Jag Nagra's Frontline Workers (2020)

Artworks emerge on City-owned platforms to combat isolation

The themes addressed in these works are so central to the human experience right now, and will offer our community new ways to connect during this time of crisis.

Eric Fredericksen, Head of Public Art for City of Vancouver

September 10 2020 –

This week, six new artworks focused on pressing issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter, and the overdose crisis will be displayed across the city. The artworks presented this month were selected as part of the City’s Platforms 2020: Public Works which will run until the year’s end, and continue to push the City’s Culture|Shift plan forward.

“Platforms 2020: Public Works highlights the crucial role of art in our community by sharing the works of local artists who continue to work from their living rooms, bedrooms, and on the streets of the city at this critical moment,” said Eric Fredericksen, Head of Public Art for City of Vancouver. “The themes addressed in these works are so central to the human experience right now, and will offer our community new ways to connect during this time of crisis.” 

This month’s program features

Roadside Diary

Bagua Artist Association’s Roadside Diary (2020) is a digital drawing presented on transit shelters throughout the city that illustrates daily scenes of the lockdown. In this work, an abstracted road weaves together scenes symbolizing how we are all connected despite our physical distance. Composed of four parts -“The New Normal,” “Gratitude and Appreciation,” “The Divided,” and “Animals Out”- the work intends to reflect the impacts of COVID-19 on vulnerable groups in Vancouver, as well as the new normal to occurrences of discrimination and violence in our city.

Pandemik Piks

Deanne Achong’s Pandemik Piks (2020), a series of drawings presented on 18 digital screens throughout the City, was originally conceived on Instagram loosely around the idea of hair. Midway through the project, when the deaths of Breonna Taylor and countless others filled the news, the artist’s feed was populated with black squares. In response to these ambiguous squares the artist scanned, altered and reversed the drawings, creating exploding and flowering hair piks. The series now reflects her thoughts on the world being on fire.

Things My Dad Taught Me

Jackie Dives’ photographs Things My Dad Taught Me (2019) presented on a billboard at Broadway and Prince Edward Street is about the death of her father, who passed away from an accidental drug overdose. Dives explains, “After he died I would get on my bike and ride to places that reminded me of him. I would stop and make photographs of things that resonated with me as I reflected on our relationship. As I walked through the Vancouver neighbourhoods where I grew up I found myself compelled to photograph things that looked overgrown, neglected, forgotten. But I saw freedom in those things too, a lack of inhibition that my dad had embodied… These photographs allowed me to reconnect with my dad and remember him in his complexity, instead of his faults.”

Tree Houses

Nicolas Sassoon’s Tree Houses (2020), presented on the VanLive! screen at the corner of Granville and Robson Streets, are two digital animations of rudimentary tree houses rotating endlessly in various shades of grey. Tree houses can take different meanings depending on the context they are found, from survival shelters to recreational structures. Tree houses represent an important form of escape today through a desire to return to a form of innocence or independence, an escape from reality's contingencies or from an urban environment. 

Frontline Workers

Jag Nagra's Frontline Workers (2020), presented on a billboard at Helmcken near Granville, is a digital drawing based on a warrior character the artist created prior to the pandemic. During the first stages of COVID-19, Nagra re-imagined the warrior as a frontline healthcare worker battling the spread of the virus. It was a way for the artist to cope with overwhelming anxiety from not knowing what Covid-19 would bring during its early stages.

On the Other Hand

Randy Lee Cutler’s On the Other Hand (2020) will also be presented on transit shelters throughout the city. It was selected from an extensive collage series, composed of cut-outs from National Geographic magazines, that embraces the virus by channeling its RNA code to cast spells through hieroglyphic forms. By bringing disparate elements together into new configurations, a lexicon of human gestures and cultural artifacts is cast open to interpretation, resonating with our shared bodily experiences of uncertainty.

“This program aligns with the vision for our collective’s practice, which is to make art accessible to the public outside of the art institution and bring it into public spaces”, said Sean Cao, co-founder of Bagua Artist Association. “By displaying our work at bus shelters throughout Vancouver, Platforms 2020 helps us to present our compiled observations, including those lesser seen and often overlooked aspects of the pandemic, across many neighbourhoods.”

Platforms 2020: Public Works

Platforms 2020: Public Works is a monthly series of public art projects being presented from June until the year’s end. In total, this program will bring thirty-three new projects to the public realm. 

Learn more about the projects and artists showcased to date