Many Vancouverites look back at the 2011 Stanley Cup riot with shame. As the chaotic evening of June 15 unfolded, countless images of jubilant vandalism and even romance spread across the internet.
You could have chalked up the bedlam to decades of disappointed fandom. Vancouver-based artist Stan Douglas saw a larger theme.
His acclaimed exhibition 2011 ≠ 1848, which premiered at the Venice Biennale, features four large-scale photographs depicting political unrest in 2011 and the lasting legacy of those movements. These images are all in Douglas’s signature style of meticulously re-staged scenes meant to condense several ideas into one still.
One of the photos recreates the crowd of Canucks fans – in the absence of a Game 7 win against the Boston Bruins – celebrating the blaze of a burning vehicle outside the Canada Post building on Georgia Street.
The other images chronicle the start of the Arab Spring in Tunis on Jan. 12 with sit-ins and protests along Avenue Habib Bourguiba; clashes between youth and police in London on Aug. 9; and the arrest of Occupy Wall Street protesters on Brooklyn Bridge in New York on Oct. 1.
The exhibit will make its Canadian premiere at North Vancouver’s The Polygon Gallery, Sept. 9 to Nov. 6, before touring across the country to destinations that include the Remai Modern and National Gallery of Canada.
In addition to the still images, a video installation by Douglas called ISDN shows a fictionalized collaboration between rappers in London’s grime and Cairo’s mahraganat music scenes.
“ISDN presents grime and mahraganat as the soundtrack to the 2011 revolts, highlighting the nature of how information spreads in today’s era of social media and 24-hour news cycles,” according to a statement. “This is in contrast with the revolutions of 1848, a series of social and political upheavals across Europe that spread through print media.”
Polygon director Reid Shier said 2011 ≠ 1848 is a meditation on the similarities and differences of those two years.
“The revolutions of 1848 have been called the Springtime of Nations, though it would be decades after the events of that year before Europe would see significant political change,” he said.
“Comparatively, it’s far from certain how the activism, riots, and occupations that erupted across the globe in 2011 might become manifest in years to come.”
For the project’s unveiling in Venice, Douglas’s photographs were shown in the Canada Pavilion in the Giardini, and ISDN was located at Magazzini del Sale, a 16th-century salt warehouse.
The Polygon exhibition will also feature a fifth photograph, “London, 2011-08-09 (Mare Street)”, a companion to Douglas’s Pembury Estate image depicting the London riots in Hackney.
The show’s opening party is on Thursday, Sept. 8, at 7 p.m. An artist talk with Douglas and other programming is set to be announced in early September.