Guest Blog | Jenna Kirouac: PuSh Festival and the Art of Counter Mapping

Guest Blogger Jenna Kirouac is Avant-Guardian Musings Vancouver Arts Correspondent. To see her previous posts, please click here.

View from World Trade Centre in NYC (1984),
the year de Certeau wrote of his observations.
courtesy New York Times
When philosopher Michel de Certeau famously described the spectacle of looking down on New York City from the 110th floor of the World Trade Centre as “a gigantic rhetoric of excess in both expenditure and production,” he spoke of an experience that provided the viewer with an awe-struck feeling of personal power. Why?  Because looking down on the city clearly lays out the grid-lined, bird’s eye view that reveals the organization and structure of the metropolis. It is a map, produced visually by one’s own sensory perception.

Maps make order. They identify and classify to help us navigate spaces. Of course I don’t really need to point out that Vancouver is not-so-much New York. But every metropolitan area is uniquely shaped in a few different ways: superficially by its structure, and linearly through history and culturally by the group of peoples that collectively call it home. Interestingly, the cultural shaping process is dynamic, not static. What if you could reinvent contemporary mapping practices to mirror the story of a human being? Take a second to think about your story, your narrative. What is the rhetorical discourse of your community? What we place importance on as a community reflects who we are as a collective group of peoples, and likewise we deflect what we chose to marginalize. 

Poster image from the Roundhouse website
At the opening of the PuSh Festival next week—Vancouver’s much anticipated annual international performing arts festival— Jordan Bent and Eli Horns’ collaboration for the exhibit Counter Mapping (curated by Caleb Johnston) seeks to create a method of cartography that represents real life experiences rather than empirical data.  Talking with Bent about the project as well as other future undertakings is an enlightening experience. Bent’s modest beginnings as a Vancouver artist began with a departure from the educational institution setting, straight to the local sea wall selling art. He describes the experience of interacting with people on such an organic level as an intense sensation of displacement without the safety and structure of operating within clear institutional boundaries. Bent has a commitment to interacting with his community through his work, even after the provincial cuts to art funding have made it harder for independent artists to live and practice in Vancouver. A narrative map of Vancouver will only faintly echo the voice of a creative collective if we choose to relegate our art community to a place of little importance.  

Be sure to check out Bent and Horns’ instillation entitled Scratch Map at the Roundhouse for the opening of the PuSh festival on Tuesday, January 18th as well as former Simon Fraser University Fine and Performing Arts students featured in the show.  Much like with DeCerteau’s reflections on New York, the gigantic rhetoric of Vancouver is undoubtedly concerned with expenditure and production, but what does it produce that’s worthwhile? You be the judge. 

For a closer look at the brochure for Counter Mapping, click here.

Vancouver's PuSh Festival runs from January 18th-February 6th. See the following video for a taste of what will be offered: