After the Intermedia party
by JAMES BARBER
NOBODY in Vancouver could have afforded the party at the Vancouver Art Gallery Saturday.
If all the ladies committees of all the cultural organizations in town, the Opera, the Symphony, the Playhouse and the Art Gallery itself, if they all got together and pooled their budgets, and jointly blackmailed their friends into paying $15 a ticket.....
If they all went out to buy new dresses, and all had pre-party cocktail parties in their houses, and twisted the arms of all the woman's editors of all the social pages (Mrs. Englebert Hoopleduck looked radiant in peau de sole) and they all worked on it for a year and fed their husbands nothing but TV-dinners.....
If they got all these things and got really far out and hired trained elephants as cocktail waiters and got Patricia Nixon to come and do a strip act followed by her wedding to Eldredge Cleaver, and rented Empire Stadium to dance in, while the Vancouver Symphony played rock and Tom Cambell danced topless and the Vancouver Police Department production of Hair starring Milton Harrell as guest artist, wound up the evening....
OK, if they had done all of those things, they wouldn't have had such a successful experience as there was at the Art Gallery on saturday.
It was a participatory experience. People were doing things. Being involved has become very fashionable these days. A lot of people manage it without ever doing anything.
Thats what happened at the society bashes, and that's what scared me at the strawberry mountain fair.
The first weeks attendance at the Art Gallery have been a doing period. Every day there has been some community involvement and despite the criticism of the gallery by the old guard, who claim that the Gallery is going to the dogs, that its approach to art, its involvement of art with the life process, caters only to a small minority. There are figures which prove them wrong.
The first weeks attendance at the Gallery for the third Intermedia Spring show was 4600. Only twice in its history has it attracted more people in any week. (And both of these shows were of such a nature that not only the traditionalist would see them, but also the avant-guard who need yesterday in order to see tomorrow.)
On the day of the bazaar 1,800 people went through the Gallery, some of them for the first time.
I met a child with her mother at the door. She was asking her "do we have to whisper inside...? "
It was the first time for the mother, the first time for the child. They paid and I imagine they will pay again. Thats a lot better than sitting around grousing about lack of community support and the need for larger public subsidies.
The Intermedia show has been the most involving show they have ever done, a show of simplicities which accepts the basic, usually forgotten fact that people are simple.
While the newspapers were shut down I saw a lot of movies. I didn't have to run back to the office to write something for the morning paper. I stayed instead and talked to people about the movie.
Not that the usual uptight, newspaper-style talk (people are not really people when they are being interviewed), but ordinary "wanna a cup of coffee" talk. Most times I was impressed by how much of the sophistication went over the head of the audience , and how many people were at that film as a result of a movie review in Time. They had either read it, or had been told about it by someone who had read it.
The talk around galleries frequently refers to Art Forum as a kind of authentication for art. How much healthier it is to have something happening here which is not yet being written up in any New York periodical, something fresh and original, something which offers an alternative to the exploitation of events like the Strawberry Mountain Fair.
Fifteen to eighteen hundred people turned out Saturday night at the Gallery. And the Gallery turned them on. All over the city from six o-clock on, in Southwest Marine Drive fancy houses and the Central City Mission, in Stanley Park and at the Planetarium, these people had , by phoning Intermedia, become part of a city-wide feast.
Some gave feasts, some went to them. And at nine o'clock most of the people from those feasts, most of whom had been part of the Art Gallery-Intermedia scene during the week, came to the Gallery.
The word spread and the line-ups outside were bigger than they are at Saturday Night movies. A dollar and fifty cents to get in, and the whole spirit of Intermedia week got loose in the air.
Nobody could have planned it — it happened because of the feeling of involvement. Nobody could have afforded to plan it.
A greek belly dancer, mime artists, impromptu, spontaneous percussion bands (using chairs, and pipes tapping on teeth, with the odd jazz flute) — these may not be ART. Neither is bingo played for no money or improvised theater-pieces, or eighteen hundred people talking to one another.
Reveen, Mark Derricks complete Copenhagen Club set-up, the Tillicum rock-western group, and a girl named Lorna doing her topless thing.
The names don't matter. What does matter was that Saterday night they became VANCOUVER and Vancouver became a place in which art is as much a part of the scene as Stanley Park or Chinatown and as natural a part of the life process as sunrise and dinner time.
The Art Gallery will never be the same again. Happy, warm, involved people, a space, some music and some simple things to play with. It sounds like a be-in.
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