South of the Fraser

Surrey, Delta, White Rock and Langleys

Urban screen: electric speed opening at Chuck Bailey

Hot chocolate? Opening night for Electric Speed at the Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre

Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre. Friday. December 2, 2011. 5:50 pm, but in winter, when the sun sets at around 4 or 4:30 it seems like 8 pm. At least it's not snowing.

And that's what it says on the side of the rec centre. "At least it's not snow."

The whole wall has words, headlines, splashed in projected light over it.

It's opening night. There's a table, covered in blue cloth. Hot chocolate sits in a snug dispenser. Insulated. a tray of chocolate cookies. And literature. Four neat piles of papers and brochures. I stare at the wall. I glance at the table. The woman in red sees an opportunity.

"Are you here for the opening?" she asks.

I confess that I'm here by accident, but ask what's going on.

This is Surrey Urban Screen, part of an "outreach program of the Surrey Art Gallery." [city source] It's been active since the Olympics, over a year and a half ago. You can see it on the left-hand side from the Skytrain as you head from Gateway to Surrey Central.

Tonight is the opening for Electric Speed, by Melissa Mongiat and Mouna Andraos. The basic idea is it's a collage of headlines from the past year. Viewers can participate by texting to a phone number that's on the side of the building. Do they have controls to prevent nasty words or commercial messages?

5:55 pm. There are about 20 people on the edge of the parking lot looking at the wall, the urban screen. Four art gallery volunteers huddle around the hot chocolate table. I notice three, no, four toques. Skateboarders glide along the sidewalks next to the building. There's a skate park right next door to the Chuck Bailey rec centre. A few brave lads venture over to the hot chocolate. It lures them to urban screen and ART. They hurry back to the skate park, to reality, to their world.

A few linger for the cookies. They have those short fixed-gear trick bikes. They drop them casually onto the sidewalk. Cookies. Hot chocolate. It must be close to freezing.

A boy with a red rhino on his helmet asks "Can I take a sheet and read it later?" He's holding a cookie.

The docents are enthralled. Success! Urban screen has touched real people.

Where are the artists? It's opening night. 6:04 pm. There are now about 22 people in the parking lot. No artists. The art people, the people who are here for urban screen, stand at a respectful distance from the art and the hot chocolate. The youths come and go. Some of the art people venture to the table too, but then retreat to the safety zone of the parking lot.

There's a talk at SFU Surrey tonight about urban screens. It's given by Mirjam Struppek, who's from Germany. She writes about urban screens, about lights on walls. And tonight she's talking about them. SFU Surrey is just up the street, maybe a kilometer away.

"They don't have walls in Germany?" I ask the docent.

Inside the rec centre some girls play badminton.

Outside there are two groups of people: the art people standing in the parking lot looking at urban screen, and to the side about 20 or so young people using the skate park. They do tricks with bikes and skateboards. In between the two is the table. The hot chocolate and cookies. The literature. And behind it all is urban screen.

Skateboarders in front of the urban screen


Info on South of the Fraser River: Surrey, Delta, White Rock, City of Langley, Township of Langley, Fort Langley. Maybe a bit of Abbotsford, just for fun.

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