Okanagan Art

Urban Okanagan

I recently spent two summers in East Germany. I fell in love with the place, partly because of the very public nature of its politics, and how it is conducted through nightly street art battles. The days in East German cities are the record of artistic performances that took place while people sleep. I’ll spare you the neo-Nazi and Anarchist fist fights. Here’s a little bit of fun from Weimar:

Post-Human Language of the Street, Weimar

In a world of mass-produced images, it’s rarely possible to escape their influence. One way is to notice how they recombine, and to work with that.

And how does all this play out in the Okanagan? Pretty strangely, really. At the moment, there’s an exhibit of two young artists at the Vernon Art Gallery’s Up Front space: Benny Hannya and Cody Moyor’s “While You Were Sleeping”. It’s playing through March 22. These guys have sprayed the space with aerosol paints, and present it as street art, but look at the irony:

Vernon Art Gallery

What do you call it when the street art is inside and the merchandizing is the inspiration, and on the street? Curious, huh.

So, with Leipzig in mind, where young artists are very interest in mass-produced images and what might be needed to navigate them and transform them into new human space, I booted around Vernon for a few minutes. Look what else I found:

Tattoo and Pizza

Both of these stores are abandoned, yet something of their spirit remains. Note the pizza colours and the really cool lines the sun is tattooing on the steps.

Compare that to the lead image at Tourism Vernon, eh:

 My thoughts exactly. Source.

I think the tattoo thing is a winner. Re-imagining the valley as a series of tattoos? Get the young people involved? Why not. Beats this:

Smokers’ Hell

As the former East German playwright Stefan Schütz told me, anti-smoking campaigns are a plot to strip the last pleasures from the proletariat, which is another word for those people who can’t afford $30 bottles of Merlot. Smoking might be unhealthy, but, sheesh, where’s the dignity in this? 

You see how the manufactured world automatically falls into place as art? Pretty intriguing. Those of us involved in the arts (including all of us winemakers) should take note: it’s, like, everywhere. No wonder people turn to this:


Joan Miro had nothing over the guy who installed this. I think the little splash of yellow in the left hand corner is a stroke of genius.

So, if everyone’s an artist, manipulating manufactured items in the same way that the graffiti artists of Weimar manipulate ready-made stencils, what’s left to the artists? This?


Well, maybe, except that darned gas guy beat us to it again. He should get an exhibition in the Vernon Art  Gallery as soon as Benny and Cody move out.

OK, so maybe the answer isn’t a scream of resistance. Maybe it’s about getting to the source of power? Sounds good. Let’s see…

 Power on Ice

The diplomatic route?

If you wonder what that’s all about, take a look at the expanded view below:

Diplomatically Dodging Power?

Heck, that can’t be the way. Let’s face it, it’s everywhere. As they point out in Leipzig, when art is everywhere, art is obsolete:

 Where Art is Now: in the alley.

Now, it’s all intriguing, isn’t it. Here we are, a biological and a social species, that lives in social worlds, and when we go to school, to the University of British Columbia, say, to study the world, plants and weird stuff like that, we are presented with art, like this:

Humanizing the Environment …

…by concealing industrial equipment behind shrink-wrapped plastic photographs?

Wait, there’s a closer view:

 Nature and Power…


 There’s a word for this approach: oops.

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