Immaculate repression zone
|Adam Pretty @ Lens Culture|
Jules Boykoff on art, profits, and anti-Olympic activism @ New Left Review.Walking along east Hastings Street in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver one crisp January morning in 2010, I came across a perplexing set of white panels on the outer flank of the refurbished Woodward’s building. The panels featured an explosion of repudiation: stark, black-lettered phrases like ‘HELL NO’, ‘I SAID NO’, ‘NO BLOODY WAY’, and ‘NO WAY JOSÉ’. Four placards simply read ‘NO’. Later I learned that this was a site-specific installation by Vancouver artist Ken Lum for Simon Fraser University’s Audain Gallery, challenging a ‘2010 Winter Games By-law’ passed by the City of Vancouver in the run-up to the Olympics. The by-law outlawed placards, posters and banners that did not ‘celebrate’ the 2010 Winter Games and ‘create or enhance a festive environment and atmosphere’. The ordinance criminalized anti-Olympic signs and gave Canadian authorities the right to remove them from both public and private property.
The following month I returned to Vancouver to see how anti-Olympic organizing was taking shape. Strolling near the Olympic Village in the days before the Games, one encountered a contradiction-laden mélange of genial sports enthusiasm and ostentatious surveillance state. The place was teeming with sprightly tourists, athletes, Olympics officials and journalists with cameras and press badges swinging from their necks; awash with teal, one of the perky, focus-group-tested colours of the 2010 Winter Games. At the same time, it felt like entering some sort of immaculate repression zone. Officers from the newly formed Vancouver Integrated Security Unit—headed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and comprising more than 20 policing agencies—hunkered together on every corner and patrolled the bustling footpaths around the False Creek inlet. Surveillance cameras were pegged to poles at regular intervals around the perimeter. Helicopters whirred overhead. CF-18 Hornet fighter jets zinged by. Ersatz Christo and Jeanne-Claude-style banners, also in Olympic teal, enveloped chain-link fences that channelled people into permissible zones while concealing chunks of so-called public space.read more