The Space of Difference a provocative delight for Surrey residents and commuters

The Space of Difference is a multi-media projection art piece by the Operative Agency collaborative that is currently exhibiting with the Surrey Art Gallery’s Urban Screen initiative at the Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre in Surrey, British Columbia. Taking the Chuck Bailey site as its point of departure, The Space of Difference arranges an aleatoric cycle of confrontations between past and present video artifacts. The resulting striated composite, at once uncommon and familiar, demands the active engagement of the viewer: in searching for the allele that resides in the space between the past and present, another possible reality, perhaps a future, is glimpsed. By setting forth a framework of imaginative connections, the work offers the public a place of their own making.

The Space of Difference was installed September 19, 2014 and has been extended to March 29, 2015 each night from sunset to midnight. View the piece on the SkyTrain by riding the Expo Line between Gateway and King George stations, or by visiting the Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre.

Located at Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre in Surrey BC, Surrey Urban Screen functions as a satellite venue of the Surrey Art Gallery. Since its launch in 2010, the project has furnished a permanent infrastructure for video and interactive media artists to project their works on the building’s west facade’s surface some 100 feet long and 30 feet high. Selected artists are awarded a four-month period for exhibition, their pieces being displayed every night from dusk until midnight.

The Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre stands as the primary public building on a site that is a complex of overlapping biological and mechanical ecologies: indoors, the Centre sees hundreds of users move through its spaces each day; outdoors, its sculpted fringes teem with the athletic manoeuvres of skateboarders, in-line skaters, and BMXers; adjacent, sports teams race across nearby fields; to the west, SkyTrain cars thread their way along the Expo Line’s concrete piers; and, to the northwest, condo towers afford occupants expansive views from sky-borne domestic parcels. Its present diverse energies befit the site’s equally plural past. It has been, as it is now, a site of multiple occupations, and multiple edges. It has, at times, been a stand of Douglas Fir, a productive agricultural land, a home to transient migrants, a sacred place of funerary rites, a pasture for animal husbandry, and a contested cultural and biological landscape.

Spatially, the Centre’s immediate context makes manifest a theatre of sorts, renders its west wall a focal point that holds the capacity to gather in the interest of an often mobile audience—the Expo Line hurtles tens of thousands through the Chuck Bailey site every evening. Projecting on Chuck Bailey’s “billboard” an examination of the site’s multiple incarnations can enrich our understanding of the site today and help us envision as yet unmade futures.

The passengers on the SkyTrain are often passing time in a commuter-induced ennui, or, phrased another way, simply participating in an everyday practice of resolute necessity. For Michel de Certeau, a thinker fundamentally interested in the everyday, this passage through space is not something to be dismissed. The stories that we tell about our movement through the world are inherently spatial, and likewise, the way we tell stories about space are loaded with productive capability. “Narrative structures have the status of spatial syntaxes,” and as such, they “regulate changes in space (or moves from one place to another) made by stories in the form of places put in linear or interlaced series.” The interweaving of past and present speaks not just to a tale of days gone, but to a heightened understanding of the pluralistic reality of the place. Through this movement, a generative spatial story is told, one in which the SkyTrain passengers are simultaneously creating, reading and interpreting.

In excavating the past and present for visual artifacts a host of uncanny pairings—consonant and dissonant—begin to announce themselves. Two important train systems have played major roles in shaping the local environs. Aggressive landscaping practices trope the site, beginning when slash-and-burn techniques first made way for arable land, and then later, when recent occupants set concrete infrastructure down into, and also above, grade. Lamp standards capped with projection boxes bear formal similarity to the tree burial boxes of the Kwantlen people. And the cantilevered canopy atop the youth recreation park evokes the structural logics of tents pitched by transient occupants of the past. The thrust of the project is to stitch these artifacts into a compelling visual narrative.

Operative Agency is a collaborative comprised of Steve DiPasquale, Bryan Lemos Beça, Shelley Long, Ryan Nelson and Ritchie Argue. For more information, please visit