Art & Culture
November 25, 2020

Other World Public Art? Monolith Discovered in Utah Desert

Coincidence? The Turner Movie Channel plays the full version of 2001: A Space Odyssey on the weekend, the 1968 classic film directed by Stanley Kubrick.

Then right on cue a strange, large metal monolith, remarkably similar to the one featured in the 52 year old film is discovered in public land desert in Utah,nestled into a canyon. Of course there were no footprints around the 12 foot (3.6 metre) monolith, but there it was, found by wildlife officials counting bighorn sheep from a helicopter in an undisclosed “remote south-eastern area” of Utah.

As the BBC reports, the helicopter crew landed to take a look at the upright plinth, and scrambled down to its location where it had been placed in a carefully cut rock. They did touch the monolith, and it did not set off any response to summon alien beings.

The Utah Department of Public Safety Aero Bureau tried to be in the fun  zone in their statement “It is illegal to install structures or art without authorisation on federally managed public lands, no matter what planet you’re from.”

Fearing that people would find the perfect covid pandemic activity of trying to trek into the location of the monolith, the department has made it a big secret.

It did not take long for sleuthers on Reddit to figure out where the monolith was located, and they even established it had been placed there in 2016.

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We’ll put this under ‘Walking and Dancing.’

The principle at Xi Guan Elementary School, Zhang Pengfei, introduced his students to shuffle dancing  as a way to both provide some outdoor exercise for his students and to amuse them with a distraction from phones and computers. Undoubtedly Chinese: the principle leads and barks orders, the students are perfectly synchronized, the dancing is both comical and disciplined – and when you look at the kids, it seems charming as well as fun and healthy. (Click on title for video.)


“The dance is called the Melbourne shuffle, or shuffle dance, that originated in Australia in the 1980s. With energetic steps, it is becoming a new form of “square dance” occupying China’s urban spaces from parks to plazas and a popular pound-losing exercise for many elderly and middle-age Chinese.

What a blending of cultures.  Very West Pacific.


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NPR’s Reese Oxner reports on another whale of a tale that just happens to be true~a public art installation of whales’ tails stopped a derailed train from falling into water, causing a greater disaster.

Architect Maarten Struijs worked for the City of Rotterdam starting in 1981 and has an array of public buildings to his credit, including the Blijdorp station on the new Metro Train line. He designed the playful whale tale sculpture to be placed in water two decades ago, and was surprised that the plastic structure held up when the metro train ran on top of it. The train was approximately ten metres above ground when it ran through the shock system designed to keep the train on the  elevated track. The train was vacant of passengers at the time and had one operator on board.

Surprisingly the sculpture installed in 2002 is called “Saved by the Whale’s Tail”. The sculpture is located at the  Akkers station in Spijkenisse, a town of 72,500 people  near Rotterdam.

It’s no surprise the safety officer for the area expressed what everybody has been thinking~”Thank God the tail was there.”

This is the latest in the series of auspicious fish tails, including the Hedlington Shark which was installed in Oxford England.  In 1986 Bill Heine installed a 400 pound 25 foot tall headless shark on his row house as a protest against how his theatre business  was being treated by the town council.

The good citizens of Oxford were apoplectic about this shark among the roofs, and as  this web page on the Hedlington Shark attests  the local Oxford city council sprung into action.

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David Zinn lives in Ann Arbor Michigan, a town of 121,000 people west of Detroit. He is a graphic artist and he has a special talent~he imaginatively places chalk drawings around the sidewalks and public areas of his city. His imaginative revisioning of the cracks and crevices of the public realm has taken him to many cities around the world, where his art is on the street. That art is there for  a little while, under normal environmental factors.

Mr. Zinn sees  the inevitable rain and weathering of his artistic work as part of his creative process. He’s developed a set of characters that  appear  in different landscapes ,and he takes advantage of found objects and fixtures along sidewalks. His cast of characters include “Sluggo” a green monster as well as a  flying pig who is named Philomena.

There’s a series of books and even a calendar  based upon Mr. Zinn’s drawings. This year Mr. Zinn did a TEDx talk that describes his philosophy and process in creating these images. 


You can take a look at this short YouTube video below that describes Mr. Zinn’s work and philosophy, as well as why he believes art is good for everyone during the Covid pandemic.


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The Biennale has several events for people to take part in.

During a year that has been unlike any other, we’ve been inspired to see how artists, festivals, arts organizations, and cultural institutions are continually adapting. Here in Vancouver and around the world, we’ve found new ways to continue creating and connecting (safely) together. We are taking part in Culture Days 2020 this month, the nation-wide celebration of Canadian arts and culture indoors, outdoors, and online. Visit their website to find dozens of local experiences you can explore in person or online from September 25 – October 25th!

Ride Through Time
We’ve designed this self-guided bicycle ride (it’s walkable, too) to take you through the transformation of Vancouver’s waterfront as it developed from the 1860s to present day. Check out the three museums at Vanier Park and learn about the 12,000 years of history of Sen̓áḵw.

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From Paul Caune~What about a moving theatre project that centres on a train? That’s exactly what this project from Jörn Hintzer and Jacob Hüfner,  who are both media artists and professors at the Bauhaus University in Weimar Germany provides.

With a direct allegory to the every present changing visual media screens online, these two artists reverse the stationary and moving images, providing vignettes of art performance to train passengers along a 30 kilometer route. The train public art is set  through the Saal Valley in Germany where fifty live art performances were repeated for 26 trains over two days.

The Bewegtes Land project incorporates live performances from four hundred residents who live along the route. A couple fishing in a lake tip over in a canoe when a shark “attacks”. There is a burning tree and running bushes.  There is a group of east German produced cars (which were completely unreliable) chasing a new Volkswagen. And there is a runner who paces along the train, rides a horse, and somehow ends up at the train station terminus ahead of the train.

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Vancouver Heritage Foundation – Chinatown Through a Wide Lens: The Hidden Photographs of Yucho Chow


VHF’s Evening Lecture series continues this fall in a new virtual format. Join us from the comfort of home to enjoy fascinating pieces of Vancouver’s history from a selection of speakers. If you are unable to attend the scheduled lecture time, you may register ahead of time and a link to access the recording will be sent to you. Please note the link is only active for a specific period of time.

Vancouver’s first and most prolific Chinese photographer, Yucho Chow, operated a commercial studio in the heart of Chinatown from 1907–1949. He chronicled life during a tumultuous and transformative time in Canadian history and captured the faces of early marginalized communities including South Asians, Black Canadians, Indigenous residents, mixed-race families and Eastern European immigrants. For some communities, he was the only photographer willing to take their portraits. Sadly, his negatives – and the individual stories and history they chronicled – were all discarded when his studio closed. Chinatown curator Catherine Clement spent over eight years uncovering Yucho Chow’s photographs – one family at a time, one photo at a time, one story at a time.

In 2019, Catherine mounted the first-ever solo exhibition of Chow’s work. That exhibit created a flood of new submissions which are now in a book. She will share the story of Yucho Chow and show some of these remarkable never-before-seen private photographs and stories of diverse, early communities. She will also explore what these images tell us about Vancouver’s history and the role Chinatown played in the lives of so many groups.

Date:Tuesday, October 27th
Time: 7pm – 8:30pm
Registration charge: $16 / $10 (incl. tax)

Please note: This lecture will be offered online. Information on how to attend will be emailed to registrants.

To register, click here for further information.

Images: YuchoChow

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Word Vancouver is back from September 19th to the 27th and this year they have virtual offerings which can be viewed here.

The purpose of the festival is to “foster the joy of the written word and inspire creativity by bringing together readers and writers from all backgrounds in an annual, inclusive and free literary arts festival, connecting local communities and celebrating literary arts through the collective experience.”

There’s one event that will be of particular interest to readers, and that is “Where History is Headed” with four well known Vancouver authors.

“Vancouver has changed and grown so much in the recent years, that today, books published on the history of Vancouver it seems have never been more popular. But so has the spectrum of the histories presented, with a broader look at the people, events, and social histories of different cultures in Vancouver, and even before the city was here.

Crime histories, entertainment and business histories of the city add to the array and mythology of the city and Photography books on Vancouver from Herzog to Girard have come bestsellers: Vancouver history has never been more popular—and with a wide age group of readers.

How did it happen—and more importantly, where is it all headed? Will books remain the most popular medium, or will other formats of media take a greater role? With a panel of Vancouver history authors and writers, and guests, join what will be a engaging and revealing discussion: Where History is Headed.”

Moderator: Aaron Chapman, Vancouver After Dark (Arsenal Pulp Press)

Aaron Chapman is a writer, historian, and musician with a special interest in Vancouver’s entertainment history. He is the author of The Last Gang in Town, the story of Vancouver’s Clark Park Gang; Liquor, Lust, and the Law, the story of Vancouver’s Penthouse Nightclub, now available in a second edition; and Live at the Commodore, a history of the Commodore Ballroom that won the Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award (BC Book Prizes) in 2015. In 2020 he was elected as a member of the Royal Historical Society. He lives in Vancouver.


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Hank Robar lives in Potsdam, Upper New York State, a town with about 15,000 people. The main claim to fame for Potsdam is Potsdam sandstone  which  was widely used as a building material in the 1800’s.

Mr. Robar asked the town to rezone his property in the downtown of Potsdam in 2004 for a “Dunkin’ Donuts” location. That request was denied by the village, and Mr. Robar’s began his collection of porcelain toilets and urinals on three of the seven properties he owns in Potsdam, including of course the spurned site for the doughnut shop.

Of course the town tried to have the toilet bowls on the properties removed, claiming they were unsightly, a hazard, and not well maintained. Mr. Robar has argued that his toilet bowls are public art and free speech, and pointed out that he immediately replaces one of the toilet displays if they become cracked, and that he mows and takes care of the grass around his display.

In much the same way as Bill Heine argued for an art form when he stuck a shark on the roof of his townhouse in Oxford England Mr. Robar argued for his right for free expression and said he would take the town to trial if necessary.He then launched a lawsuit.

The story was subsequently picked up by Edward Helmore with The Guardian that provides some assistance to Mr. Robar’s art and free expression claim.”

As his attorney stated “Mr Robar’s art started as a political protest but it has expanded now into artistic expression. He still values the political protest nature of the art but it’s evolved into one of artistic expression.”

Journalist Edward Helmore points out that there’s a long history of toilets as sculpture commencing with Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 “Fountain” which was part of the avant garde movement, and even Maurizio Cattelan’s 18 karat gold toilet. Produced in 2016, this American made toilet has had critical acclaim, and was recently stolen. It still has not been found.

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The reviews are coming in and they are very positive for the Vancouver Biennale 2020.

If you like public art, learning about public art, or exploring the city check out the walking and cycling tours available here.

For a one-time $5 registration, get access to 18 art-inspired, self-paced GPS-guided cycling and walking tours that offer Covid-safe, outdoor fun. Designed for people wanting laid-back short tours as well as those looking for longer challenges, we guarantee that even the most avid cyclist and urban adventurist will discover something new!

Registration at ends August 30th but all tours remain available on the GPS app through 2020. Ride as often as you like and take as many different tours as you want. Feel good knowing that funds raised support the Vancouver Biennale public art exhibitions, artist residencies and BIG IDEAS education program.

Images: 2020Biennale

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