Canadian Art

See It

James Nizam: Little Mountain’s Residual Life

Gallery Jones, Vancouver Feb 4 to 27 2010
James Nizam <I>Helix of Shelves</I> (from the series <I>Memorandoms</I>) 2010 James Nizam Helix of Shelves (from the series Memorandoms) 2010

James Nizam <I>Helix of Shelves</I> (from the series <I>Memorandoms</I>) 2010

Vancouver’s landmark Little Mountain public housing project generated controversy when it was demolished late last year to make way for a new, privately built “mixed use” condominium project. It’s a debate familiar to many cities, one that pits aging community infrastructures and the ideals of shared urban living against the commercial realities of urban renewal.

That political battle between past legacies and future potentials is one point of departure to consider when viewing “Memorandoms,” an exhibition of new photo works by Vancouver artist James Nizam at Gallery Jones. For the series, Nizam used Little Mountain’s abandoned residences as a studio, exploring the site’s echoing histories and lingering physical traces. Nizam has practiced this strategy before. In series such as Dwellings and Anteroom he occupied soon-to-be-demolished homes, turning empty rooms into camera obscura which he then photographed, capturing the living outside world on the unhinged doors and broken walls of a derelict past.

Rather than projecting new life onto his subjects, Nizam, in his Memorandoms series, suggests residual life in them. Each photo depicts a sculptural construction that the artist cobbled out of Little Mountain’s detritus. Piled chairs, drawers and light bulbs become a kind of memento mori, impromptu gestures to monumentalize a fleeting existence. Knowing that the destruction of these spaces was near adds urgency to these photos, but perhaps Nizam’s message is this: the wrecker’s ball doesn’t always have the final word. (1725 W 3 Ave, Vancouver BC)

This article was first published online on February 18, 2010.


  • James Nizam

    There’s a problem with Vancouver photography, and it’s not the fault of the photographers.



[an error occurred while processing this directive]


  • Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller: Black Birds

    New York critic Joseph R. Wolin heads to the Park Avenue Armory where Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller are creating a buzz (and other sounds) at the US premiere of a dark, nightmarish installation originally created for the 2008 Biennale of Sydney.

  • Grange Prize 2012: Hot Shots

    One of Canada’s largest cash-value art prizes—$65,000 in total with $50,000 going to the winner, $5,000 to three runners-up—announced its finalists this week. Take in their wide-ranging works in this slideshow.

  • Wanda Koop: Into the Woods

    A visit to Wanda Koop’s cabin near Riding Mountain National Park in southern Manitoba proves intriguing for Vancouver critic Robin Laurence. There, Laurence writes, Koop bridges old Grey Owl myths with a new series of paintings on our increasingly digital culture.

  • Brad Tinmouth: Survival Strategies

    The basement of an art gallery may seem an unlikely place to create an emergency shelter. However, Xpace's lower gallery is an ideal setting for Brad Tinmouth's “If Times Get Tough or Even If They Don't,” which evokes a cold-war bunker.

  • Wim Delvoye: Blame it on Paris

    Silk-covered pigs, lattice-cut car tires and a tattooed man are just a few of the works that Belgian artist Wim Delvoye has shuttled into the old, Gothic wing of the Louvre this summer. Jill Glessing reviews, finding a terrific amalgam of high and low.

More Online

Report a problem