ALL LOST in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside

Dec 19 2017, 3:49 pm

ALL LOST (the Access Gallery’s latest exhibition) is hard to miss. Located inside a giant wooden container it more than stands out amongst the cacophony of colours that is Chinatown/the downtown eastside, and as soon as you enter you are sucked into a melancholic yet peaceful world of black and white images. But this feeling of peace is misleading, for it is not the serenity one feels when they are happy – it is the serenity one experiences as they face certain death.

The images Dawn Johnston uses to create this poignant exhibition are all related to the sea – be it an image of a ship’s mast or of a bleak and desolate seascape, with nothing but ocean stretching across an infinite horizon. Collectively, these images are supposed to recreate the feeling of being lost at sea, and it succeeds. You feel the fear and isolation felt by myriad sailors over the centuries, and get a greater appreciation for that tired cliché about the sea being a harsh mistress.  But perhaps the most powerful aspect of this exhibit is its location. As you exit the container and re-enter the cacophony that is the downtown eastside it is impossible to not notice the sea of homeless people that reside there, and once that happens you will have an epiphany: these less fortunate souls are like sailors lost at sea – adrift in a world that has done nothing but destine them to a life of grinding poverty. It is an incredibly powerful revelation, particularly when you consider how beautiful and wealthy this city is. Is there really any excuse for any of its inhabitants to be ‘lost at sea’?

ALL LOST runs until July 20. The Access Gallery is located at 222 East Georgia St. (Website:

Written by Jason Smythe. Connect with Jason on Twitter @JasonSmythe4.

DH Vancouver StaffDH Vancouver Staff

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