Visual Anecdote: Artist Reece Terris’ “Another False Front”, and the Vancouver RE Bubble.

Artist Reece Terris has produced a very fine piece of art, The Western Front Front – Another False Front’, for Western Front Exhibitions and the ‘Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad‘.  The work subversively comments on the Vancouver RE Bubble, and wittily uses Construction as its medium. The artist has added a large parapet and cornice to the façade of the Western Front Gallery in Vancouver. Description and discussion of the work is reproduced and linked below. We respect the obvious fact that the piece is open to many different interpretations. Here are some initial associations: False Front. Appearance Over Substance. Superficial. Artifice. Insincere. Without Real Substance. Overextended. Exaggerated. Overreaching. Showy. Boastful. Advertised Wealth. Pride Without Foundation. Ambitious. Obvious. Conformist. Frontier. Boomtown. Wannabe. Temporary. Shoddy. Transitory. Veneer. Hollow.       Impressive!      Thank you, Reece Terris. -vreaa

This from, the official games website (screencapture: here) –

“The Western Front, one of Canada’s longest running artist-run arts centres, is located in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood. In an architectural intervention, artist Reece Terris constructs a temporary false front on top of the centre’s already existing false front. This work is in keeping with the idea of architecture as an expression of perceived wealth and culture, and it emphasizes Vancouver’s long-running upswing in the real-estate market and subsequent boom economy.”

This from Reece Terris’ own site, (sceencaptures: description & installation) –

“The Western Front Front, (Another False Front).

This work is under construction at the Western Front Gallery, Opens December 5, 2009.
The proposed work is an architectural intervention where an adaptation of the existing western false front (or commercial false front) is added to in order to emphasize Vancouver’s long running upswing in the real estate market and subsequent boom economy.
Historically, “the false front commercial building type is seen as a building of the urban pioneer west; a boomtown street lined with false front buildings created visual continuity and an urban atmosphere lending a grander, larger-than-life appearance to the primitive cabins. False fronts crowded together along business streets gave frontier camps a visual sense of security, reinforcing the logical notion of Main Street as a tangible link to civilization. The goal of the western false front design was to produce a building of visual quality that approximated the kinds of buildings being constructed in the more established cities”.
In keeping with the idea of architectural form as an expression of the perception of wealth and culture; I am proposing to construct a temporary false front on top of the already existing false front. The new false front will be one and a half times larger than the original false front and project out over the sidewalk at a slight angle.
Quote from: Dale Heckendorn, “New architectural styles / types added to the lexicon,” Historical & Architectural Survey Newsletter, October 2005 – number 10.”

This from Western Front Gallery at

“Western Front Exhibitions is pleased to present The Western Front Front – Another False Front by Vancouver-based artist Reece Terris. This public art project is commissioned by Western Front Exhibitions and presented with the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad.

The Western Front Front – Another False Front is an architectural intervention constructed on the exterior of the Western Front building. Terris’s addition consists of a new, larger façade, including parapet and cornice. Exaggerating its formal elements, the structure has been built at one-and-a-half times scale, and installed on top of the existing façade at a slight angle.

Historically, wooden false fronts were ornamental structures erected on the front of goldrush-era buildings to make hastily built boomtowns appear more impressive. This created the illusion of larger, more important buildings mimicking those built of cast iron or brick in more established cities. Symbolizing the pioneering Western town, the false front is both synonymous with the artificial display of wealth as well as the rapid boom-and-bust expansions of early mining, railroad and forestry communities.

One of a handful of wood-frame buildings still standing in Vancouver with a false front, the Western Front was constructed in the early 1900s as a lodge for the the Knights of Pythias, a fraternal order. In 1972, the building was purchased by a group of artists and converted into a live/work space. This affiliation grew into the Western Front Society, one of Canada’s longest-running artist-run centres.

Drawing from architectural history to contemporary discussions around façadism (the practice of demolishing a building while leaving its façade intact), Terris’ project juxtaposes bygone projections of culture and prosperity with references to the rapidly expanding economic cycles of modern-day Vancouver.”

Discussion of Reece Terris’ work at

5 responses to “Visual Anecdote: Artist Reece Terris’ “Another False Front”, and the Vancouver RE Bubble.

  1. Potemkin Village?

    it’s only real if you really really believe it’s real….. sorta like RE…..

  2. I see this as “neo post modernism”.
    Done by Robert Venturi / Denise Scott Brown , Michael Graves etc. decades ago.
    Derivative. Not fond of this.

  3. mack -> Thanks for the comment.
    As I said in my commentary, the piece is clearly open to many different interpretations, and you have brought your knowledge and prior experience of other works to it.
    I would, however, take you to task for your method of criticism.
    It’s almost as though you’ve clothed the piece in an outfit, and then criticized the colour of the fabric.
    Perhaps you could be more specific? Can you reference older pieces that for you make this piece tired and derivative?

    For me, it works very well in its current social and economic environment, even if it is quoting older works.

  4. Sure, these photos of Michael Graves buildings show his ironic use of overscaling from the 80’s.

  5. An exchange occurred regarding the above post on Summarized on 4 Jan 2010 1:39 amand replicated here –

    Rob, on the last thread you posted the following comment (1 Jan 2010 1:58 pm):
    I’m going to poke you on the false front thing. Interesting project, witty, sure, but how is that subversive? More to the point, doesn’t it reduce the value of subversion to describe getting a city permit to reno your private property as subversive? He’s not exactly fighting the power, is he? Is Bob Rennie subversive when he spends money with permits on private property to “subvert” prudence, thrift and reason? (Lady Gaga is more subversive thatn both of them, as far as I can see – the joke’s on Bridonna AND manufactured culture). ”
    Thanks for the discussion, Rob. It’s good to discuss these things because it almost always enriches our experience of the work.
    For those who haven’t yet seen this, Rob is referring to a post at VREAA 1 Jan 2010 that discusses an art work by Reece Terris.
    As I said at my site, this piece is no doubt open to many interpretations.
    I consider the work subversive in that it uses Construction and RE to criticize the Vancouver RE Bubble. ‘Subversion’ implies opposing from within. It derives from the word ’subvert’ which literally means “to turn from under”; -> “To upturn convention from the foundation by undermining it (literally, to turn from beneath)”.
    So, the artist has been subversive here in that he has used Construction/RE to criticize Construction/RE. He could have written a polemic, or taken photos, or painted a painting, or made a movie, or started a blog, but instead he chose to Build something to criticize building. That’s subversive. Superficially, it looks like a ‘construction project’, but actually it’s not. The artist had to actually participate in the whole construction rigmarole to make this statement. The whole ‘piece’ is probably best considered every step in the process.. the plans, applying for permits, the construction itself, having a crane park on the street and lift the structure to the top of the building, the guys on the top of the building putting it in place, etc, etc.
    By the way, this work is worth a visit, as the photos don’t do it justice. The whole thing looks really precarious. Kinda like… let’s think… 😉

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