Exploring Mainstreeters: Taking Advantage, 1972−1982

by Micaela Kwiatkowski

Kenneth Fletcher’s House, 1978, Courtesy of Paul Wong

Kenneth Fletcher’s House, 1978, Courtesy of Paul Wong

Satellite Gallery’s current exhibition, Mainstreeters: Taking Advantage 1972-1982 explores the beginning of an East Vancouver Art Gang. The exhibition includes a variety of film installations —ranging from old school TVs to large projections— of their adventures and artistic experiments. Alongside the film recordings are photographs documenting the group, newspaper clippings, and a crime scene investigation.  From the beginning, the Mainstreeters was an experimental group of young artists living where Vancouver was divided into East and West by Main Street. The artists included are: Kenneth Fletcher, Deborah Fong, Carol Hackett, Marlene MacGregor, Annastacia McDonald, Charles Rea, Jeanette Reinhardt and Paul Wong. Together the group created art and recorded their everyday lives. Living near Main Street, Paul Wong describes his decision to choose Sir Charles Tupper Secondary School in East Vancouver over a school in Vancouver’s West side in the video, Mainstreeters (2014). It was there in the art room of Charles Tupper that Paul Wong met the rest of the Mainstreeters and began their journey from a curious community of students to a travelling collective of radical artists.

Growing up in the mid 1960’s, the Mainstreeters began to explore unusual trends of the time such as, vegetarianism, the exploration of drugs, and drag balls. Alongside these experiments the group participated in regular rituals such as mushroom searching or gathering at their favourite tree. Through these eccentric activities, Paul Wong describes the trust and friendship developed within the group. This contributed to his 1976 film piece with Kenneth Fletcher 60 Unit Bruise. In the piece Fletcher withdraws 60 units of blood from his arm, then continues to inject it into Wong’s—what Wong describes as representation of their mutual trust.

Front, from left: Deborah Fong, Jeanette Reinhadt, Annastacia McDonald, Carol Hackett. In background: Paul Wong. Tour de 4 preparations, 1980, Courtesy of Paul Wong

Front, from left: Deborah Fong, Jeanette Reinhadt, Annastacia McDonald, Carol Hackett. In background: Paul Wong. Tour de 4 preparations, 1980, Courtesy of Paul Wong

Throughout the Mainstreeters practices, video cameras played a crucial role in the recording of their social lives and the development of their creative practice. At the time, the video camera was a new innovative way to challenge the development of the Hollywood entertainment world and rose as a new medium in the art world. This fascination with video continued in Paul Wong’s practice as he and four female Mainstreeters, Deborah Fong, Carol Hackett, Annastacia McDonald, and Jeanette Reinhardt, created the performance piece ‘4’, which toured around North America in 1979. The women called themselves The SS Girls and created an autobiographical script that explored their contemporary female lives. Unlike much of the media at the time, the performance piece contradicted the spectacle and awe drawing performances in Hollywood films. ‘4’ related to the contemporary women through its attention to sexuality and the female’s presence in society. As a result, ‘4’ became a pivotal piece in the development of the Mainstreeters as a radical and innovative group of artist. In collaboration with Presentation House and the Grunt Gallery, The Satellite Gallery is showing the Mainstreeters: Taking Advantage 1972-1982 until March 15, 2014. For a full documentary on the Mainstreeters check out : http://grunt.ca/exhibitions/mainstreeters-taking-advantage/

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