Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

New Gallery in North Vancouver

Dec 3, 2017

I've just been down getting my first look at the Polygon Gallery which opened on the waterfront in North Vancouver a couple of weeks ago. The inaugural show inside this gorgeous space is called N. Vancouver and features a collection of photographs, installations and artifacts reflecting the North Vancouver experience.

My favourite piece in the show, because I've recently become interested in the history of squatting, is a large photo by Stan Douglas, "Lazy Bay," recreating the famous community of squatters at Cates Park. Famous because one of its residents was the English novelist Malcolm Lowry. The other residents were mainly fishermen and labourers looking for cheap digs. The authorities bulldozed and burned most of the ramshackle dwellings in the 1950s. That's right; Douglas has managed to make a photograph of something that no longer exists.

Anyway, if I had to summarize the main theme of the Polygon show it would be Lost Eden. So many of the photos show natural landscapes bespoiled by industrial structures of one kind or another. Which is one way of thinking about North Vancouver's history. It is a community which identifies strongly with the natural environment, yet has a legacy of over-exploitation and destruction when it comes to the watersheds and the waterfront. This conflicted history is part of what I saw in the exhibit, which continues until the end of April.