Save the Red Gate

I’m mid-way through a piece for Vancouver Review on the topic of public art. As a result, I wouldn’t normally write and post anything on the topic because it might end up stealing from work to-be-published. But, with apologies to my kind and forbearing editors at VR, I’m going to make an exception here because we have an unusual and troubling art situation going down here in Vancouver: the City has threatened to shut down the Red Gate.

If you’re not familiar with it, the Red Gate is a non-profit space at 152 West Hastings Street opposite the Woodwards redevelopment. Run by Jim Carrico, it’s a kind of pure creative space (he calls it a Cultural Wildlife Refuge) where musicians and artists (street artists and others) hang out, create, and showcase their work. About three weeks ago the City gave Carrico 30 days to vacate. After a flood of protest, the City granted a 60 day extension. But the axe still hangs meaning the time has arrived for people to make themselves heard on the topic of why this closure should not happen and why Vancouverites should really care about the preservation of the Red Gate and institutions like it.

What’s driving this situation is development in the Downtown Eastside (DTES). As most Vancouverites know, the 100 block of West Hastings Street has already transformed with the completion of the new Woodward’s complex. And speaking as a 15 year tenant of the Dominion Building, at the corner of Hastings and Cambie half a block from the Red Gate, I feel qualified advancing the opinion that the Woodward’s development was sorely needed. 100 block West Hastings was never the worst block in the DTES, but when I moved my office into the area it was getting steadily worse. I saw crack use and drug sales almost every day, all the way up Hastings and into Victory Square. I remember bringing my kid to the office one weekend and having to jump in and stop him from picking up a hypodermic needle lying next to the cenotaph.

Having said that improvement was needed, it’s important to note that DTES “gentrification” was never the plan. I wrote an article last year about Army&Navy owner Jacqui Cohen and interviewed numerous prominent people about development of the DTES. Every one of them - including Larry Beezley, Jim Green, Bob Rennie and Cohen herself - stressed that "gentrification" was not the right approach. For the downtown, these powerful people seemed to agree, the "mixed use" model was better.

Why did they express this view? Because while "mixed use" plans try to preserve what's best about a neighborhood through diversity, “gentrification” is what happens when you do development wrong. It means allowing lower income groups and artists to be displaced and, in the process, chasing out the established culture of a given area.

And make no mistake: there has been a distinct DTES culture. It’s about affordability, certainly. But it’s also about the sheer presence in numbers of artists, gallerists, filmmakers, writers, publishers, theater troupes, as well as a whole range of independent business people in technology, architecture, the law. What I’m describing is the kind of neighborhood on which every city vitally depends, those urban zones and spaces where small-scale creativity is expected, celebrated, and where it can thrive.

The Red Gate has been a critical part of that scene in the DTES and should be part of the neighborhood's continued "mixed use". I can give a personal example. I wrote a book recently, a novel called The Blue Light Project. Why? In large part due to the inspiration I found myself drawing from the DTES flourishing ecology of street art. I wasn’t a street artist. I was a total outsider. But I started my investigation at the Red Gate, where Jim Carrico arranged for me to meet the legendary Vancouver graff writer and street art historian Take5. Take was my window in, and through various introductions that followed, my own creative process was informed and stimulated. When I follow the causal chain, in other words, it goes back from my finished book through all of the people I met, through Take5 and the Red Gate, to the DTES itself.

And it seems to me that’s exactly how creativity is supposed to work in these most crucial urban zones. People are supposed to be positively infected by what’s going on around them, to be forced into an intellectual and aesthetic jostling together. Because it’s in those cultural mosh pits – at times anarchic, sure, but generating hugely productive creative energies – that new ideas are born.

New ideas. We want those. So we don’t want to stomp all over the places where they are cultivated. And that’s why people who care about this city, like those named above, may support mixed use development of the DTES, but not “gentrification” where you drive everybody out who isn't a upmarket condo owner. That’s why, I’d reason, Gregor Robertson has reportedly said that he wants the Red Gate to stay open. Because people who care about the city recognize that gentrification is not just unfair, it kills a particular kind of urban creativity. And to do that would kill something essential to the entire city.

Let’s not let that happen. I encourage anyone who reads this post and agrees to write a letter of support to It's not going to be easy. First thing Jim needs is an agreement from the building's owner regarding long term occupancy, without which the building won't qualify for the City's Cultural Infrastructure Grant. But if enough noise is made, perhaps the pressure can be constructively applied in this case.

Timothy Taylor


Posted: Wednesday, Jul. 6, 2011 7:04pm

Blue Light Project Street Art - Part II

Is a fictional character from my novel The Blue Light Project coming to life? A mystery is growing here.

I've just published a new novel about a street artist, the semi-fictional Rabbit. The book's been getting amazing reviews. Banksy even tweeted about it recently. Not bad. In the book there are multiple photos of street art. Most of that work is by friends of mine, artists like JermIXCameramanRich SA01 and legendary graffiti writer and train artist Take 5.

The piece pictured above, however, is by an unknown artist. It is based on a work described in the novel. Note the "Rabbit" tag on the piece at the bottom left corner. This is the subject of minor controversy in Vancouver as - since the book has come out - that tag has been appearing all over the place. Most often, it's been going up near (or on) the work of Cameraman.

Like here, on one of Cameraman's "Bring Back the Spring" posters.

Cameraman has grown kind of impatient about this. He's teamed up with a documentary film crew who are running around interviewing everybody in the street art community in Vancouver.

And then this appeared in the alley behind the Monte Clark gallery:

That would be Cameraman. And yes, that would be a Rabbit trap. So things are apparently getting all serious. I just hope Rabbit - who is a character in a book, remember? - knows how to take care of himself in real life.

Please note that book is now available:

1) on
2) on
3) or as an EBOOK right here

Posted: Wednesday, Apr. 6, 2011 7:47am

Blue Light Project Street Art - Part I

I've just published a new novel about a street artist, the semi-fictional Rabbit. The book's been getting amazing reviews.

Then the other day Banksy tweeted about it. Nice!

But this series of posts isn't about the book. It's about the artists in my part of the world who inspired Rabbit and make him "semi-fictional". Artists whose work ended up in the book as photographs: JermIX, Cameraman, Rich S, A01 and legendary graffiti writer and train artist Take 5.

(There were others who didn't want to be named.)

Please note that book is now available:

1) on
2) on
3) or as an EBOOK right here

This first photo I'll highlight is a piece by Cameraman and Emma, Vancouver artists who work with photography and sound respectively. They collaborated to make this alarm clock. It lit up bright orange and started ringing at 9:00 PM one winter's night in the Strathcona neighborhood in Vancouver.

The sound came from dozens of dollar-store alarm clocks hidden in the weeds nearby. It sounded like a million crickets singing at once.

Wish you could have been there. People were running out of their houses and studios to stand in the street and watch.

People were talking to strangers.

People were smiling.

Unfortunately, since those little dollar-store alarm clocks aren't very smart, the clock rang again at 9:00 AM the next morning. Someone wasn't very happy about that and took a baseball bat to all those poor little clocks.

Still, it was a glorious thing while it lasted. It was one of the first pieces of street art I witnessed go up and "go off". It marked the beginning of something for me. An obsession.

Also, a novel, which I'd be honored if you checked out.

The Blue Light Project is available:

1) on
2) on
3) or as an EBOOK right here

Check in for Part II of this series. I'll be looking at a piece by the mysterious, elusive Rabbit.


Posted: Tuesday, Mar. 29, 2011 8:51am

As It Is: And/Or/Neither/Nor Work by Andrew (A01) Owen

Andrew (A01) Owen was a huge influence on me during the writing of The Blue Light Project. His street activity was high during the months I was writing and researching the book, primarily in the form of 1:1 scale "re-photo-cubic-surfaces". I became very intrigued by this practice and by this artist. Over the following years, I got to know him a little better, and began to realize that he had 20 years of intense production already behind him, dozens of interesting and beautiful works, not an eclectic gathering as a person might first mistakenly think, but bound thematically. I was able appreciate this more fully when he mounted a show at Marion Scott Gallery last year. I wrote a review of that show for Canadian Art, which I'm re-running below.

Check out more of Andrew's work at A01creative.


As It Is: And/Or/Neither/Nor  work by Andrew A01 Owen

Andrew Owen’s basic idea is elusive. But then, that’s exactly the core of Andrew Owen’s basic idea: that a great deal eludes us, perhaps nowhere more so than in the consumerized West. We live, Owen asserts – via an impressive range of work at his first solo show in Canada in almost 20 years – on the twilight side of a yawning subjectivity gap, a chasm of personal and cultural bias that separates us from the truth about… well, about anything.

Art objects are crucially affected in this analysis, of course, with both the subjectivity of the artist and that of the viewer contributing to a permanently flawed communication. How to conquer that? Owen asks, in effect. His answer to which is to get the artist as far as possible out of the way. And each work in this show represents a discrete attempt on Owen’s part to do so.

I say “elusive”, because the idea takes some teasing out. At first glance, the MSG show incorporates work so diverse in media and aesthetic tone – from floral impressions to fragmented photographic collages to re-purposed advertisement hoardings – that it would be easy enough to conclude that three or four artists were involved. But it’s all Owen, all tuned to the same conceptual key. And once this harmonization is sensed, the body of work transmutes satisfyingly from multifarious to singular.

The floral impressions are field compositions, positive stencils made by pressing layers of wild flowers to the canvas, and applying a different layer of paint over each. As bits of organic matter tend to remain stuck to these canvases, and paint also ghost in under the leaves, these works are naturally randomized. They’ve been exposed to the whims of wind and other conditions in the field. And so the flowers have been allowed, in effect, to speak for themselves.

The photo collages take a diametrically different approach to the same problem. Using a technique he describes as “photo-cubism”, Owen delivers a portrait – of flowers or groups of people – by rendering them in an intense flurry of different views. This is brought to its most expressive form in the large work Photo-cubic Stoop Punks: Portrait Tableau. That piece – depicting of a group of punk rockers assembled on a stoop in Toronto Kensington Market – is not a collage of objects, but of available perspectives. It’s a collage designed not to bridge the subjectivity gap, in other words, but to erect a sign that reads, roughly, mind the gap.




Posted: Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011 11:28am

Naturally Hazardous

Feminine beauty is, by virtue of having no definition, controversial. Hold up an image you find exemplary and expect to get everything from murmurs of approval to charges of sexism from virtually any random sampling of people. Beauty, it seems, will always be more of a question than it is an answer.

The photographers in the upcoming photo show at the Catalog Gallery in Vancouver - opening Friday November 5th - are aware of that reality and game to explore it. Called Natural Hazards, the show features the work of three of Vancouver's most exciting photographers. Jen Osborne, Byron Dauncey and Lincoln Clarkes.

Are beauty pageant contestants beautiful or exploited? What about women in tight dresses smoking menthols and tottering around in cheap stilettos on Granville Street late any given Saturday night? Or that Texan woman in shades holding a Kalashnikov in the baking desert sun: gorgeous or trashy?

The harder I look at these photographs, the more complicated the answer becomes, the more displaced beauty becomes from the subjective boundaries within which I might wish to corral it.

Is she beautiful? Maybe the better set of questions (with a nod to Terrence Mallick) would be: where did beauty come from? How did it steal into the world?

Posted: Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010 8:27am

Cinema Salon September 7th - Vancouver

 Cinema Salon

Timothy Taylor presents THE THIN RED LINE
Tuesday, september 7 at 7:30 pm
Once a month, Melanie Friesen invites a distinguished guest to present his/her favourite film. After the screening, audiences and guests have the opportunity to discuss the film over drinks and snacks in our spacious lounge.
Based on James Jones' novel of the same name, THE THIN RED LINE is set during the battle of Guadalcanal during World War II, in a battle between the Americans and the Japanese.
A courageous and unique take on the terror and chaos of war, the film stands apart by getting inside the minds of the soldiers, so the film's many internal monologues, heard in voice over, are more significant than the battle scenes. War is a series of private torments played out on a global scale, or as one character describes it as, "War don't ennoble men. It turns them into dogs. It poisons the soul."
Presenter: Timothy Taylor
Timothy Taylor is an award-winning novelist and journalist. He’s the author of the acclaimed and bestselling novels STANLEY PARK and STORY HOUSE. He’s also the BIG IDEAS COLUMNIST for the Globe and Mail Report on Business Magazine and a regular contributor to EnRoute, Walrus and Vancouver. His highly-anticipated third novel, THE BLUE LIGHT PROJECT is a taut political thriller about a three day hostage crisis. It will be published in the US and Canada in March 2011.
Cinema Salon tickets are available in advance:
• on-line at
• in person at the Vancouver International Film Centre during regular box office hours
Call the FILM INFO LINE: 604.683.FILM (3456) for the latest info and listings. Tickets can be purchased in advance on-line at or in person 30 minutes before showtime.
To see films at the Vancity Theatre, you must-with a few exceptions-be age 19 or older and be a member of our registered non-profit society. This is because we are allowed to screen films that have not been seen by Consumer Protection BC. By joining the society, you are entitled to attend the next Annual General Meeting. Valid for one year based on the date of purchase, the VIFC basic membership cost is $2.00.
For More Membership Information go to MEMBERSHPS
Vancity Theatre is located at 1181 Seymour St. (at Davie)
Posted: Thursday, Aug. 19, 2010 11:17am

V-TARP: The Vancouver Transit Adspace Reappropriation Project

So Banksy declares street art dead and apparently nobody was listening. JermIX certainly wasn't. Working with UK import Vegas - a stencil artist of remarkable skill - Jerm has launched what many consider his most aggressive campaign ever. VTARP, it's called. Vancouver Transit Adspace Reappropriation Project. Which sounds like a black line item in the DND budget. But which is actually a guerilla program involving dozens of artists who are putting up art on public transit vehicles in empty ad space.

That's right. The white space between McDonalds and VanCity ads is being filled with art. And Translink is greatly annoyed, although also a bit impressed judging from their very formal, though very cordial letter sent to the two organizing artists.

Posted: Thursday, Jun. 3, 2010 12:01pm

Rabbit Receiving his own Information

On a gig for Western Living Magazine, I toured the Willamette Valley recently. Lots of gems to discover there, like Whole Hog Wednesdays at the Dundee Bistro. And of course several hundred small, high-craft wineries that produce the amazing fruity, farmy pinot noirs of the region.

But I particularly enjoyed "meeting" the mascot of the Scott Paul Winery. He's a rabbit. And the painting of him, which Scott Paul used to inspire the rabbit on their label, is by Oregon artist Cody Bustamante. The painting is called "Rabbit Receiving his own Information", and it shows the animal with his head cocked to the sky, as if listening to a timely bit of advice.

The story behind the painting is a good one.

Posted: Monday, May. 31, 2010 10:58am

New Cameraman: The Coin of the Realm

Brilliant street artist Byron Cameraman hits "Granville Rise" again. What I love about this piece is it's power to demonstrate just how beautiful filthy lucre can appear. If we did not find it beautiful - that is, if we didn't exalt money aesthetically and otherwise - you could argue, "Granville Rise" itself would not exist.

Up close, the hugely magnified silver dollar reveals all its nicks and scratches, evidence of the thousands of hands and lives through which it has passed. An asset, a debt, a store of value. Emblem of plans well made or evidence of what is always is short supply. Pleasure and hardship. This is the coin of the realm indeed.

Posted outside the Equinox Gallery, which shows Fred Herzog's wonderful photography, Cameraman's new work is striking, rich and underappreciated. I love this work and the city is lucky to have it. I also acknowledge a huge debt to Camerman, who inspired many ideas in my writing of The Blue Light Project.

More pictures after the jump.

Posted: Tuesday, May. 25, 2010 9:07am

Ladies and Gentlemen: Kevin House

The title of Kevin House's new show - tonight, that is May 6, 2010 at the Red Gate Gallery at 156 West Hastings Street at Cambie - is telling. It's the grouping title, you could say, of a whole group of strange and wonderful pieces that House has done about Vancouver at some unspecified point in its just-pre-Modernity. What House has going on here are a number of developed back stories - of singers, performers, side show freaks and assorted other demi-tragedies of a more innocent era - that have been extruded through his imagination and into his latest (greatest, weirdest) form: the painted and miniaturely sculpted 78 record.

Posted: Thursday, May. 6, 2010 6:01am
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