Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Wild (2). Skid row.

A red brick storefront glows in the morning sunlight. Its street number is 1910 and that could be its building date as well. A tattoo salon now, it must have had a long succession of occupants as this part of town, once the bustling waterfront that equipped the miners for the Klondike Goldrush, skidded by slow degrees to its present and pleasant state. That is what I notice right off, this is ‘ the other side of the tracks,’ but if one does not see it as such, does not pre- judge it to fit the stereotype, then it is simply a place basking in the same sunlight as the rest of Victoria. The camera is teaching me an important lesson, to see without personal filters on.

Just down the street is ‘Opus’ - the art supply store that I am headed for, and it seems appropriate
somehow that creativity and decay should rub shoulders here. The essence of creative thought lies in working with disparate elements, in not prejudging, in having no preset agenda. The kind of process that drives more rationally minded people crazy. But then that organizing cast of thought has written this part of town off long ago and prefers to dwell on the ‘social problems’ and the need for ‘renewal’. This is really just a part of town, like a part of the human body that has an important function but is screened from view and not talked about in polite society, - is often a curse word.

As I walk down the lower part of Johnson street I come across a store dummy on the sidewalk. Headless and sexless, dressed in a bright red shirt it calls out to be photographed. That is always the challenge in art, to find the one element in a vast collection of things that will speak for the whole, and here is one possibility. Red is the dominant colour in my photo, the shirt, the signs, the banners, and at first glance it speaks of happy things. But red is fire and blood also, and this upward shot has a hectic quality that reminds me of Las Vegas, all glitz above and snarls and fangs just below the surface. The thing is, this is not just skid row I am imaging here, but our society of which this is an organic part.

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