Associate Professor Justin Langlois is the City of Vancouver’s inaugural Artist-in-Residence with the Sustainability Group. Working with a range of staff in both Sustainability and Public Art, his focus was centred on engagement and communication activities related to the Greenest City Action Plan, and the Sea Level Rise in particular.
The 18-month residency, which wrapped up this past December, allowed Justin to engage in a process of experiential and dialogical research to support creating a new public artwork along False Creek. The artwork, a neon sign that reads Should I Be Worried?, is affixed to a wooden support structure that helps to frame a number of social, environmental, and political issues facing Vancouver at the moment.
"As an artist and educator, I think a lot about how we communicate and how we host conversations in public. I can already see the ways in which this residency has impacted my teaching and I'm excited to see what new projects will come from this experience."
The idea for the work came out of many conversations that focused on this point of tension — engagement sets of an expectation of involvement. Many of the long-term decisions that the City is working towards through policy and planning are geared at long-term structural changes. Brainstorming how to communicate that to the wider public and how to bring new people into these conversations was exciting, and Justin believes that the kinds of questions and points of inquiry he introduced throughout the process has helped the staff he worked with to shift their process in some ways. Justin feels that it is vital that we think of new roles for artists to take in our communities, and he's pleased that this residency has helped to pave the way for other departments within the city to begin to take on artists-in-residence. Overall, Justin sums up the experience as fascinating. It not only changed how he views the city, but the project brought a different sense of time to his own practice.
This was the City's first artist-in-residence position that embedded an artist in a specific department.