A new public artwork in Vancouver’s False Creek has been revealed as a neon sign reading “Should I Be Worried?” on a wooden support structure.
The sign, created by artist Justin Langlois, was launched on December 6, and according to the City, will stay in place for years, with no current plan to take it down.
Langlois designed the artwork after 18 months as the City of Vancouver’s first ever Artist-in-Residence, working with its Sustainability Group.
Over that time, he was supported by Sustainability and Public Art staff, and contributed to planning and engagement efforts on Greenest City sustainability projects.
He told Daily Hive the sign was inspired by meetings and conversations about many complex and long-term issues he witnessed working with the City.
“I kept wondering, myself, are these issues something that I need to worry about at the citizen level?” he said.
“I don’t think that that question is just scaled to sustainability either, certainly, there are so many different issues in the city right now that may trigger this kind of question.”
“I thought a lingering question, something that may have a different kind of meaning for so many different people, may be an interesting contribution to the public realm.”
‘The world is worth our concern’
The neon sign is connected via underground and underwater cable to an existing power point in the area, said Langlois.
Eric Fredericksen, Head of the Public Art Program at the City of Vancouver, described the work as a “check-in” for those who encounter it.
“It’s an open question that could refer to climate change and sea level rise, or just remind you of something going on in your own life,” said Fredericksen.
“It’s totally possible that on one day the answer is, ‘No, everything’s great!’ and the next day the answer is, ‘I’m worried about my Algebra final.’
“In either case, by taking seriously the concerns of the passerby, the piece reminds us that the day, or the city, or the world is worth our concern.”
‘A really incredible experience’
Langlois is an Associate Professor and Assistant Dean of Integrated Learning in the Faculty of Culture + Community at Emily Carr University.
As well, he is the the co-founder and research director of Broken City Lab, a non-profit creative research collective in Vancouver.
As for being the City’s first ever Artist-in-Residence, Langlois said it was “a really incredible experience.”
“Being an Artist-in-Residence sets up an interesting dynamic wherein an artist can enter new conversations that both expands their own disciplinary knowledge and also shifts or even sometimes disrupts the conversation happening at the site of the residency.”
Langlois supports expanding this to include more artists and City departments and says he’s very pleased to see plans for an upcoming Artist-in-Residence in Engineering.
“It changed my artistic practice and it changed how I see the city around me,” he said.