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roots on the roof garden
March 13, 2020
3 mins read

Hidden in Plain Sight: Interactive Art at UBC

Hidden in Plain Sight

We tend to think of art as static, something to be seen and admired but rarely touched or changed.

This is true of some works up to a point—you’re not going to be able to walk up to the Mona Lisa, remove the bulletproof glass case, and paint on a septum piercing. But by widening your perception of what art is, you might find that it’s more interactive than you think.

At the same time, don’t be afraid to widen your perception of yourself—like a lot of art, you’re not static either.

Changing art

One way art is interactive is that everyone perceives it differently, and the ways in which it is perceived can change over time. 

Think about the Mona Lisa, which wasn’t always so renowned. It was just another Da Vinci until it was (temporarily, obviously) stolen in 1911. The theft brought the painting worldwide attention and inspired countless parodies by artists like Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol. Over the century following its theft, the Mona Lisa was gradually vaulted into the stratosphere of pop culture. 

The painting still looks the same, but its meaning and place in the world has changed, and that has made it something completely different from what it used to be. 

It’s not always easy to notice change—when the face in the mirror you look at everyday stays largely the same, you can forget to check in with yourself and think about how much you’ve actually grown and changed since you arrived at UBC.

The campus has likely changed since you’ve been here too, and you can actually impact how it continues to evolve, in small ways. Take a look at the following places, and see if the ways they change and grow mirror the way you change and grow as well. 

Community gardens

There are several community gardens spread out across campus where you can cultivate your own little spot of soil, or get involved with various initiatives like Roots on the Roof that promote sustainable eating and living. 

I absolutely view tending plants as an art form (possibly because the ability has always eluded me). The community gardens here are an opportunity to grow something beautiful and shape a section of campus, even if that section is quite tiny. There’s nothing to make you feel like you’re interacting with campus more than getting your hands a little dirty, so dig in. 

I like the idea of how growing plants can mirror the personal growth you experience at UBC as well. Nurture some carrots while you nurture yourself!

The Engineering Cairn

engineering cairn

While the Engineering Cairn is supposed to be white with a red ‘E’ on each side, it might be rare to find it in that state. The Cairn exists as a place for tolerated (if not sanctioned) graffiti. Student clubs and organizations will often paint over the Cairn to promote their activity or causes.

The paint jobs may not always come out looking like Renaissance masterpieces, but in a way, the Cairn’s various iterations reflect the story of the year itself. Individually, each graffiti piece represents only a small segment of UBC, but taken altogether they reflect the diversity and breadth of life on campus.

Day by day, it might not seem like you’re growing or changing all that much. But when you look back on the year, you can trace all the ways you’ve grown without even noticing.

You (the student!)

In many ways, you are the artist behind your story—always interacting with the art that is your life. 

That may be a contender for the cheesiest thing I’ve written on this website, but regardless, the great thing about university is being able to experiment with many different things and figure out what story you want to tell about yourself.

UBC itself is always changing and growing. Whether it’s new buildings, new ideas, or simply all the new people that pass through every year, the campus is never quite the same, which makes it a great place to grow as an individual. 

Unlike the Mona Lisa, you’ll (hopefully) never have to sit stagnantly behind bulletproof glass. You get to keep working on yourself and changing as you grow—so take advantage of your time here to try as many things and interact with as much as possible!