Six Days Only!

September 25-29 2015, ArtSpring, Salt Spring Island  - Gallery of Images, and Installation.


In this very short exhibition I brought together photographs from several different series that I’ve curated into a single exhibition that considers the idea of the social landscape. These images are of the artifacts (commonly on the scale of buildings) that are created and then often left behind by people in their everyday lives. While these photos are not about humanity’s impact on the natural environment, they are nonetheless powerful reminders of the effect that we have on the world around us. These photographs are also time-and-time-again about loneliness, decay, vacancy. A subtitle for my show could well be “A Journey Through the Emptiness”.


The earliest images in this exhibition are from my travels through the Canadian Arctic in 2000 as part of the St Roch II Voyage of Rediscovery expedition organized by the Vancouver Maritime Museum and the RCMP. Shooting many many rolls of film I lived for nearly two months with my late wife Beth in a very small cabin on the now retired CCGS Simon Fraser as it escorted the RCMP vessel St Roch II from Tuktoyaktuk to Halifax via the fabled North West Passage. Some photographs from this expedition have been exhibited on Salt Spring Island and in Vancouver, including at the Vancouver Maritime Museum - where a selection of my images are collected. However, those images do not appear in this exhibition.

The St Roch Voyage of (personal) Re-discovery is about my own personal ‘re-discoveries’ as I delve back into 15 year old black white images that I have not scanned and printed. It is an illuminating process of finding treasures within those images I had initially discarded as I re-discover new-to-me photos that appeal to my current sensibilities. In a departure, because I prefer to minimally retouch my photographs, I am digitally toning these images as a way to reinforce the perception of emptiness, disuse, abandonment. These images, in harmony with the whole of this exhibition, are a record of the impact of humans in their northern surroundings.

Perhaps the strongest depiction of the social landscape in this exhibition are the images from Two Yellow Lines. These photographs, taken along the Old Island Highway that runs adjacent to the seaside from Parksville to Campbell River on Vancouver Island, document this scenic by-way as it both connects and divides the various towns and villages it serves. The photos are of the communities along the highway that ties them together like a pearl necklace. But it is also about a road that divides these communities into those who have easy access to the waterfront and those who do not. This connect/divide dichotomy is expressed by placing the viewer either on the road, or alongside it.

Two Yellow Lines was initially a fond nostalgic return to a route that I had driven many times more than 25 years ago. Recently, and over the course of several years, I was drawn back to the Oceanside Route as I conceptually developed Two Yellow Lines into this body of work. Initially exhibited last summer as part of the Arts Council’s Summer Showcase at Mahon Hall, Two Yellow Lines was recently presented to members of the Vancouver Art Gallery as part of David Wisdom’s Summer Slideshow series.

Pine Street Community Gardens and Monte Clark are new panoramic images on a larger scale. In Monte Clark I scratch the surface between the social landscape and the cultural landscape. The Monte Clark Art Gallery is firmly embedded in - and yet isolated from - the landscape of a Vancouver in flux. Located in old industrial building and with its wares for Vancouver’s well-off, the Gallery sits isolated in the middle of a paved court with the buildings of a growing city in the background. On the other side of the train tracks are the work-worn industrial buildings of East Vancouver. Visible in the background across these tracks is the the United We Can storefront where the residents of one of Canada’s poorest neighbourhoods can earn a meagre income by redeeming salvaged recyclables. There is a dichotomy of place here - with the tracks dividing two societies. The question of how long the community on one side the tracks - the wrong side - can survive before it too becomes just a place to sell culture to the well-heeled is left unresolved.

Pine Street Community Gardens, literally connected to the Monte Clark Gallery via those same train tracks is situated in a wholly different setting. Here I turn my camera towards the detritus of a social landscape in upheaval. The neighbourhood’s beloved community gardens are in the process of being ripped up by company workers, as a railway and the City of Vancouver tussle over the disposition of a right of way. The victims, not surprisingly, are the local residents whose flowers, herbs, and harvests have been dug-up - their vegetative remnants left to be picked up and carted away.


As punctuation for this exhibition, are several of the images from the Empty Windows series, my immediate response to the loss of my wife, Beth. Three of these photographs were initially included as part of the immensely powerful and well received Empty Places, Open Spaces group show dealing with artists’ grief that I curated in 2014. On the surface these images may appear to be hauntingly empty and sad, yet the viewer should come to realize that where there is emptiness, there is also hope. Though these spaces are empty now all they need is someone with a new dream to create a new beginning, as ending of one thing merely marks the beginnings of something else. Empty Windows #4 earned an Award of Excellence from the 2014 Sooke Fine Arts Show.

© All images copyright © Seth Berkowitz