A Sign for the City

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A Sign for the City is a public art project by Sabine Bitter & Helmut Weber that reassigns the meaning of the regular nightly boom of Vancouver’s Nine O’clock Gun.

Starting in May for one year, a poster appeared monthly in bus shelters and in The Georgia Straight dedicating the sound of the blast each day to a particular cultural, social or political figure or event in Vancouver and B.C.’s history. The calendar notebook – which was distributed freely – lists the people to whom the 365 cannon reports are dedicated: the blast and the texts memorialize an alternative history of Vancouver and symbolically link culture and politics as the ground of this history.

This work also refers to a 2003 sculptural and acoustic work done in Berlin by Croatian artist Sanja Iveković. Called “A Sign for Rosa Luxembourg”, the work used the sound of a cannon “as a memorial trigger to provoke not only a “sign of remembrance, but also a sign by which [the citizens of Berlin] will measure their own time, their lives”. (Bojana Pejić in Sanja Iveković: Public Cuts)

The design of the posters and calendar/notebook echoes early conceptual artworks, typography, and philosophical journals. The artists worked with the Vancouver design studio, Working Format, founded by Abi Huynh, Grace Partridge & Ross Milne.
The research for this project was conducted by Kim Duff, Donato Mancini, and Lőrinc Vass.

From the Artists’ Statement: Vancouver’s Nine O’clock Gun is a twelve-pound cannon in Stanley Park, that is fired nightly at nine pm. Originally a gift from the British government in 1856, the cannon has been in the park for 107 years and was initially fired as a signal to close the fishing day and as a navigational aid. Today, the cannon’s boom is an empty signifier. Therefore, we propose to appropriate the cannon’s report for one year as a commemorative blast to deceased BC writers, artists, and political figures and past place-making events.

A Sign for the City is commissioned by City of Vancouver Public Art Program with support of Vancouver 125 and the participation of the Government of Canada and the assistance of the British Columbia Arts Council. The project was commissioned as part of Changing Times, a request for proposals from artists to address the city, its histories and its times, in honour of the anniversary year. Thanks to The Georgia Straight for their support of the project.