city being swept up in tran­si­tion, torn apart and trans­formed; of a region often obliv­i­ous to its dark­er, frac­tious bits of his­to­ry; and of the prac­tice of con­tem­po­rary art itself. The Van­cou­verite has been called a scav­enger-archivist, co-opt­ing his­tor­i­cal and inter­net-gen­er­at­ed images of every­thing from Depres­sion-era civ­il strife to car engines. As an eagle-eyed observ­er of urban dis­re­pair, sub­ur­ban sprawl and con­sumer fan­cy, he’s dis­sect­ed Van­cou­ver in ways that find uni­ver­sal mean­ing in minute local detail.

Roy Arden, the Van­cou­ver Art Gallery’s huge new sur­vey, reaf­firms his role at the cen­tre of this city’s wide­ly admired pho­to-based scene, the so-called Van­cou­ver School of pho­to-con­cep­tu­al­ism. It is Arden’s first major Cana­di­an ret­ro­spec­tive and it occu­pies the museum’s entire third floor, with 120 images drawn from the ear­ly 1980s to the present, plus exam­ples of his video art. Arden is also curat­ing a com­pan­ion exhib­it. The open­ing week­end last month fea­tured a pho­to­graph­ic-art sum­mit, includ­ing a pan­el with Arden him­self and two of his old­er peers, Jeff Wall and Ian Wallace.