South of the Fraser

Surrey, Delta, White Rock and Langleys

Beyond Vague Terrain: an opening at the Surrey Art Gallery

"Did you call a cab?" The Surrey Art Gallery on January 14


I was late. I missed the first remarks at the opening of Beyond Vague Terrain: The City and the Serial Image at the Surrey Art Gallery January 14, 2012. 

Interestingly, it had just snowed the evening before, and sporadically through the day. It was the first snowfall of the year, not very deep, but enough that the parking lot was dusted with white, as were the trees, muffling the sound of traffic from King George Highway.

Inside the gallery the walls were also white. The ceiling with its ducts and fans were white, the floor was unfinished bare concrete. Neutral. Cold.

The audience was spread over two rooms. There were about 50 or 60 people there, a wide range of ages, sexes and degrees of hipness.

Several of the artists featured in this exhibit were present and the curator introduced them, asking them to raise a hand. Each introduction was met with a measured applause.

The walls, cement floor and high ceiling all contributed to the reverb that followed each applause. If you're a musician, imagine the "small hall" setting on your reverb box. 

The event photographer snapped photos.

After the curator finished his spiel (to an appropriate measure of applause and subsequent reverberation) a guest curator introduced Open Sound 2012, which would, he promised "make the inaudible audible". Open Sound 2012 is showing/playing concurrently with Beyond Vague Terrain. 

The guest curator's speech was also met with a careful measure of applause, applause so precise it felt choreographed. Start applause. Stop.

The white silence of listening was replaced by the conversational drone of discussion. All with that 'small hall' setting. It was 7:51 pm.

People came and went. There was one baby stroller. The baby was inside, asleep.


The art

The content of the show is mildly interesting. The works were done between the 1970s and the present and over a variety of media: paint, photography, some computer stuff. My favourite were the images of Vancouver apartment building entrances. I was left with the vague impression that the pieces were the scraps, the working bits, of something bigger that wasn't quite finished, or perhaps some work that had been lost. 


The lounge and sound

Just outside of the entrance was the lounge, where around 20 people snacked, talked and listened to two DJ's selections.

I sat on the couch just outside to take a few notes and unexpectedly experienced Open Sound 2012. The couch was vibrating from the subsonics of the audio piece. It was unpleasant and I got up quickly.

Back in the gallery people were still milling around. A few overheard snatches of conversation:

"...pushing the boundaries..."

"...simultaneous construction and deconstruction..."

"Did you call a cab?"


Time to go. Outside it had started to snow again, a serial descent of noise-muffling coldness making the audible barely audible, and slowly reshaping the landscape.



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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