Speaking for a Long Time
Public Space and Social Memory in Vancouver
In the late 1990s, three monuments – Crab Park Boulder, Marker of Change, and Standing with Courage, Strength and Pride – were built in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Located within a few city blocks of one another, the monuments were grassroots initiatives that challenged the norms of civic art by claiming a place in public space for society’s more vulnerable groups, and each figured in debates about many kinds of violence.
Speaking for a Long Time offers unique insights into the creation of memorials and the multiple, often contested meanings that can be attached to them in local communities. Part 1, “Act,” explores the monuments’ origin stories and highlights the distinctive perspectives of their founders. Part 2, “Frame,” places these narratives in the context of modern debates and theories on public space and social memory. Part 3, “Forge,” returns to the Downtown Eastside to show how the resilience and agency of grassroots activists can give the socially marginalized a visible presence in our urban landscapes.
This vivid account of the creation of memory-scapes in a marginalized community asks us to reconsider what constitutes public art that will “speak for a long time.”
This book will appeal not only to students and scholars of sociology, geography, anthropology, and BC history but also to artists, activists, and community planners.
The tragedy at École Polytechnique that took the lives of our daughter Anne-Marie Edward and her engineering school companions, and the ongoing tragedy of the murder of Aboriginal women, have changed our collective social consciousness about violence against women. Adrienne Burk’s beautiful and sensitive account of three commemoration sites in Vancouver dedicated to women murdered by men is a case in point, written with extraordinary insight. Speaking for a Long Time will indeed speak for a long time.
What is the meaning of public monuments? In seeking answers to this innocuous-seeming question, Adrienne Burk has produced a fascinating study of urban space, social memory and community history. Burk is not an academic who remains in the ivory tower; the value of her book is that she is down on the sidewalk: observing, talking, recording, reflecting.
Sexual warfare, unlike class warfare or monuments to world wars, rarely has a public monument. Speaking for a Long Time elaborates on how social monuments can amplify the voices of murdered women everywhere so that society can no longer stand the overwhelming sounds of grief and rage and is forced to change. This book is a powerful clarification of the crucial role of social art for women in public spaces.
Part 1: Act
Marker of Change/ À l’aube du changement
CRAB Park Boulder
Standing with Courage, Strength and Pride
Part 2: Frame
Public Space, Social Order and Visibility
Memory: Blending the Personal and the Social
Monuments: Permanence and Memory
A Geographic Sensibility
Part 3: Forge
Continuousness of the Issue
Acknowledging the Unseen
Consolidating Claims of Community
Proposition: A Politics of Visibility
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