Spring in Vancouver
is a minefield of rainy days, with umbrella-wielding locals routinely
forgetting what the sun looks like for days on end. But one city-based art
collective is taking a different approach to the deluge of grey by staging an
al fresco show that embraces the region’s tempestuous weather.
Running until 14
April in Chinatown’s Dr Sun
Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, the show Rain Gatherers comprises several
abstract art installations that use technology to respond to rainfall. The
group behind the exhibition – Second
Site collective – hopes the diverse works will encourage visitors to
reflect on their environment.
“The idea is to
bring attention to subtle natural phenomena that people wouldn’t normally
notice,” said artist Peter Courtemanche, whose contribution to the show – Drop
= Blip = Clatter (Rain Stick) – shows that even nature’s smallest movements
A series of four
bamboo poles rigged with piezo film sensors, microprocessors and converted
pager noisemakers, Courtemanche’s work translates raindrops into electronic sound.
Drips from the garden’s tile-roofed walkways fall onto the poles, eventually
producing intermittent clicks that visitors have likened to the chirping of
birds, insects and frogs.
Despite the role of
nature in the exhibition – and the lush ornamental Chinese garden setting – the
show’s high-tech element is equally important, said artist Diana Burgoyne.
“All our works deal
with how technology can be juxtaposed or integrated with the environment,” she said.
Her installation, Acoustics of Rain, includes a series of saucepans and lids
mounted on a frame. The rain hits the lids while the upturned pans are wired to
act as speakers. The resulting percussive sounds vary greatly, from slow beats
to symphonic swirls.
Burgoyne, the new show came about after a sun-related installation at the city’s VanDusen Botanical Garden was hit
by unpredictable weather in 2009. “We did a solar-powered show and then it rained,” said
Burgoyne, laughing. “So this time we did pieces that would respond to
And what if, in a
region that locals have nicknamed the Wet Coast, it fails to rain on cue? “I
like that the weather is unpredictable,” Courtemanche said. “It changes the
artworks and makes the show more experimental. But I can’t believe it won’t
rain in Vancouver for most of the month – if it doesn’t, there’ll be a lot of
people more worried than us.”
John Lee is the Vancouver Localite
for BBC Travel