by Jason Smythe
One of the Canada Line’s exit shelters is located at the intersection of Robson and Granville, and it is a rather mundane structure, with a look that can best be described as cookie-cutter modernist. I say this because it looks like something you could buy at Ikea. However, over the eons one thing has remained constant: using art to liven up even the most boring of structures. Thankfully, this most Ikea of exit shelters has received some art: the installation Tight City. The artists: the Graey (aka the Satellite Gallery’s very own youth art collective). This installation is set in a small apartment, and explores a number of ideas, including population density and affordable housing in Vancouver, but most importantly it makes a bold statement—whether it was intended or not— creativity can flourish in even the tightest of spaces.
Whether the Canada-Line-approved humanoids who built the exit shelter realized it or not, the structure is roughly the size of small room, and in downtown Vancouver the difference between a small room and an apartment usually boils down to semantics. But whether this is a perfect setting for an installation of this kind is not up for debate because it is perfect.
There are seven people in the shot, all quite tightly packed in to the frame. On the left we see a bed with three people sitting on it, one of them is a shirtless young man who is doing a model pose. On the right, a young woman sitting at a desk with both hands pressed against its surface. Her head is turned over her right shoulder, allowing her gaze to be directed right at the viewer. It would appear that she and the shirtless young man are the only ones aware that they are being observed. Either that or the other five occupants are also aware and, being typical teenagers, are choosing to ignore us.
When viewed in its entirety, though, it is obvious that despite the tight quarters, each individual still has enough space to do as they please. Rather than being stifled by their surroundings they seem to embrace it, and have all managed to carve out enough space for personal exploration/shirtless posing. And where you find personal space you will find a place where creativity can flourish, because without such space how can you explore the depths of their own mind, or even consider expressing yourself freely? So fear not, future (or current) owners of downtown micro-apartments—you’ll still have some space for your creative energy, even if your shoes and books take up all the remaining floor space.