“Death By A Thousand Cuts, The Execution Of St. John’s”
A commentary on the savage razing of Vancouver’s St. John’s Church.
By artist Tiko Kerr. May 19, 2011, at 1401 Comox Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
(Text of his address is below the video.)
Text of presentation follows.
Address by artist Tiko Kerr in front of partially-demolished St. John’s Church at 1401 Comox Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada. 6:30 pm, Thursday, May 19, 2011.
I am Tiko Kerr, a visual artist and a neighbour living in this remarkable community of neighbours called the West End.
Today is a very sad day as we gather here stunned by the brutal force that’s levelled St John’s which has been a place of communion, a place of prayer and a place of peace for the last century.
This is a place where new life has been christened, where unions such as the monumental first gay marriages were celebrated and where we have laid to rest gentle souls such as Aaron Webster who was beaten to death nearby. St Johns has been at the very core of life as we live it in our community.
St Johns has not been merely a construction of stones and beams but has been a sanctuary and a cherished thread in our heritage.
Heritage takes many forms.
But it takes imagination to identify those forms. Without imagination, this place is merely real estate on which to build a 22 storey rental tower, at five times the existing permitted density and where the issue of affordability has not been discussed.
As a visual artist, the best way I know how to describe the things that move me, is to paint and to paint the time in which I live. I consider myself merely a record keeper and my task here is to be as informed as I can be and then let my spirit dictate the course of my work. It is the artists, the writers, photographers and poets who in the end write the enduring history of a place.
Last week at Spencer Chandra Herbert’s constituency office at the West End’s inaugural Art Krall I unveiled a body of work which I’ve entitled “Our West End”. This is an on-going series. To date there have been 12 canvases. The purpose is to give the community a visual reference of the various sites in the West End that may be undergoing redevelopment. I’ve portrayed sites that I believe are successful in their process and others that are not. I’ve provided completely credible information and context to encourage the viewer to learn the issues, draw their own conclusions and make an informed decision in November’s civic election.
I’m proud to be a director of West End Neighbours which is a citizen-based volunteer organization committed to presenting accurate facts on key issues of importance in our community. We work hard to ensure the accuracy of every statement on our website
(<http://westendneighbours.ca/) and welcome any comments or corrections to ensure we are meeting a high standard of accuracy.
The issue here really is not just one church, not just one neighbourhood, but a whole city. And that we need to work together as a neighbours, citizens, elected officials, developers and planners to deal with all the pressures and challenges of preserving our quality of life while changing toward the future. We need to build trust and to heal our society. Unfortunately, there are huge divisions.
Having said that, I do have hope for the future. Vancouver has just turned 125 this year. We are at a critical moment in history.
Will this be a city of harmony, respect for neighbourhoods, respect for citizens, respect for greenspace? Or will it be something else?
This church demolition is merely a symbol of something much, much deeper, about the way our society is functioning.
I’d like to now unveil this painting entitled “Is Nothing Sacred”.
[Clapping as Tiko Kerr presents his painting.]
And in order to give this painting proper context, and with not just a little personal anguish, I now present “Death by A Thousand Cuts” my personal statement regarding the short-sighted demolition of St. John’s Church.