FLOOD (Displaced Horizon) is a series of images located on four billboards facing east and west on Expo Boulevard between Carrall and Abbott Streets in Northeast False Creek. Working in collaboration with the Other Sights team, Howard Ursuliak photographed features of the neighbourhood’s shorelines and skylines in a standard digital format, and worked with Kyle Juron to print and manipulate the images while still wet, folding the horizon in and behind the foreground. These tactile compositions—pleated into the correct billboard ratio—were then re-photographed. Towering glass buildings are glimpsed behind a forest of wharf pilings; flotillas of pleasure craft collide with waterfront properties on the swell formed by the folded paper. Placed back into the site of False Creek, FLOOD (Displaced Horizon) triggers and disturbs our recognition of the familiar surroundings and iconic details of urban Vancouver.
Very recently underwater, this former tidal mudflat supported major salmon and trout runs and was an abundant locale for First Nations people. Northeast False Creek—land created a hundred years ago to underpin the expansion of the Great Northern and Canadian Northern Railways—has given a foundation to waves of development stirred by resource extraction industries, the Expo 86 World’s Fair, and the future removal of the Georgia Viaduct. Floods of capital have rushed in over the century, to the condominiums, marinas, and casinos that line the foreshore.
A horizon conjures a future—an aspirational trajectory into photography’s pictorial space. Its forward focus generates desire for an imagined outcome, as does the advertising image. Billboards carry quick messages, also urgent, for viewers moving from one place to another. The four images, two facing east, two facing west, reflect back to the viewer the arc of the SkyTrain line and the vertical high rises that we pass alongside. This uncanny effect is perceived subtly, through repeated views, in the way that a city’s identity is reinforced and accrues as we come and go.
When a horizon goes missing, the future is obscured and indeterminate. FLOOD (Displaced Horizon) has tucked it out of sight. The wetness of the pictures, captured in the detail of droplets and watery distortions, reveals the complex process of their production. Without the expected element of language or text, un-slick and hyper-located, the artwork situates us in our present moment, perhaps bottoming out, perhaps run aground.
FLOOD (Displaced Horizon) is the most recent in a series of Other Sights projects that consider the Vancouver foreshore and waterways as public space. These include The Blue Cabin (2019) in collaboration with grunt gallery and C3; The Foreshore and The Foreshore Listens (2016–18) in collaboration with Access Gallery and Contemporary Art Gallery; Coastal Camera Obscura (2017) with Donald Lawrence; Deadhead (2014) with Cedric, Nathan, and Jim Bomford; and The Games are Open (2010–15) with Folke Köbberling and Martin Kaltwasser.
In 2014, as part of Capture Photography Festival, Other Sights presented Monument to Mysterious Fires. Made up of four billboards installed collectively in a parking lot in East Vancouver, the project triggered historical and recent memories of the neighbourhood and explored the history of the city through the lens of the FIRE economy (Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate). The images on display juxtaposed archival images of the 2009 fire in Mount Pleasant where several local businesses and over seventeen artist studios were lost with archival images from the Great Fire of 1886—an event that harkened the original development of Mount Pleasant itself.