This is Port Coquitlam, then and later
Imagine the street you’re walking or driving down in Port Coquitlam 100 years ago.
Stuart Ward can.
For the past five months, the Vancouver artist has been absorbed in the city’s past — its buildings, its landscapes and the people who helped to shape it.
Ward of HFour was hired by the municipality last fall to bring PoCo’s history to life. And with the help of the heritage society, writer Bryan Ness, technology expert Christopher Moreno, a photographer and hundreds of submitted entries from the community, he created a giant interactive tablet on the recreation complex’s glass windows as a way to mark the city’s centennial year.
His display, titled Illuminating Port Coquitlam: A Digital Art Exhibit, which opens tonight (Wednesday), involves two “shows” that alternate every couple of minutes on two 9’ by 16’ screens — one facing inside, the other outside.
For the first slideshow, Ward has historical photos that, when you walk inside of a box on taped on the floor, you can see your body shape appear with the modern-day scene inside of the same image.
For the second slideshow, there are pictures, paintings and poems from the public about what the past, present and future mean to them; viewers can use a hand-tracker to guide them along the journey.
Some of the community art came last December after Ward workshopped with Jennifer Shaw’s Grade 6 class at Citadel middle school and with Grade 11 and 12 art and photography students in Kelly Selden’s class at Riverside secondary.
As well, to bring a more pragmatic approach to the art project, Ward spoke with engineers working with the city to interpret how they want — and don’t want — the future to look like in Port Coquitlam.
“And I was so surprised with the results because they were exactly the same,” Ward said. “The kids were very imaginative and said they wanted flying machines and lots of parks. The engineers, on the other hand, who have more of a knowledge-based approach, also want to see efficient transportation and green spaces.”
Shaw said she appreciated being part of the collaborative process. “It is so crucial to have students think beyond their bubble from time to time,” she said. “This opportunity was brilliant in achieving just that.”
Selden also said her students liked the chance to see their work integrated in Ward’s centennial installation. “This very new and exciting technology inspired the students to search out old photographs of family members and then re-create them in a similar situation to show the passage of time,” Selden said.
Yvonne Chui, PoCo’s arts and culture co-ordinator who helped to organize the digital art exhibit, said when the display was first installed earlier this month to test it out, kids at the rec centre “instinctively knew what to do. They got it right away and saw that inside their shape was a contemporary photo.”
“The goal of this,” Ward added, “was to create a place where the past met the present and future. It’s a very engaging display that has no political message.”
• Illuminating Port Coquitlam opens tonight (Wednesday) at 7 p.m. in the Port Coquitlam recreation complex lobby on Wilson Avenue. Attendees can meet visual artist Stuart Ward and residents and students who contributed to his exhibit. As well, attendees can bring their old photos or dress up in period costume to pose in a photo booth; the pictures may be included in Ward’s next digital art exhibit round this fall. The exhibit runs every night, from 6 to 9 p.m., until March 11.