Megaphone en-route to the Vancouver Art Gallery

Image removed.

At the corner of Georgia and Burrard, sits a Megaphone vendor. Since I had some cash on me, I bought the October issue.

"Where are you heading?" the vendor asked. I shared my planned destination. "The Art Gallery? If I may ask, why do you go to see Art? What do you like about Art?"

For over a decade the monthly Megaphone magazine, published by professional journalists and designers, has been sharing stories that explore social justice, culture, politics, and independent arts in Vancouver and Victoria. It also serves as a platform for people experiencing poverty and homelessness to share their stories and creativity as writers, featured interviewees and more.

Megaphone Magazine is sold on the streets of Vancouver and Victoria by low-income vendors. Vendors buy each magazine for 75 cents and sell it to customers for $2, keeping the profit from every sale. Your purchase supports vendors’ livelihoods as well as independent journalism on issues that matter. You can purchase the magazine from a vendor with cash or via credit card through the Megaphone App.

"The Art Gallery? If I may ask, why do you go to see Art? What do you like about Art?"

Now there's a good question. Why does one like art? Is it aesthetics? The pleasing of the eye? My high-school boy friend, a devout Communist, would say that the fact that I have the leisure time and the money to enjoy an art gallery clearly places me in non-solidarity with the working class.

Apparently Engels challenges whether any 'genuine' (whatever that means - sounds to me like a circular argument} artist can operate within capitalism: "This proposition in no way denies the development of literature and art under capitalism, but means that the very nature of the capitalist system of exploitation is in profound contradiction with the humanist ideals which inspire genuine artists." [Marx Engels On Literature and Art. Progress Publishers. Moscow 1976]

Wikipedia says that Marxists believe that economic and social conditions, and especially the class relations that derive from them, affect every aspect of an individual's life, from religious beliefs to legal systems to cultural frameworks. 

From a classic Marxist point of view, the role of art is not only to represent such conditions truthfully, but also to seek to improve them (social/socialist realism); however, this is a contentious interpretation of the limited but significant writing by Marx and Engels on art and especially on aesthetics. [Wikipedia: Marxist aesthetics]

So art cannot be purely aesthetic but has to change the world? A heavy burden indeed! And Plato, that ultimate gentle soul, challenges Art as - in the best case - a distraction from reality and a misdirection of attention.

Why do I like art? No, let me rephrase that: why do we enjoy going to museums?

I told the Megaphone vendor that going to see art makes me think, it tells a story, it challenges me to examine my constructs. We chatted for a while. I do not know his name.

Do I perhaps deceive myself? Maybe my bourgeoisie nature tells me I need to be able to say I visit art galleries, maybe it serves the same purpose as going to church - it is part of an identity. Rather than changing the world, maybe I use art to uphold and confirm my upper class status as I admire and sympathize with the products of a suffering, poor and starving artist?

Even worse, Wikipedia tells me that in the late 20th century, the slang term  "bougie" or "boujee" became popular, referring to a person of lower or middle class doing pretentious activities: like eating avocado toast. [Wikipedia: Bourgeoisie]. My visiting the Art Galler is my avocado toast, my creation of separation between us and them? And this post - this post is like mega-pretentious gluten free avocado toast!

I do not know the vendor's name. He was of some Asian heritage, sitting on a stool at the corner of Georgia and Burrard. I rushed to my appointed time, scheduled in these COVID times at the Vancouver Art Gallery. I wish I had stayed to talk to him and ask questions rather than just answer his.

Friends - I welcome your comments.

Image removed.

The October Megaphone issue invites us to meet "our 2021 Vendor of the Year" Kris Cronk. Kris: "Back in the day, when I first started out, I had to learn how to do everything. I had to learn how to talk to people. I never used to talk to anybody. I could count on one hand the number of people I'd have a conversation with in a month ... you know you can cross a boundary as long as you can conceive on the idea that you can. You can transcend. So that's why I believe separation doesn't exist. Vending takes down that boundary of us and them. " [Kris Cronk, vendor profile, Megaphone October 2021]

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.