C-prints (series of 6)
94.5“x74.75” each

The visual econ­omy of Van­cou­ver streets includes both offi­cial and unof­fi­cial modes of pub­lic address. In tran­si­tional loca­tions, such as hoard­ings that sur­round new con­struc­tion or build­ings slated for demo­tion, one often sees adver­tis­ing posters. This ‘grey’ mar­ket­ing prac­tice occu­pies such con­tin­gent real estate on a tem­po­rary basis, using a strong visual impact and a sense of urgency to con­vey time sen­si­tive con­tent. Aside from their intended mes­sage, they remind us that the streets, the most pub­lic of spaces, are strongly con­tested sites in the nego­ti­a­tion of own­er­ship, free speech and assem­bly. Cul­tural insti­tu­tions such as the library share a sim­i­lar inter­est in the prin­ci­ples of democ­racy and access to all forms of expres­sion and infor­ma­tion. A non-commercial space, it must assess the inter­ests of a mul­ti­tude of indi­vid­u­als and orga­ni­za­tions when reg­u­lat­ing its visual environment.

Into this arena, Anto­nia Hirsch has placed Anthro­po­met­rics , a series of six large for­mat posters. Hun­dreds of copies are postered through­out the city, and twelve line the win­dows that lead to the main entrance of the library. They pic­ture soli­tary fig­ures posed in rather mys­te­ri­ous ges­tures. At first sight, they might eas­ily be taken for some sort of clever (yet decid­edly out of place) adver­tis­ing cam­paign. Should a viewer inves­ti­gate fur­ther, they will learn that Anthro­po­met­rics is an inven­tory of col­lo­quial forms of mea­sure­ment. These for­mu­las are not sci­en­tific, yet have arisen through per­sonal eco­nomic inter­ac­tions such as the spon­ta­neous com­merce of street mar­kets where an impro­vised index of the body’s geom­e­try com­pen­sates for unfa­mil­iar siz­ing or unla­belled goods. A sci­en­tific mode of nota­tion –the inven­tory– has been applied to a sys­tem in which each body sets is own stan­dard and is not accu­rate nor repeat­able in the sci­en­tific sense. Nei­ther purely com­mer­cial nor sci­en­tific, Anthro­po­met­rics make tem­po­rary claims on both the library and the street, rein­forc­ing and con­test­ing the demo­c­ra­tic ideals asso­ci­ated with such pub­lic spaces.

Photos: Scott Massey. Group Search was made pos­si­ble through the invalu­able con­tri­bu­tions of The Canada Coun­cil for the Arts, the BC Arts Coun­cil, the Spirit of BC Arts Fund, the Van­cou­ver Foun­da­tion, Emily Carr Insti­tute of Art and Design and Gen­er­a­tion Printing.