Public Art Registry
Night Prowl
Photo: Courtesy of the artist
Night Prowl by Deanna Bowen - photo by Courtesy of the artist
Night Prowl by Deanna Bowen - photo by Courtesy of the artist
Night Prowl by Deanna Bowen - photo by Courtesy of the artist
700 Hamilton Street
CBC Vancouver Broadcast Centre Plaza
On the wall to the right of the main entrance of CBC Vancouver.
Digital print on vinyl
Two-dimensional artwork
In place
Vancouver Heritage Foundation
Description of work

THE WALL is a Vancouver Heritage Foundation public art initiative. It is made possible by a partnership between Vancouver Heritage Foundation and CBC Radio-Canada, and is produced in partnership with the City of Vancouver Public Art Program. THE WALL features a new artist every year.

Artist statement

Deanna Bowen’s artistic practice concerns itself with histories of Black experience in Canada and the US. Her focus is the “dark matter” in our midst: people and events that remain just below the threshold of visibility, not because they are impossible to find but because they are difficult for the majority culture to acknowledge due to the systematized racism they expose. Mining overlooked archives, she asks difficult questions about who records history. She reactivates historic documents through a process of extraction, translation and enlargement, and then reinserts this material back into public consciousness in a new form.

Over the past two years, Bowen has undertaken exhaustive research in Vancouver to trace a series of intertwined figures who formed an integral part of this city’s Black entertainment community from the 1940s to the end of the 1970s. She mapped a constellation of nightclubs, theatres and hotels where they gathered— many of which have been erased from the city’s physical fabric and its collective memory, but exist as traces in the archives. Her aim is to bring a more complex Black community into visibility, and to posit a powerful counterpoint to common narratives that oversimplify the city’s Black presence by containing it within the spatial, economic and temporal confines of Hogan’s Alley.

Night Prowl captures part of a frame of filmed footage accompanying CBC reportage about Vancouver’s ethnically diverse east end nightclubs that aired on October 14, 1959. Racially-motivated anxieties around such nightclubs—and the neighbourhoods in which they were situated—would fuel the calls for urban renewal that would dramatically displace Black communities in the coming decades. The image, which depicts the neon marquee of a now-forgotten dance club after dark, is interrupted by a series of circular voids: visible fragments of batch numbers punched through the cellulose film at its time of manufacture. The holes are a banal artifact found at the end of any film reel. For Bowen, however, the ruptured cellulose reminds us of film’s fragile materiality, compromises its visual seamlessness and undermines our ability to trust photography’s seductive promise of “truth.” Considered this way, even blemished and seemingly insignificant documents can be rich repositories for unintended readings, and for questioning who has been charged with writing our histories, and why.

Kimberly Phillips, Curator, Contemporary Gallery

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