In 2001, I was requested by a law enforcement agency to make a photographic document of illegal marijuana growing operations (grow-ops) located in Vancouver. I accepted that assignment. Ostensibly, I am not a crime fighter. Only fifteen minutes into the first “bust” and I already realized that I had failed my overseers. A grow-op is a marvel of (criminal) ingenuity and wonder and I embraced the sight, smell, and sound in a silent reverie while a gang squad furiously and systematically dismantled the environment from underneath my floating mind. We see what is in front of us, or what is put in front of us. History has shown that prohibition makes for strange bedfellows. Ceremonial barrels are smashed, their golden contents flowing freely through open grates only to be, ultimately, funnelled back into the barrel, again. Through a narrative constructed from typologies of singular and multiple imagery in combination with colour fields and graphic device, a guide to the grow-op vernacular is revealed to the observant. Subterfuge plays a role in the day-to-day machinations of these operations, that trick being to “hide in plain sight.” My “trick” is to unveil that plainly to the viewer via a lo-fi analogue.
This work was created during live police raids on 35 mm negative film using available light and while being handheld. Not Safe to Occupy is the artist’s first solo exhibition