Stan Douglas : Every Building on 100 West Hastings Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art (401 Richmond West), to June 26. 416-591-0357. Rating: NNNNN Rating: NNNNN
Stan Douglas's every building on 100 West Hastings is the closest many people will ever get to one of Canada's scariest skid rows. The block of semi-derelict buildings he depicts in his 16-foot panoramic photograph is at the heart of Vancouver's notorious Downtown Eastside. If you go there today you might get mugged or propositioned if you don't know your way around. It's also where many of Vancouver's murdered prostitutes once worked.
But it wasn't always like that. The area boomed during the era of the railway, only beginning its slow downward spiral in the 1930s. It never recovered, though some of the rundown Edwardian facades still hint at its former glory.
Knowing this story of urban decline, it's a bit unnerving how gorgeous this image is. Douglas shot each building at night, then made a composite of the individual prints. The result is a seamless photograph stretching the entire length of a wall at Prefix ICA .
Many of the buildings are for sale or boarded up, and the handful of remaining pawnshops and convenience stores are padlocked for the night. The street is empty, the only signs of life lights in the windows of rented rooms or sleazy hotels. Onto this desolate scene a series of street lamps casts an eerie, unreal light, almost like a movie set.
It's a strange place to find yourself, caught between the beauty of the photographs and the horror of the lives of the people who live and die on West Hastings.