By Craig Scharien
My own sex education at school (in the mid ‘90s) was not exactly memorable, but there are a couple sections of Sex Talk in the City that remind me of that time of my life. The group of white desks with graffiti all over them certainly conjure up memories of boredom and a lack of true sexual understanding. The other is the giant black cougar on a striking red wall.
For anyone who was watching movies in the 1960s all the way to the 80’s in British Columbia it is easy to recognize the restricted cougar icon that once acted as a warning about questionable content in film. When I was a kid all it meant was that I wasn’t able to watch anything with the cougar on it. The cougar and the fact that it was forbidden meant that I spent a lot of time scouring the restricted section at Canadian Tire (they used to have movies to rent, believe it or not) looking for a movie I could get away with suggesting to my parents.
These days there are boring rating systems that include things like “18A”, but back then the cougar was a symbol of coarse language, violence, nudity and obscenity in general for movies. It was developed by the BC Film Classification Board and the BC Chief Censor, Ray MacDonald at the time. The hope was that the iconic symbol would help raise public awareness of R-rated films. The cougar plays a very effective role at Sex Talk, by reminding many of us of the way censorship has been approached in our province.
It is also a vehicle for articulating an important point – that obscenity is often in the eye of the beholder. Within the exhibition, it has allowed the Museum to present sexually explicit material and stories of censorship by allowing the visitor to opt in to that element of BC’s history. If you are curious you can take a peek through the holes in the cougar to learn about pivotal moments in the history of the production, consumption and censorship of sexually explicit materials. Like the red drawers in the bedroom section of the exhibition the decisions are left to the visitor, thus making moments of discovery just a bit more and powerful.
Over at the MOV, we've been excitedly welcoming the cherry blossoms all over the city (seriously, so excited). And with the arrival of these new buds, there are a whole host of other fresh starts and new beginnings in Vancouver. This week check in with Vancouver's new proposed digital strategy, the start of greener garbage collection, and something that seems like an end, but what we hope will blossom as a new future possibility: the retirement of advocate for the homeless, Judy Graves.
Born Digital. On April 9, City Council met to discuss Vancouver's first ever digital strategy that, if adopted, would mean a huge shift in how the city processes licenses and permits as well as a significant expansion in the availability of free wi-fi. Sounds pretty good, but are there any concerns? Of course. Nikolas Badminton over at the Huffington Post blog suggests the strategy doesn't do enough: "I feel it is a safe governmental play that drags us to be where we should be right now in 2013, but with full implementation not until 2016. At that point we'll be four years behind."
By Arleigh McKerlich
Now that the days are becoming warmer and sunnier, Vancouverites are returning to a long-time favourite recreation spot: English Bay Beach.
Residents of Vancouver have been flocking to "First Beach" since the earliest days of the city. Called "Ayyulshun" (soft under feet) by the First Nations people, the name “English Bay” commemorates the meeting of Captain George Vancouver, along with Spanish captains Valdes and Galiano, in 1792. (This is also how Spanish Banks received its name.)
The beach was opened for recreation in 1893, sand was added in 1898, and by 1900 the Davie Street tram line made it accessible to residents from all over Vancouver. Residents built a pier, summer cottages, a dance hall called "the Prom", and a bathhouse. The original structures were all built out of wood, but the current concrete bathhouse was built in 1932.
As early as 1913, visitors to English Bay who had forgotten their bathing suits could rent one (10 cents for an adult, 5 cents for a child) along with towels and lockers. The wool suits were rented until the 60s at the majority of Vancouver’s beaches.
In 1939, the bathhouse was converted into the city's first aquarium featuring Oscar the Octopus but by 1956, the aquarium facility was closed and manager Ivar Haglund moved to Seattle and started up a seafood business (Ivar’s Acres of Clams).
Today the bathhouse has new uses, including acting as a stage during the Celebration of Lights each summer and drawing record numbers of people to its sandy shore.
By Craig Scharien
A highlight of the bedroom section of Sex Talk in the City is a striking wall of red drawers. Meant evoke thoughts of a chest of drawers in the bedroom, it holds fascinating treasures and memories that aren’t always thought of or talked about – and are often, in fact, hidden.
When designing the exhibition, the drawers were added in to pull from each visitor our own memories of digging through our parents or older siblings drawers – and how what you found may have taught you some of what you know today about sexuality.
Dig into the Sex Talk drawers and you will be rewarded with a look at unique items regarding sexuality presented in an informative light.
One of my favourites is a small book, published in 1971 titled A Guide for the Naïve Homosexual. UBC student Roedy Green self-published this pamphlet as an extension to the counselling sessions he often held at his home as way to help people come out. It contains contact information, advice on coming out, sexuality, religion, and thoughts on gay and lesbian life. It was enormously popular and had 12 printings, the last of which was 3,000 copies.
Another drawer that caught my eye features adaptable sex toys for people who have suffered spinal cord injuries. It highlights an oft forgotten fact that disabilities do not make someone asexual. Produced in a joint project by the British Columbia Institute of Technology the International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries, these vibrators were designed for those with decreased sensitivity with features like easy to hold handles. These are by no means the only devices of this type, but they give great insight into work that is being done on an issue that few are talking about.
These are just two of the many red drawers in Sex Talk, and you never know what you might find. So pretend you’ve been left home alone and get in there and open some drawers!
Also, share YOUR story of what you've found around your house growing up that taught you about sexuality.
April 26 - Brothels, Strolls, & Stilettos: Histories of Sex Work in Vancouver
April 27 - Strolling the stroll: A Tour of Sex Work History in the West End
May 2 - Special Curator Talk & Tour: Designing Sex w/ Propellor Design
[Image: Nighttime on Granville Street. Photo by Danielle Bauer via Flickr]
After a month of brainstorming, design posturing, and hundreds of chocolate chunk cookies, the Upcycled Urbanism community has gathered enough ideas to drive a truly mind-bending public space intervention.
Ideas were flying fast and furious at our final workshop on March 24 thanks to help from Spacing Magazine, Vancouver Maker Faire, and UBC’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.
Team leaders Blair Satterfield, Matthew Peters, and Anya Paskovic encouraged participants to imagine designs that shocked and surprised people, in part by juxtaposing unexpected forms and ideas against otherwise mundane places. Linnea Zulch took some great images here.
(Linnea Zulch image.)
The ideas came from all directions. Like this: a malleable blockade, forcing people to contort in order to pass down a busy downtown street:
(Linnea Zulch image.)
A team made of high school students and more seasoned designers used Minnie Chan’s 3X3 blocks to create a spine-like structure reminiscent of Brian Jungen’s whale sculpture:
(Linnea Zulch image.)
Someone even suggested creating a giant pond in the middle of the street: a place for floating polystyrene blocks or—why not?—people. What might this look like...something like this?
It was wonderful to see participants of all ages using this design playtime to create visions that, if built, could disrupt our city’s idea of what streets are for. Of course we are not merely dreaming with design. The Upcycled community will actually be turning these ideas into form in public this July, using giant, super-light blocks of expanded polystyrene.
Now our three teams are using lessons from these workshops to figure out what they will build at our spectacular public design/build event on July 13. That event will take place at a central downtown location, to be announced next month. You can be part of that day of creative disruption! If you want to stay involved or join one of the design teams, keep in touch with us…
Through Twitter: @museumofvan #upcycledurbanism
On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MuseumofVancouver
Or watch for updates on MOV’s Upcycled Urbanism blog topic: Upcycled Urbanism
And help us create a public design revolution!
By Arleigh McKerlich
A big part of Sex Talk in the City is about breaking the ice and creating opening points for conversation about sex and sexuality. In one of the 4 videos included in the exhibition (all done by the wonderful Gwen Haworth) a former nurse tells the story of how she got involved in sex education – she was frequently seeing women come in to the hospital dying of STDs because they were too ashamed to speak of them.
Thanks to a few cuddly creatures in “The Classroom” portion of Sex Talk in the City, STDs aren’t nearly as frightening to talk about. In fact, when they were being installed MOV staff openly picked their favourites – at least, their favourites as cuddly creatures.
Founded by Drew Oliver in 2002, GIANTmicrobes Inc. is a US-based company that makes stuffed toys of microbial life of all kinds. At the MOV, we have as our guests a few of their “venereals” series, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, HPV, syphilis, herpes, and HIV. Each creature comes with a tag that has an electron scanner picture of the microbe in question and a series of facts and trivia that both inform and amuse the reader.
Originally marketed to children and as gag gifts between adults, the popularity of the toys have expanded from the Common Cold and E. Coli to Red Blood Cells and Dust Mites. Many medical professionals use them to break the ice when talking to patients about difficult topics and educators use them to make important health issues more approachable. On their website, the company states that “the dissemination of information is exactly the point.” Many reviewers speak of how the cuteness of the toys can make the diseases and creatures who cause them seem less scary.
Products like the GIANTmicrobes are part of a recent approach to sexual health education where the belief is that the facts about healthy sexual activity should be accessible to everyone.
If these adorable little diseases seem like common sense, visit Sex Talk in the City to see some of the (significantly less adorable) methods that been have used in the past and present to educate Vancouverites about sex.
So tell us, what STI is YOUR favourite? How have these kinds of learning tools changed how you understand your own body?