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Geyser for Hillcrest Park: Public Art in Vancouver

September 19 2012 There have long been rumours of underground water at the Hillcrest site, but Hillcrest Geyser arises from other hidden sources and pressures – the infrastructure of the new “green” water recycling system in the building.

Because its eruptions are unpredictable and seemingly random, the artists believe the geyser will cultivate a sense of wonderment and play, attaining a reputation less like that of a civic monument and more like a mysterious element of the natural world.

Public art in Riley Park neighbourhood: Geyser for Hillcrest Park

Artists Erica Stocking and Vanessa Kwan have a made a “geyser” for Hillcrest Park. This public artwork is inspired by Old Faithful and other natural water spouts arising from geological pressures under the earth’s surface.

A natural geyser is a spectacle that brings attention to what is going on below the surface of things. As a public monument, Geyser for Hillcrest Park replicates this sense of wonder and acts as a spontaneous reminder of underlying forces at work on the site. It is a civic “natural wonder” that makes the green initiatives of the building apparent for all to see. It is not a fountain that operates with a recycling pump. The Geyser acts according to the rhythms and needs of the community, as evidenced by the levels and flow of water through the site. The geyser spray is around 15 feet in height. The duration of the spray is determined by the amount of water needed to fill the tank.

The hardscape around the geyser is visibly manmade: a concrete ‘cap’ structure that replicates the top of the berm and provides a continuous trench drain encircling the circumference of the water catchment area. The run-off from the Geyser is connected to the grey water cistern in the Hillcrest facility. This cistern is used for all the building’s non-potable water needs, including flushing toilets and irrigation throughout the park grounds. The cistern is fed by collected rainwater from the roof and some grey water from underground sources. However, when the water in the cistern is low, it draws on the city’s drinkable water supply. This is where the Geyser comes in. It is incorporated into this water “loop” so that clean potable water needed to top up the cistern will first be propelled out through the Geyser and then flow back to the cistern as grey water.

About the artists

Vanessa Kwan is a Vancouver-based artist and writer. A graduate of Emily Carr University of Art and Design, her work has been exhibited at a number of galleries and artist run centres, including solo exhibitions at the Or Gallery, Access Gallery and Art Gallery of the South Okanagan. She is a founding member of the art collective NORMA, and currently works as Public Programs Coordinator at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Kwan recently completed Vancouver Vancouver Vancouver, a public art commission for the City of Vancouver’s Olympic and Paralympic Public Art Program. www.vanessakwan.com

Erica Stocking lives and works in Vancouver, where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Her art explores the notion of public and private spheres in site-specific installations, such as her creation of a storefront for Artspeak Gallery or an apartment set for the windows of the Richmond Art Gallery. She has also participated in a number of exhibitions, including How Soon is Now at the Vancouver Art Gallery. In 2009, she completed Yellow Fence, a public artwork created for UniverCity on Burnaby Mountain. That same year she received a Mayor’s Arts Award in the Public Art – Emerging Artist category. Stocking is a founding member of the art collective NORMA, whose projects have been presented by LIVE Biennial of Performance Art, grunt gallery and Access.