Peerings & Hearings

Occasional Musings on Arts in the City of Glass

Post-it Note Connection Wall, Broadway & Cambie, Vancouver; image: Jami Macarty.
In matters of community — joining, building, participating, contemplating, even withdrawing — one needs multiple exposures and the stamina for iterative and reflexive encounters!

We’ve arrived again at our every-other-month gathering on the topic of community. How and by whom is it built? In matters of community — joining, building, participating, contemplating, even withdrawing — one needs multiple exposures and the stamina for iterative and reflexive encounters!

Essential to fostering the creative, psychic, and physiological stamina I need to pursue this inquiry are daily meditative walks. Moving my legs and arms in wide, open space, out of doors, seems to offer a container large enough to support free-ranging considerations of community and to acknowledge its spatial and experiential dimensions.

Lately, I’ve walked for breathing room from the almost overwhelming influx of breaking news, email, petitions, posts, tweets. All beg my response with their urgencies. This breeds more questions that may need answers to enable responses:

What will be the basis for my response?
Will it be grounded in facts? Experience? Feeling? Aesthetic sensibility? Political strategy? Logic?
What action is appropriate to meet the appeals and requests?
Whose interests will be served?

These questions are similar to those asked within arts communities. Most can be seen to pertain to voice.

Will I make my voice heard?
Will I stay quiet?
Do I feel my voice is represented…or silenced?
What might my voice change?

Voices — their volumes, messages, modes, locales, recipients — have been the focal point of my meditative walks. But I didn’t fully realize it… that is, until I began pulling together my “visual notes” for this post.

Given the number of photos I’ve taken featuring words, I seem to have been looking for other’s words as ways and means to have, join, and connect in conversation, to broaden my perspective and thinking…..

Perhaps that’s also what motivated so many artists and individuals to take their words outside of virtual spaces and into physical spaces, where so many human bodies move and flow and diminish and grow.

What follows are different kinds of news and posts that reached out to me, into me, or both. Together they seem to give and add voice… and to offer response to:

By whose voices is community built?
Who’s speaking? Who’s listening?
Who’s heard? Who’s hushed? Who’s muted altogether?

This blog features some of the ways people make space for themselves and others to speak and be heard… voices that have caught my attention recently.

Post-it Note Connection Wall, Broadway & Cambie; images: Jami Macarty

Like the bulletin board outside Broadway-City Hall SkyTrain Station — where there’s a Post-it note connection wall — to appeal, to mend, to pray. This wall gives Vancouverites a forum and outlet to express their hopes, griefs, confusions, and fears. Stranger-to-stranger and human-to-human, these messages range from denunciations of conservative policies and racism to calls to action to expressions of love. The small act of writing a message on a colorful Post-it and placing it in public, where anyone could be looking, takes courage. It says: I’m here! Check this out! Respond to me! Stand and be heard, if only in a 3.0” x 3.0” format.

Post-it Note Connection Wall, Broadway & Cambie; image: Jami Macarty.

To be heard reminds us we are not invisible or alone. In fact, the voicing is here even more important than the hearing. And, hearing sounds and utterances in different parts of the frequency spectrum has benefits for our survival, as individual members of an intrinsically and intensely social species.

East Village mural by Nelson Garcia and Xochitl Leal of Nomadic Alternatives; images: Jami Macarty.

Many of our fellow creatures depend for survival on abilities to hear sounds on different parts of the auditory spectrum. However, it’s not their ability to listen that’s in question in this East Village mural by the husband and wife team Nelson Garcia and Xochitl Leal of Nomadic Alternatives.

East Village mural by Nelson Garcia and Xochitl Leal of Nomadic Alternatives; images: Jami Macarty.

Garcia and Leal seem more interested in humans’ willingness and ability to listen to animals and to otherwise remain tuned in to more of the spectrum of consciousness. Likely a bow to the many Indigenous origin stories that reference times beyond times in which all animals, humans included, spoke the same language and lived in communion, the mural implores careful listening as the first step on a path of reconciliation with the natural world.

East Village mural by Nelson Garcia and Xochitl Leal of Nomadic Alternatives; images: Jami Macarty

Equal parts call to ban hunting, to stop animal cruelty, to care for the environment and its ecosystems, the words of this mural can be boiled down to this message: listen.

East Village mural by Nelson Garcia and Xochitl Leal of Nomadic Alternatives; image: Jami Macarty.

Humans who stop to engage with the mural can read and might just hear at a new frequency:

WE ARE HERE

WE ARE CRYING

AND YOU DON’T

HEAR US

BECAUSE YOU

FORGOT

OUR LANGUAGE

The last line gets me. “Our Language” — both the animals’ and the one we, humans and animals, once shared.

Smokey D’s graffiti art, locating him in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside; image: Jami Macarty.

One afternoon, I stepped into an alleyway near Hastings & Carrall Streets and into a world of brightly-colored, uniquely-stylized paintings signed Smokey D.

Smokey D’s brightly-colored, uniquely-stylized graffiti art; images: Jami Macarty.

I found myself in an outdoor gallery of graffiti art whose maker freely and transparently shared of himself. The open expressions of love, loss, wisdom, and humor instantly captured my attention and won my trust.

Smokey D’s tribute to his friend; image: Jami Macarty.

One arresting piece is a letter written to Dawn Heather Sangster, “my wife soulmate” lost to an overdose of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is up to 100 times more potent than morphine.

Fentanyl was detected in 60 per cent of all illicit drug overdose deaths and contributed to the loss of 914 people in B.C. in 2016…

According to my research, the deadly additive is often cut into drugs without users knowing. Fentanyl was detected in 60 per cent of all illicit drug overdose deaths and contributed to the loss of 914 people in B.C. in 2016, according to the BC Coroners Service.

Smokey D’s mesages to would-be fentanyl users; images: Jami Macarty.

Smokey D is reporting and recording the anguish of the fentanyl overdose deaths from the front lines of the crisis in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. His love letters, death tolls, and vibrant tributes seem to have been painted in a furry of reckoning with loss.

Smokey D Signature Skull & Ghost Portrait; images: Jami Macarty.

When I Googled Smokey D, I didn’t expect to find anything, but I did. I found recent articles and a not-so-recently updated website. One article I read included his request to protect his privacy, so I’ll say no more.

What I do feel comfortable and compelled to share are some of Smokey D’s own words:

“…They’ll either understand that I understand that brutalizing each other ends in nothing but blood, or assume that I’m lending my cracking voice to the overwhelming cacophony…”

Those words just about sum and cover it…

Call To Action at The Window & Bao Down Sandwich Board Poem; images: Jami Macarty.

Those, and these:

The call to action in the window of The Window Community Art Shop from water protectors at Standing Rock, inviting all “strong hearts” to travel to the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota and join them in the struggle to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The sidewalk sandwich board reminder for sustenance — that comes from a sense of humor, creative play, and yummy food at Bao Down.

Strong hearts, creative minds, and happy stomachs — that’s community!

Of all the things you could read or could be voicing, you’ve been here with me. Thank you, dear readers.

Look for the next P & H in two months.

In the meantime, reach out, leave a comment. Tell me what you want more of and less of in this blog — and in your community — and what’s just right. It’s always good to know what’s just right.

You can also follow me @herkind to discover my other articles.

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