This image is just one of hundreds from Limelight, a public art installation by artists Tristan Surtee and Charles Blanc, a.k.a. Sans façon. They were the featured speakers last night at the first Lulu Series event of 2013, an initiative by the City of Richmond established in 2003. The program brings world-renowned artists and speakers to Richmond to share their work. It’s free, takes place once a month, and I must say, is an extraordinary cultural offering to the public.
The talks take place in Richmond City Hall Council Chambers, which is a comfortable and intimate setting. Last evening began with a performance by Aboriginal cellist Cris Derksen, who is acclaimed for “building layers of sound into captivating performances,” was recently nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award, and has performed with the likes of Kanye West, Veda Hille, Tanya Tagaq, Christa Couture, Kinnie Starr, Lightening Dust (Black Mountain), Rae Spoon, Leela Gilday, Ivan e Coyote and e.s.l.
Accompanied by a loop station and pedal board (which she largely controlled with her bare feet), she created incredible songs – part classical, part club, and entirely awe-inspiring. She alone would have been worth the trip to City Hall.
But there was more! After a brief introduction by Dr. Cameron Cartiere, Dean of Graduate Studies at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Sans façon presented some of their past works and present projects, including the Watershed campaign they’ve been working on in Calgary.
It’s difficult to define exactly what Sans façon do because they do so much, but they’re essentially artists/architects/designers/planners who seek to engage the people through works of public art and installations. They’re not erecting sculptures for folks to admire and take pictures of, however. Their works are often temporary, and play with the history and particularities of places in which they’re set. Tristan and Charles’ intentions with these pieces are to spark conversation, questions, and curiousity amongst those who see and interact with them. Their works are ambitious, wildly imaginative, at times hilarious, and accessible to anyone. This is exactly the kind of art I love.
One of their most famous works, which has now been temporary installed in twelve cities around the world (next up….Vancouver!) is called Limelight. In theory, the concept is simple: two ‘street lamps’ (actually spotlights) are turned toward one another and pointed down, creating a spotlight on the ground in a public area. There are no signs to explain it, and for all Sans façon knew when they installed the first one, there could have been no interest or activity in the spotlight at all. No need to worry, however.
Hidden in shadows near the limelights, Tristan and Charles have recorded an extraordinary amount of images and video of people participating (unknowingly) in this art installation. They stand within it, pose, joke, kiss, dance, lie down, dance some more, and on and on.
There’s just something so splendid about the thought of a couple walking down the street, coming across a pool of light, and stopping for a moment to dance within it. O, my heart!
The next Lulu Series presentation will be held on Thursday, February 21st, with Community Artist Paula Jardine as the featured speaker. I’d highly recommend checking it out, and while it’s free, seating is limited, so be sure to RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you so much to Sans façon and all the organizers of last night’s event – I enjoyed it immensely.
Of course, no one wants to learn about public art on an empty stomach, so I took the advice of a reader (thanks Amy!) and checked out R&H Chinese Food in Lansdowne Mall. I don’t usually go there to eat, but her tip that I could “watch the entire making of the dumpling…..from rolling the dough to stuffing it then frying it” had me instantly convinced I should pay a visit to Lansdowne. Nothing beats a fresh dumpling, after all.
The shop is small, tiled from floor to ceiling, and has a flour-dusted woman standing behind a flour-dusted counter top. There, she makes each of the shop’s dumplings by hand, and it’s so impressive to watch. To say she’s precise would be a sorry understatement – she deftly rolls each piece of dough, spoons an exacting amount of filling onto it, spreads it carefully, then ‘sews’ the dumpling up with meticulous folds.
I ordered the pan-fried pork dumplings with millet congee, and the ‘roujiamo,’ which is a popular Chinese street food originating in the Shaanxi province. The filling usually consists of meat that’s been stewed in spices for hours, and the bun (‘mo’) is a type of flatbread.
With my first bite into the roujiamo, I instantly thought it tasted like beef stew and biscuits, but conveniently hand-held! The bun was warm, dense and flaky (like a biscuit), and the braised meat was rich, though perhaps just a little fattier than I like.
I can see how the variations for these ‘Chinese hamburgers’ are endless, and why they’re so popular. I will definitely be having more!
I enjoyed my millet congee more the second time – the first was just last week at Northern Chinese Countryside Restaurant. It’s plain but healthy, and nicely balances out the richer parts of a meal.
Now, onto the dumplings. The dumplings. The dough was remarkably fresh and tender, and slightly thicker than a machine-made version. That’s a good thing when the dough itself is given care and attention.
The pork filling was perfectly seasoned, so juicy it spilled out into the container as I bit into them, like a soup dumpling. They’d been fried to a light, golden brown, but weren’t greasy, and they made me just SO happy. If I came across a Sans façon limelight in Richmond, I’d stick a package of R&H dumplings at its center, and walk away. They deserve that kind of attention.
You may not love the thought of travelling to the mall for a meal, but a visit to R&H Chinese Food is ABSOLUTELY worth it. Perhaps you can try them out before your first Lulu Series talk next month! Let me know what you think.
Cash and cards accepted
Vegetarian options available (though the menu is meat-heavy)