Of Hunger, Homelessness and Spectacle

"A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members." 
Attributed to Mahatma Gandhi

 Homelessness, was Vancouver’s number one political, social and public embarrassment during the 2010 Olympics. Two years before  homelessness count identified 2,660 people who were homeless in the Metro Vancouver region, and the numbers keeped growing. This performance/installation uses traditional forms of exhibition; a window display used in stores, and galleries to portray a façade that can be then further explored inside. The “inside” will not be a physical space but the viewer’s mind and their own inquiries. How do they relate to this issue within their own behavioral, emotional and physical parameters? How do they treat the homeless? and what do they do as part of this society to improve the quality of life of those who are not as fortunate? I felt a personal necessity to actively address these questions (being away from my home country and forced to be homelessness on several occasions) and further explore my connection to the spectacle of social activism and durational performances.

Projected behind me as I sleep in the window display were  night shots of 25 different locations. Locations where homeless people sleep particularly on the downtown east side. Empty pedestrian canvases that became places of refuge during the night, and my position created a foreground to the video. I remained inside the gallery except for the escapades to record the shopping cart Olympic Tour, where I traveled all around Vancouver downtown area, capturing the disparity between the Olympic facade and the homelessness reality. I also read poetry behind the glass, and offering to sell “not for sale” books: literature dealing with homelessness issues, existential philosophy, ironical titles, and sarcastic traveler's guides. The week in the gallery worked more as a residency, and everyday something different was projected as video was shot and edited on the same day, the last few days of the performance were also broadcasted through ustream. 

During the entire duration of the piece, I took over  the “2010 Homelessness Hunger Strike Relay”. This Relay began December 29th, 2009 in Vancouver and it has been gaining momentum ever since. Over 70 volunteers had participated in a week long fast to raise awareness about homelessness. Calling for the re-establishment of a National Housing Program based on the One Percent Solution in Canada. Each week new volunteers take on the Wooden Spoon, which stands as a symbol of resistance. Of Hunger, Homelessness, and Spectacle is an attempt to create a dialogue, and surface questions about a social problem that has been placed last on the agenda of the government.

rabble.ca article.  Art and activism meet, with the help of a red 
Clips from W2 Media. Press briefing: Rolling hunger strike for homeless.
                                     Homelessness Hungerstrike and Radiothon Press Briefing

“Of Hunger, Homelessness, and Spectacle.”
Performance/ Installation
Feb 14th - 21st 2010

This project could not be possible without the support and collaboration of:

VIVO 2010: Safe Assembly 
Vivarium Gallery,
The White Pillows Collective
Homelessness Hunger Strike Relay.
Am Johal, Lois Klassen, jamie griffiths & Christopher Rodrigues