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Generation Wretch.

Public art as misplaced cultural appeasement.

By Elliot J. Nitkin

began this blog after the “Golden Tree” was installed. 

I decided to update it as a rather - what’s the right word here - “controversial?” piece of art in the form of a chandelier was hung from the Granville Street Bridge.

I believe in the value of art as the expression of a cultural identity.  I believe it shows who we are to the world and that we are free people, with free minds.

Enter the “Golden Tree” into our consciousness.

If you have had the occasion to drive by the north east corner of Cambie and South West Marine, you will see the "Golden Tree".  It spans a length of space from the street to the low heavens just above the train tracks and is a replica of a famous Stanley Park tree, presented in gold.

Art comes in many forms, constitutes a form of conversaton and is not for anyone to decide whose definition or interpretation is correct.

That said, this piece is, you will excuse me for saying so, gaudy.

The sculptor is Douglas Coupland, the author of “Generation X: Tales of an Accelerated Culture”.  He is celebrated for his writing and his art. His sculptures adorn, among other places, the Terry Fox Memorial at B.C. Place and the Jack Poole Plaza at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre (the Digital Orca).

That is a considerable artistic pedigree. 

What statement is Mr. Coupland and those who commissioned it trying to make with this piece, that Vancouverites are hollow of spirit?  Are we an ostentatious group more concerned with a vacuous outward appearance, than inward soul?

At least the tax payers did not have to pay for it.  In fact, that is the real problem.

Enter into the cultural fray our now “beloved” chandelier, which exceeds in vacuous superficiality.


Its presence has caused backlash because of the disparity between rich and poor and because of a housing crisis that detracts considerably from the quality of life for many of Vancouver’s citizens.

I believe that these installations were motivated by money and by attracting those buying expensive real estate.

Due to immigration (which is a national ethic I APPLAUD) and the entrance of wealthy members of a country renowned for its repression and unique sense of privilege among it’s elite, many of those driving the real estate are of a vastly different culture.

This is a statement of fact, not judgment.

Mitigating this fact is a documented influx of corrupt money being washed through our real estate market.

This too is a statement of fact, not judgment.

Let me be clear, I welcome and wish to learn from different cultures.

Public art in a multi-cultural society must represent a cultural balance, a cultural commonality between people.   ALL cultures have something to teach us about better understanding our humanity.

But all cultures can also succumb to the celebration of one of humanities most ignoble frailties:  greed.

Canadians entertain myriad opinions and try to find common ground as part of our ethos.

These two pieces strongly suggest the pursuit of the favours of a single demographic consumed with boasting of their incredible wealth, just to sell them real estate.

Worse yet, it is the pandering to moneyed interests disguised as an expansion of our cultural aesthetic. 

Bob Rennie, in an article for the Vancouver Courier, stated:

Vancouver must protect its monuments and cultural properties.  Doug is a cultural property himself and now he’s protecting a cultural property forever.”

Mr. Rennie’s taste and contribution to the Vancouver art scene is unassailable.  But this is a public piece and should be commented on by all who wish to offer an opinion.

The greatest value in art is that it IS a conversation: a conversation between artist and viewer that is held in the cerebral platform of our imagination.

Art can be anything to us that we wish.

Because we are free to determine its meaning, it is one of the few personal experiences about which we cannot possibly be wrong.

However, as a consequence of these financial arrangements, Vancouverites are being ruled by an unelectable, defacto government entity, subject to no one.

They utilize their wealth as a power over the free will and cultural expression of the citizenry.  They then justify their attempt to control our free choice and cultural expression by presenting it as a benevolent favour.

They are assuming the air of someone with the right to grant near, royal ascent.

A plutocracy at its worst.  Noblesse oblige with a kind face.

We have the right to consultation.  Technology allows for consultation, with ease.

The power is ours to take.