11.4 Contemporary art, Canadian Art & Design

The following is a very small sampling of contemporary Design and Canadian art. – I’ve chosen artists and architects who work predominately within identity politics, physicality of memory, and site. For a more conclusive study on Canadian Art Histories visit: https://ecampusontario.pressbooks.pub/canadarthistories/


Raymond Moriyama, Museum London, London Ontario, 1980



Watch the Documentary on Raymond Moriyama






Rebecca Belmore


Read the overview and biography of Rebecca Belmore here

“Rebecca Belmore Artist Overview and Analysis”. [Internet]. 2022. TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Alexandra Duncan
Edited and revised, with Summary and Accomplishments added by Rebecca Baillie
Available from: https://www.theartstory.org/artist/belmore-rebecca/
First published on 02 Dec 2019. Updated and modified regularly


Iris Haeussler

Iris Hausler, Florence Hassard, Apartment 5, 2019


Please Read And Explore

a. Etty Yaniev, Iris Häussler – Invented Biographies, 2019 http://artspiel.org/iris-haussler/

b. https://haeussler.ca/


Canadian Collectives in Art practice – from https://ecampusontario.pressbooks.pub/canadarthistories/part/collectivity/ – edited by Jennifer Lorraine Fraser

The desire for artistic collectivity and collaboration has persisted into the late 20th and 21st centuries, and this collectivity informs Canadian art practice today. There are numerous examples of groups and collectives in Canada like General Idea, Condé + Beveridge, Feminist Art Collective, FASTWÜRMS, Tennis Club, PA System, Neon Kohkom, 44.4 Mothers/Artists Collective, ReMatriate Collective, and Life of a Craphead, for example.

The desire for artistic collectivity and collaboration has persisted into the late 20th and 21st centuries. There are numerous examples of groups and collectives in Canada, including General Idea, Condé + Beveridge, Feminist Art Collective, FASTWÜRMS, Tennis Club, PA System, Neon Kohkom, 44.4 Mothers/Artists Collective, ReMatriate Collective, and Life of a Craphead, for example.


You can read more about contemporary art collectives in Canada in Alison Cooley and Daniella Sanader’s essay in Canadian Art, “Gang Up: 16 Great Canadian Art Collaborations.”

There are a number of Indigenous art collectives working in Canada today. OCICIWAN Contemporary Art Collective in the region of Edmonton supports Indigenous contemporary art, experimental creative practices, and innovative research. In Saskatchewan, Sâkêwêwak has been supporting Indigenous artists in the Regina area for more than two decades. The collective provides support to artists helping them to create, grow, and reach audiences. They hold an annual Storytellers Festival, as well as residencies, workshops, exhibitions, and performances.

Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace (AbTec) is another Indigenous collaboration and the brainchild of new media artist Skawennati Fragnito (Mohawk) and Jason Lewis (Cherokee), a digital media poet, artist, and software designer. AbTec “is an Aboriginally determined research-creation network whose goal is to ensure Indigenous presence in the web pages, online environments, video games, and virtual worlds that comprise cyberspace” (AbTec, n.d.). Their projects have included artworks, writing, lectures, workshops, residencies, and exhibitions. AbTec began with a project called CyberPowWow, a cutting edge online gallery and chat space for contemporary Indigenous art. Lewis and Skawennati fervently believe that cyberspace and virtual worlds should be (and need to be) self-determined places for Indigenous peoples to call home. These tenets also underpin much of Skawennati’s artworks.

Skawennati, TimeTraveller™ – https://ecampusontario.pressbooks.pub/canadarthistories/part/collectivity/

Cyberspace and the internet have the ability to build community and collectivity. Skawennati and Jason Lewis contend that cyberspace may be one of the remaining territories not impacted fully by the histories and claims of colonialism. They write:

Cyberspace—the websites, chat rooms, bulletin boards, virtual environments, and games that make up the internet—offers Aboriginal communities an unprecedented opportunity to assert control over how we represent ourselves to each other and to non-Aboriginals.


History has shown us that new media technologies can play a critical role in shaping how Western, technologically oriented cultures perceive Aboriginals. The camera, for instance, taught people that we all wore headdresses and lived in teepees. Cinema claimed that we spoke in broken English—if we spoke at all. The World Wide Web has offered us the possibility to shape our own representations and make them known. Traditional mass media such as newspapers, magazines, television, and film are expensive to produce and distribute and consequently exclude Aboriginal peoples. On the internet, we can publish for a fraction of the cost of doing so in the old media; we can instantly update what we publish in order to respond to misrepresentations, misunderstandings, and misreadings; and we can instantly propagate our message across a world-spanning network. And we don’t need to fight through any gatekeepers to do so (Lewis and Skawennati 2005).

Skawennati’s TimeTraveller™ is a multiplatform project that includes a website, a nine-episode machinima series, a set of digital prints, and a prototype action figure. TimeTraveller™ tells the story of Hunter, an angry young Mohawk man living in the 22nd century. Hunter is disillusioned with his life in an overcrowded, hyperconsumerist, technologized world where his traditional skills as hunter, warrior, and ironworker don’t seem to be enough to get him by. He decides to use his edutainment system—his TimeTraveller™—to embark on a technologically enhanced vision quest that immerses him in historical events significant to First Nations, such as the Dakota Sioux Uprising, the Oka Crisis and the occupation of Alcatraz Island. Watch TimeTraveller™ Episode 01 here:

David Gaertner, Professor in the First Nations and Indigenous Studies Program at the University of British Columbia, writes of TimeTraveller™:

TimeTraveller™ is a love story. It’s a piece of science fiction. It’s a history of colonialism and Indigenous resistance. But of all these things TimeTraveller™ is a story about media and remediation. This is not to say that this work is more of an aesthetic than political piece. It is to say, however, that the import of Skawennati’s politics is realized through the refashioning of “old media” in the new.


In Episode 01 Hunter sets his VR headset to travel back in time to Fort Calgary, Canada. The year is 1875 A.D. He arrives just as a group of colonialists are finding their seats: “It looks like there’s going to be a show,” Hunter remarks. Indeed, in his engagement with his own “new media,” the TimeTraveller™, Hunter inadvertently stumbles across the “new media” of the nineteenth century, a moving panorama.

One hundred and fifty years ago the moving panorama was one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the world. Hundreds toured Europe, the United States, and Canada. Moving panoramas were composed of a series of contiguous scenes that scrolled past an audience behind a proscenium, which hid the machinery and the person turning the crank. Kerosene lanterns illuminated the “moving pictures,” while a “Delineator” narrated the story.

The moving panorama in TimeTraveller™ contextualizes Hunter’s VR and locates Skawennati’s piece itself within a layered history of “new media.” Skawennati imagines Hunter’s interface via a medium as novel to the twenty-first century as the panorama was to the nineteenth: machinima, an animated movie that uses computer or video game software to generate the characters and scenes. Then, through both her own medium, and the one she retroactively imagines for Hunter, Skawennati reimagines and refashions the 1863 Minnesota Massacre panorama in her own narrative.

Like CyberPowWow before it, TimeTraveller™ enacts visual sovereignty in the way that it inscribes Indigenous politics, identities, voices, and perspectives into the present, past, and future of screen culture, a medium that has historically worked to efface Indigenous presence. In engaging the past TimeTraveller™ re-positions Indigenous presence and future and imagines new spaces to create and share stories (Gaertner 2017).

TimeTraveller™, which was developed between 2008 and 2013, used the virtual world of Second Life as its platform, a cyberspace where users can create and activate avatars that is, by its very nature, a collective or communal space.

Introduction to Activism and Art – from https://ecampusontario.pressbooks.pub/canadarthistories/part/activism/ Edited by Jennifer Lorraine Fraser

The activist potential of art has long been debated in art history. A dominant trend within discussions of activist art, exemplified by publications such as But is it Art? The Spirit of Art and Activism (1995), is to focus on activist art in relation to the emergence of conceptual art and political movements in the 1960s and 1970s, for example, the civil rights and feminist movements. However, recent publications such as Art and Social Change: A Critical Reader (2007) have sought to recognize the longer historical relationship between art and activism at heightened moments of social and political transformation, tracing this connection during periods such as the Paris Commune in 1871. More recent discussions in the field of activist art focus on collaboration as a key element of socially engaged practice, including the analysis of relational practices in Relational Aesthetics (1998) by Nicolas Bourriaud and the examination of diverse artistic partnerships in Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art (2004) by Grant Kester. Collaborative methods of practice are increasingly the norm in contemporary art. Such works prioritise process over object production and technical proficiency, as well as social engagement and community over artistic autonomy. At the same time, the spheres of contemporary art and activism are increasingly intertwined.

Privilege: Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge

Against the backdrop of ongoing debates over labour (including women’s work and developments in the labour movement), Toronto-based contemporary artists Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge have engaged with trade unions in their art practice. Collaborating for over thirty-years, they have sought to bridge working communities and the art world through their projects. They have been recognized for their unique collaborative practice and their extensive collaborations with trade unions since the 1980s, resulting in the production of vibrant photographic compositions that critically reflect on workers’ conditions and histories of labour in Canada.

Influenced by their relationship with the New York art scene (including the Art & Language group), in 1975 Condé and Beveridge decided to embark upon their first collaboration, producing new work reflecting their recent experiences. These works comprised the exhibition It’s Still Privileged Art, which was shown in 1976 at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, and subsequently exhibited at Canada House Gallery in London, in the United Kingdom. The show was charged by revolutionary iconography. It contained several silkscreen and photographic works based on the artists’ political involvement.

Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge, It’s Still Privileged Art, 1975 https://condebeveridge.ca/project/its-still-privileged-art-1975-edited-version/

Another artist working within the lenses of activism in the social conditions of Canadian or North American life is Esmaa Mohamoud. Originally from London, Ontario, Mohamoud has been interrogating the spaces afforded to masculine black bodies, especially considering the world of extreme and professional sports. Watch this video outlining Mohamoud’s exhibition To Play in the Face of Certain Defeat.


Esma Mohamoud

Read: https://www.goat.com/editorial/esmaa-mohamoud-artist-interview?utm_source=google_int&utm_medium=google_search_int&utm_campaign=11015000127_109090670158&utm_content=487059736780__network-g&utm_term=_mt-&gclid=Cj0KCQjw6J-SBhCrARIsAH0yMZhEVd0SGNb_kk0aR7DGfddXH-EeF0syWz9Q64l109QYknQHPacC4RQaAkqNEALw_wcB


Stan Douglas, Every Building on 100 West Hastings – Dr. Gabrielle Moser

Colour photograph of a city block taken at night. Streetlights illuminate the sidewalk and the names of commercial businesses, as well as five trees planted along the curb. No people are present in the scene. Stan Douglas, Every Building on 100 West Hastings, 2001. C print. 66 cm x 426.9 cm. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York.
Stan Douglas, Every Building on 100 West Hastings, 2001, chromogenic print, 66 x 426.9 cm (courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner, New York)

How do we picture a shifting urban landscape constantly on the verge of disappearing? Stan Douglas’s 14-foot-long panoramic photograph of one block of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighborhood addresses this difficulty, documenting every building in exacting detail. But just as important in Douglas’s photograph is what goes unseen and uncaptured by the camera: the human subjects that usually populate the street, the pressures of real estate speculation on housing, and the shifting identity of the city in the lead-up to the 2010 Olympic Games. Though the image is a careful study of a specific place, the photograph offers us evidence of how Vancouver is impacted by global forces that are shaping city streets everywhere.

Gentrification, protest, and the landscape

Taken at night and theatrically illuminated with soundstage lighting, Every Building on 100 West Hastings captures an otherwise unremarkable city block with remarkable clarity. The neighborhood pictured has been called “the poorest postal code in Canada” and is the site from which dozens of women, many of them Indigenous, have disappeared (the remains of many of them were subsequently discovered on convicted serial killer Robert Pickton’s farm in 2002). Vancouver has prospered in the past few decades thanks to international trade and the success of the tech and film industries, but the Downtown Eastside neighborhood, operates as a point of contrast for the rest of the city, where poverty, homelessness, drug use, and sex work have increased as the divide between the rich and poor deepens. [1]

Digitally stitched together from twenty-one separate photographs, Douglas’s panoramic view of the block would be impossible to replicate with natural sight. With the camera aimed squarely at each building façade, the image allows us to take in the entirety of the streetscape without bending the horizon line, or losing focus. Its massive scale encourages our eye to skip along the length of the street, noticing that hotels, pawnshops and convenience stores are the most common surviving businesses, while six lots are either for sale or lease by realtor Fred Yuen, hinting at the economic downturn the neighborhood has experienced. Handmade signs in shop windows advertise closing sales, pawnshops offer to “buy, sell, or trade” goods, convenience stores announce ATMs and cheap cigarettes, and two closed circuit cameras surveil the left-hand street corner outside Jaysons Food Market.

At the time Douglas made the image, the neighborhood was on the verge of another change, however, represented by the coming of the Olympic Games to Vancouver in 2010. Fierce debates were raging between residents, city officials and real estate developers about whether it would be possible to “clean up” the Downtown Eastside in time for the international event, and over the future of the Woodwards department store, located immediately across the street, behind Douglas’s camera. Closed due to increased competition from American big-box stores, local residents occupied the building to demand it be converted into affordable housing rather than condominiums, culminating in a stand off between police, developers and local activists in 2002 known as Woodsquat. Every Building on 100 West Hastings does not picture these events, but by devoting such large-scale attention to a neighborhood whose future was contested, Douglas’s image raised questions about the value of the landscape for local communities (a community that includes the artist himself, whose studio is located only three blocks from the site of the photograph).

Missing bodies and the ethics of documentary photography  

Unlike photojournalistic images of the neighborhood, which show sidewalks busy with cars and people, Douglas photographs an empty West Hastings Street. While this is usually a bustling street, even late at night, the artist blocked off the sidewalk with city permits to photograph its sidewalks empty of people. If you look closely, temporary “no parking” signs dot the lampposts in the image.

Without human subjects in the scene, the photograph recalls documentation of Hollywood film sets and studio constructions of city façades, referencing Vancouver’s history as “Hollywood North,” an affordable stand-in for American cities in movies and television series. But removing the neighborhood residents from the camera’s gaze is also a response to decades-long questions about the ethics of street photography, particularly when documenting poorer urban areas. The Downtown Eastside was often depicted in news media across Canada at the time Douglas was working, but while photojournalists frequently turned the camera’s lens towards the neighborhood’s unhoused residents, the artist purposely removes them from view. By obscuring human subjects from his frame, Douglas avoids the potential of re-victimizing local residents a second time, through the invasive view of the camera, as photographer Martha Rosler once famously argued in her landmark essay on the ethics of documentary photography in the Bowery neighborhood of Manhattan.

Some of the bodies missing from the block were forcefully disappeared, however, by police enforcement of anti-loitering laws, or more nefariously, drug overdoses and the disappearances and deaths of women involved in sex work. Douglas’s ability to control the movement of bodies across the streetscape has led several commentators to question if a problematic power dynamic is still at play between the photographer and his un-pictured subjects. It is telling that, in 2003, the Vancouver Book Award was presented as a tie between Heroines by Lincoln Clarkes—a series of black and white photographs, inspired by 1990s fashion advertising of unnamed women subjects in the Downtown Eastside—and a small catalogue devoted to Every Building on 100 West Hastings produced by the Contemporary Art Gallery: a tie that speaks to the charged place the Downtown Eastside occupied in citizens’ imaginations. While Douglas’s photograph imaged a city block that was poised to be transformed by unseen actors (either gentrified by developers or reclaimed by the community), Clarkes’s series seemed to re-center the neighborhood’s fate on its individual residents, using the established language of photojournalism to expose them as victims.

Edward Ruscha, Every Building on the Sunset Strip, 1966, offset lithograph on paper in silver Mylar-covered box, 1/87 x 5-5/8 inches .1 - closed (Walker Art Center © Ed Ruscha)
Edward Ruscha, Every Building on the Sunset Strip, 1966, offset lithograph on paper in silver Mylar-covered box, 1/87 x 5-5/8 inches .1 – closed (Walker Art Center © Ed Ruscha)

Conceptual photography in Vancouver

Though taken well before the invention of Google Street View, Douglas’s image evokes a similar perspective of a city block as seen out the window of a car. This viewpoint is not accidental: the title and structure of Douglas’s photograph is borrowed directly from a famous photo bookEvery Building on the Sunset Strip, by American conceptual artist, Ed Ruscha. In his accordion-style fold out book published in 1966, Ruscha took black and white photographs of every building along the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles and placed them side by side to create a panorama of both sides of the street. Though Douglas borrows Ruscha’s title and structure for his image, his choice of aesthetic is strikingly different. While Ruscha was interested in making a banal, black-and-white document of vernacular architecture, copying amateur photography and inhabiting the role of the “non-artist” to challenge the artist-as-genius narrative of modernist formalism, Douglas borrows the visual language of commercial film studios to capture the block in vivid, full color detail. In this way, Douglas’s photograph responds to the flow of ideas between West Coast conceptual artists, like Ruscha, and artists in the so-called Vancouver School of photo-conceptualism.

One of the hallmarks of the Vancouver School’s approach is the use of cinematic conventions in fine art photographs. The theatrical lighting used in Douglas’s nighttime image would be familiar to many Vancouver residents accustomed to seeing film crews cordoning off public space for television shows and movies. But unlike his contemporary, Jeff Wall, whose cinematographic photographs are often staged in Vancouver, but are not meant to depict Vancouver (or anywhere), in Douglas’s photographs, the location plays itself. Detroit is Detroit, Cuba is Cuba, and Vancouver is Vancouver in Douglas’s studies of the urban landscape. He nevertheless connects local conditions to global forces in each of these series, demonstrating the ways the landscape is transformed in response to the pressures of globalization, capitalism and urban renewal.



  1. See Jeff Sommers and Nicholas Blomley,  “The Worst Block in Vancouver.” Every Building on 100 West Hastings. Vancouver: Contemporary Art Gallery, 2002, pp. 19–58.

Additional resources

Learn about Woodsquat

Vancouver art in the 1960s

Lincoln Clarkes’s Heroines

Burnham, Clint. 2005. “No Art After Pickton.” Fillip, 1 (1), pp. 1–3.

Every Building on 100 West Hastings. 2002. Reid Shier, ed. Vancouver: Contemporary Art Gallery.

INTERTIDAL: Vancouver Art and Artists. 2005. Dieter Roelstrate and Scott Watson (eds.). Antwerp: Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen.

Mansoor, Jaleh. 2005. “Ed Ruscha’s ‘One-Way Street,’” October 111 (Winter), pp. 127–142.

Modigliani, Leah. 2018. Engendering an Avant-Garde: The Unsettled Landscapes of Vancouver Photo-Conceptualism. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Moser, Gabrielle. 2011. “Phantasmagoric Places: Local and Global Tensions in the Circulation of Stan Douglas’s Every Building on 100 West Hastings,” Photography & Culture 4:1 (March), pp. 55–72.

O’Brian, Melanie., 2007. “Introduction: Specious Speculation,” in Melanie O’Brian (ed.), Vancouver Art & Economies. Vancouver: Artspeak/Arsenal Pulp Press, pp. 11–26.

Roelstraate, Dieter. 2013. “Apparation Theory: Stan Douglas and Photography,” in Stan Douglas, Göttingen, Germany: Steidl, pp. 103–109.

Rosler, Martha. 1993. Rosler, Martha. “In, around, and afterthoughts (on documentary photography)” in The Contest of Meaning: Critical Histories of Photography, ed. Richard Bolton, (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press), pp. 303–341.

Ruins in Process: Vancouver Art in the Sixties, The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery at The University of British Columbia, and the grunt gallery

Sommers, Jeff and Nicholas Blomley, 2002. “The Worst Block in Vancouver.” Every Building on 100 West Hastings. Vancouver: Contemporary Art Gallery, pp. 19–58.

Vancouver Anthology: The Institutional Politics of Art, Stan Douglas, ed., 2nd edition (Vancouver: Or Gallery/Talon Books, 2009)

Jeff Wall, “‘Marks of Indifference’: Aspects of Photography in, or as, Conceptual Art,” in Reconsidering the Object of Art: 1965–1975, Ann Goldstein and Anne Rorimer, eds. (Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art, 1995): pp. 247–267.

Watson, Scott. 1991. “Discovering the Defeatured Landscape,” Vancouver Anthology, Stan Douglas, ed. (Vancouver: Talonbooks/Or Gallery), pp. 246–265.

Cite this page as: Dr. Gabrielle Moser, “Stan Douglas, Every Building on 100 West Hastings,” in Smarthistory, March 14, 2022, accessed April 8, 2022, https://smarthistory.org/stan-douglas-every-building-on-100-west-hastings/.



Digital Art and NFTs


Watch this video displaying an Algorithm of who the Contemporary art world considers the top most famous painters today – but where are the women? where are the artists of colour? Where are the gender-fluid artists? Where are all of the living artists? Your task is to choose one artist explored in this highlight reel and find a contemporary artist working within the same constructs; either using the same materials or topics. You can find contemporary artists by skimming through this site: https://www.artsy.net/artists


Read and Explore

Adams A. Canadian hospital architecture: how we got here. CMAJ ; 188, 370-371. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.151233
CanadARThistories by Alena Buis; Devon Smither; Elizabeth Anne Cavaliere; Jen Kennedy; Johanna Amos; and Sarah E.K. Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License,
Dr. Gabrielle Moser, “Stan Douglas, Every Building on 100 West Hastings,” in Smarthistory, March 14, 2022, accessed August 7, 2022, https://smarthistory.org/stan-douglas-every-building-on-100-west-hastings/. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License




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Origins of Contemporary Art, Design, and Interiors Copyright © by Jennifer Lorraine Fraser is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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