International exhibitions

International 2010 Archives

Heather & Ivan Morison, Plaza
Vancouver Art Gallery Offsite (Canada)

02.10.2010 - 01.05.2011


07.09 - 25.11.2012

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Press release

Offsite is the Vancouver Art Gallery’s outdoor exhibition space in the heart of urban Vancouver that offers a rotating program of innovative public art projects. Launched in July 2009 with the photo-based work of O Zhang and followed in January 2010 with a sculptural installation by Ken Lum, Offsite: Heather and Ivan Morison is the third project in the series.

Heather and Ivan Morison explore architecture as it relates to ideas of escape, shelter and refuge. A site-specific project designed for Offsite, Plaza hovers between sculpture and architecture. Rising nearly three stories high, the walls of the pavilion lean outwards towards the street as if they have been torqued in all directions by an extraordinary force. The interior platform is raised above the water, propped up by crossing diagonal supports, and the roof is open to the sky. The walls are made of heavy timber beams, burnt to a dark charcoal using a Japanese technique for preserving and protecting wood from the elements called shou-sugi-ban. Visitors can enter the space, and in so doing, they become part of the artwork.

Plaza mimics the most prosaic form of the urban built environment—the gridded box—and forcefully twists it by a mere 8-degree shift, enough for its walls to seem on the verge of collapse. The warping is, however, halted at a precise point, suspending the structure in a play of distortions and perceived imbalances, where it appears to be carefully held in balance between falling and flight, weight and levity, solidity and transparency. Plaza evokes a pivotal moment of architectural and societal transformation and metaphorically suggests that the mechanisms which underpin the modern city are far more fragile than we imagine. Its burnt surface and collapsing form infer a cautionary tale for the future, as well as an invocation to transform the modern city.


Installation October 2, 2010 - May 1, 2011. Vancouvert Art Gallery Offsite. Tel.: 604 970 3234.

Heather & Ivan Morison, Plaza, Vancouver Art Gallery Offsite

© ArtCatalyse International / Marika Prévosto 2012. All Rights Reserved

Offsite: Heather and Ivan Morison, Plaza, 2010-2011 Offsite: Heather and Ivan Morison, Plaza, 2010-2011

Offsite: Heather and Ivan Morison, Plaza, 2010-2011

Similar to other large scale projects by Heather and Ivan Morison, the construction of the work was part of a broad community-based effort. The work was made using salvaged wood collected from beaches, development sites and construction yards throughout Vancouver and milled on site. Individuals and local businesses generously donated materials and labour, including lumber, hardware, propane, architectural and engineering expertise. The coordination and construction of the piece was led by the Great Northern Way Scene Shop, a not-for-profit shop affiliated with the University of British Columbia. Members of the construction team included carpenters, artists, labourers, as well as Bladerunners, a job training program for at-risk youth in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. Numerous volunteers from the community generously offered their time and energy milling and burning countless feet of timber.

Heather and Ivan Morison work collaboratively and make art as an active engagement with materials, histories, sites and processes. Over the years, their practice has incorporated activities as diverse as gardening, kite flying, sky writing and science fiction. The Morisons have made site-specific projects internationally including the establishment of an arboretum in a remote village in Wales.