Walking Figures by Magdalena Abakanowica comes to English Bay

Magdenena Abrakanowicz's "Walking Figures"

Wikipedia regards Magdalena Abakanowica “… as being one of the most important and influential female artists of the 20th century.” Why they have to preface her description with “female” seems is a bit curious and insulting. Is John Cage described as one of the most influential male composers of the 20th century? I think not. If I could ever figure out the full functionality of Wikipedia it would be worth to try and edit this sentence.(put that one on the “to do list”.) Wikipedia

Anyways, I have always been a big fan of her work. While she is more known for her textile works of headless figures that are more bound to museum space than outdoor monumental works, the Walk Figures definitely are recognizable as her work.

Abakanowicz was trained in Poland and lived through both the Nazi occupation and the Soviet occupation of her country. Part of her artistic training was done while social realism was mandated by the Soviet state and was the only allowable form of artistic expression in Poland. One can only imagine the acts of subversion in art schools at this time. One would have two portfolios, one to be officially graded and one for yourself and to be shared with trusted friends. Think of all those poor art students in Soviet gulags that dared to be Egon Schiele knock offs. (OK maybe that was my art school. Everyone trying to be Egon Schiele, Max Beckman, Anselm Kiefer, Jasper Johns Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Beuys all at the same time). No joke though, Poland under the Soviets was a very oppressive and controlling society.

Her groups of figures have an unsettling sense of a critique of totalitarianism. Groups of headless duplicated figures assembled in a military parade speaks to a socially imposed conformity that is at once intriguing and then repelling at second thought.

What appealed to me about her work in art school was her use of serial casting. A method of creating one object and then creating a mold of that object and then casting multiple copies from different materials. Her early works used paper and textiles as the material of the casting. This method of working was a way of commenting on our own identities as consumer and our connection to the methods of production. Her work speaks to the real horror of conformity when we are all striving to be different.

“Walking figures” is installed in at Queen Elisabeth Park as part of the Vancouver International Sculpture Biennale as a temporary exhibition. At the September 22 Vancouver Park Board meeting commission will be asked to decide to move the sculpture to English Bay. Staff is recommending that the Board approve the instillation this sculpture as a temporary installation for a period of 18 months from Sept. 2009 – March 2011.
VPB staff report

Although I have some issue with Vancouver International Sculpture BiennaleBiennale website around the issue of the use of public land for promotion of art that will be sold at a private gallery, I am looking forward to this working being down in English Bay. I have only seen her work in books so it will be a real treat to experience “Walking Figures” in person.

Counsillor Anton’s motion to exempt Landlords from Taxes

At the September 22 City of Vancouver (CoV) Council meeting, Councillor Anton will attempt to move a motion to exempt Landlords from the Provincial governments planned harmonization of the provincial sales tax with Federal government’s Goods and Services Tax (GST).link to the actual motion The Motion speaks to the new Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), which is a Provincial initiative and how it adversely affect Landlords by increasing operating expense and cut into their profit margins.

The Provincial initiative is to harmonize the provincial sales tax with the GST. In effect what this “harmonization” means is that whatever goods and services the Federal GST is currently charged on, so too will be the new HST tax. To us poor consumers it means we are going to have pay more for things we buy. For example we will now have to pay HST on hydro. Think of what a burden this will be on lower income renters.

Another consequence of this new tax initiative is the Provincial government gives up its ability to target areas to tax and likewise exempt certain things from taxes to create incentives. For example bicycles have been exempt from the Provincial sales tax. Presumably the provincial government wants to encourage folks to live a healthy lifestyle and also wants to promote more sustainable transportation.

Marg Gordon and the BC Association of Apartment Building Owners.

As soon as the Hon. Colin Hansen announced the HST one of the first groups out of the gate to slag the tax was Marg Gordon, the Executive director of the British Columbia Apartment Owners and Managers Association (BCAOMA)(BCAOMA statement). Marg Gordon argued that Landlords should be exempt from the HST because their profit margins are already razor tight (hook story). Further, Marg Gordon argued that because rental increases are capped to 3.7% by the RTA, Landlords have no way to pass on the increased cost they would incur to tenants and therefore would have to absorb the cost. BCOMA statement on HSTprint

It is important to remember that the RTA regulates rental increase. The allowable rental increase is a formula of 2% of existing rents plus the Consumer Price Index (CPI). If they were any increase in operating cost to Landlords this would be capture in the CPI and rents would increase accordingly.

In addition to the mechanism that increases rents according to increase in the CPI, Landlords under the terms of the RTA have recourse to apply to the Resident Tenancy Branch (RTB) and request an increase in rents if they are able to submit creditable evidence that they should be granted an additional rental increase.(Section 43.3 of the RTA and Section 23.1 (b) in the regulations) Typically Landlord don’t like to go the RTB to apply for an additional rental increase on the grounds of extraordinary increase in operational expenses because they have to go before an arbitrator and open up the business books to public scrutiny.

The question is why should apartment building owners and Landlords be singled out for an exempt from the HST? Would not lower income folks being exempted from paying HST on Hydro have more merit in a progressive tax system?

Why is Councilor Anton moving a motion at CoV Council on an issue that is clearly a Provincial jurisdiction? Will any of the other nine councilors second the motion or will it die on the docket?

Unite Here Local 40 Rally September 11, 2009

Unite Here Local 40 Rally Friday September 11


On Friday September 11th Unite Here Local 40 held a rally to support workers of the Coast Plaza Hotel who are in negotiations for a new contract. The sticking point in the negotiations is the issue of the workers’ “transfer rights” to move their contract to a new hotel in Coal Harbour from the West End Coast Plaza Hotel which will close.

The hotel workers represent a rich diversity of Canadian society and are mostly women. There was a vast array of different languages and accents spoken at this rally. The negotiations are important for these workers as 150 of them could lose their jobs if they don’t get transfer rights. The jobs at the hotel represent “living wage” jobs that are mostly held by women.

The rally had an amazing vibe and good energy. The organizers of the rally did a wonderful job of leading chants and empowering everyone. The best chant was: ” Whose got the power? We got the power. What kind of power? Union power.” This got stuck in my head over the whole weekend (my wife can attest to that). I shot a lot of video needs to be edited and will post so you can get this chant stuck in your head.

Here are more images of the event. Congrats to Unite Here Local 40 on organizing such an amazing rally and standing up and giving voice to all these workers.

images of the rally

Tenants of Golden Crown Hotel speak about illegal evictions

DERA speaks out about illegal evictions at Golden Crown Hotel

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Tenants of Golden Crown being illegally evicted

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Brent Granby in the news

I was quoted in an article in Xtra West by Shauna Lewis in regard to the Seafield tenants attempts to create a housing Co-op.


Seafield renters say it’s back to arbitration
HOUSING / Renter-landlord talks about converting rental complex into co-op fail
full Xtra West article

For more info on the issue please view a recent article from the WERA website about Vancouver’s need for a Housing Authority with a mandate to create housing affordability
WERA article

Opening day of Canada Line

opening day can line

more photos

A lot of bad blood has been spilled over the Canada Line. I know as I was at the COPE meetings in the bad old days when the “Friend’s of Larry Campbell” were exiting the party. Raymond Louie was routinely hackled each time he showed his face at a meeting for casting his a vote in favour of the Canada Line, back in the days when elected officials were on the Translink Board.

Given all the past controversy over the Canada Line, the mood of the opening day was festive. I stood in line with my daughters yesterday for about 2 hours to ride the new line.
We got on the line at the Downtown Station one stop before the Waterfront Station; it was already full and we had to stand. Then at every station we picked up more folks. By the Yaletown Roundhouse Station I thought we were full and could not take any more passengers, but at every station we packed in even closer together. I ride the #5 bus regularly and anyone who rides that bus in the morning knows that if you are not on at the first stop you don’t get a seat. In the West End we are pretty proud about how tight we can stuff the #5 on snowy or cold, rainy days in the winter. The opening day of the Canada Line was even beyond the baseline winter #5 saga. Continue reading Opening day of Canada Line →

Olympic Transportation Plan

There is no secret to the Olympic Transportation Plan. The plan is the responsibility of the Department of Engineering and all the plans have been on the CoV’s website since March.
In addition to plans being post on the internet there was public open house on March 30 at the Roundhouse.

Most of the maps are available on the 2010 Host City Website at:

Olympic Host City

There’s also a FAQ that will help answer many people’s questions at:


Host City Olympic Transportation Plan:
Olympic Transportation Plan

Pedestrian Corridor Plans:

Pedestrian Corridor Plans

Olympic Period Cycling Map:

Cycling Map

The Engineer responsible for the Olympic Transportation Plan is Paul Storer and his contact info is as follows:
phone 604 873 7693 paul.storer@vancouver.ca