Beginning with the Seventies
Ruins in Process: Vancouver Art in the Sixties

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  1. Tom Burrows, Skwat Doc (detail), 1981-82, photocopies on board and attaché case. Collection of the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, The University of British Columbia. Gift of the artist, 1999.

Spatial Politics and the City Symposium

PAST - Friday, March 27, 2015, 1-5:30 pm


Seating for the symposium is limited and is on a first-come, first-served basis; please arrive early.

Liu Institute for Global Issues
6476 NW Marine Drive, UBC

This symposium is occasioned by the Tom Burrows exhibition at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. Since the 1960s, Burrows’ work has reflected on the connections between the spaces of political and artistic/material practice. His home and sculptural works on the Maplewood Mudflats, his documentation of squatting communities in Africa, Asia and Europe, and his ongoing production of abstract works in resin and porcelain share an attention to the ways in which socially meaningful forms emerge out of engagement with, and intervention in, spatial and material processes. The symposium will take up some issues suggested by such attention in two panels.

1:00-1:10 pm: INTRODUCTION


Lorna Fox O’Mahony, Professor of Law and Executive Dean of Humanities, University of Essex, “Squatting in the Shadows of a Strong Property Rights Regime: Outlaws and Outsiders in the Neo-Liberal State”

Alison B. Hirsch, Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, University of Southern California, “The Participatory City: Activist Landscape Architecture in the ’60s, ’70s and Today”

Moderator: Chris Gaudet, Public and Academic Programs Assistant, UBC Belkin Art Gallery

In her article “Looking for the Utopian,” Andrea Anderson claims that the aesthetic of Burrows’ interventions in the Maplewood Mudflats was “dependent on the movements of the community as well as of nature.” How might (legal, architectural, artistic) interventions into landscapes enable their emergence or persistence as socially meaningful spaces: homes, communities, sites for performance and belonging? How might such spaces be both brought into being and threatened by movement, in the form of migration, of choreography, of historical change?

3:10-3:30 pm: BREAK


Elke Krasny, Professor, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, “Curatorial Lecture: Hands-On Urbanism”

Alexander Vasudevan, Assistant Professor, School of Geography, University of Nottingham, “The Makeshift City: Towards a Spatial History of Squatting in Vancouver”

Moderator: Mari Fujita, Chair, Environmental Design and Associate Professor, Architecture, UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture

How might Vancouver’s (often highly conflictual) spatial histories be activated by artistic interventions? How have communities – especially communities that have defined themselves, or been defined, as marginal – shaped the city’s public spaces? What possibilities do practices of contestation, such as Vancouver’s long history of squatting, open for thinking and representing a city for which sovereignty and land title are constantly at issue?

Spatial Politics and the City is made possible with assistance from the UBC Curatorial Lecture Series supported by the Audain Endowment for Curatorial Studies in the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory.

For further information please contact: Jana Tyner at,
tel: (604) 822-1389, or fax: (604) 822-6689