Monument to Mysterious Fires

Posted on Mar 25, 2015 in Monument to Mysterious Fires


In July 2013, members of Other Sights for Artists’ Projects held an Open Studio event at Kingsgate Mall at Broadway and Kingsway in east Vancouver. The project, titled I Know What I Want, offered to make small models of residents’ desires for the future of the neighbourhood. Using materials from the mall’s dollar store, the models were combined and recombined on an aerial plan of the adjacent intersection and ranged from the whimsical, such as a pony ranch, to practical concerns such as affordable housing and food security. Documented HERE, I Know What I Want research proposes an alternative to community consultation practices that includes the generative and resisting principle of friction.

One striking desire was for a monument to the mysterious fires that have occurred in the Main Street area over the past several years. One such fire happened Christmas morning, 2009, when a humble two storey building in the 200 block of Broadway was destroyed. Lost were several local businesses and over 17 artists studios, including those leased by Other Sights members. For the occasion of the Capture Photography Festival, Other Sights will transform both sides of two billboards at Quebec Street and 6th Avenue into a temporary monument, commemorating the Christmas 2009 fire alongside the Great Fire of 1886, an event that harkened the original development of Mount Pleasant itself. Text panels make reference to the FIRE economy – an acronym for finance, insurance and real estate – now the world’s principal source of wealth creation. It has transformed our political, economic and social landscapes with a complex web of global finance, light regulation, debt, risk tolerance and property bubbles. Instability has accompanied this new orthodoxy, according to authors such as Jane Kelsey, from rising inequality and ballooning household debt to a global financial crisis and fiscal austerity agendas.

Addressing the east/west and the north/south axes of the city and how they factor in the currencies of ‘views’ as well as the escalation of property values creeping eastward, Monument to Mysterious Fires triggers historical and recent memories of the neighbourhood. The billboards, set perpendicular to one another, carve out a sculptural space within a parking lot, in which to gather and reflect on the transformation of the city.

The creative team for Monument to Mysterious Fires includes Rachel Topham, Tung Yi, Jack Chiu, along with Barbara Cole, Vanessa Kwan, Jen Weih, Lorna Brown, Marko Simcic, Colin Griffiths and Joni Low of Other Sights.

The annual month-long Capture Photography Festival was established to address Vancouver’s international reputation as a cutting-edge photography city and its significant role in the development of photography as an art form. Beyond providing opportunities to artists and platforms for citywide discussion, Capture also aims to cultivate support for the visual arts by developing a greater audience for photography. Capture is committed to offering a wide range of highly accessible public programs throughout the Metro Vancouver region.

For more information visit