Art at the Vancouver Olympics Merits a Medal


All images by B. Alter

The Cultural Olympiad is a required part of every Olympics; how the organizing committee interprets it is another story. The Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) gets a gold: they have spent $20M on presenting a massive programme which will continue through to the Paralympics. The provincial government gets big boos--it has slashed the arts budget for the next year.

For the tourists the most visible face of the cultural orgy taking place is the free music and concerts, film and the public art throughout the city and in the mountains. The purest has to be this snow sculpture created by members of the Squamish First Nation on the path up to Whistler Olympic Park.

The piece Dancing With You Across the Pacific Ocean was created by Taiwanese artist Chen Shu Yen as part of the Lunar Fest. It is made out of traditional bamboo fish baskets used for catching fish by the South Island peoples on the Pacific coast. The festival is focusing on the presentation of contemporary Asian arts and culture.

Also from Lunar Fest is Hideaway, a house made out of recycled construction materials: sheets of plastic and tape. It is lit up at night and glows with projections of Vancouver's waterfront.

The inukshuk is an Inuit monument made of natural, untouched stones. They are used as navigational aids and as markers of places of respect. This one, overlooking English Bay, is festooned with the unofficial symbol of the Olympics, the red mittens.

En route to Whistler Olympic Park, a Squamish carves a totem pole out of a tree trunk. Each section of the pole tells a story.

A bit of Canadian design: these wonderful stacking cups, made to form a totem pole. The cups are a homage to these monumental sculptures.

The biggest boo is saved for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Cauldron, where the Olympic flame burns during the duration of the games. Is it art? Who knows but it certainly is controversial. It is located in an open area, encircled by a scenic chain-link fence. Apparently, because it is beside a media centre it has to be cordoned off. Everyone complained bitterly so the fence was moved, slightly, and a viewing hole was cut into it.

Calling it "of-fence-ive", one tourist summed it up " I don't understand why we need a 10-foot fence with concrete abutments to protect the Olympic flame, which is supposed to be about peace, harmony, global partnerships and all that great stuff." Oh Canada.

Tags: Artists

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