PRINT April 2022



Stan Douglas, London, 2011–08–09 (Pembury Estate), 2017, C-print on dibond, 59 × 118 1⁄8".

I’VE BEEN PREOCCUPIED with the bourgeois revolutions of 1848 for a long time. It seemed like an amazing thing, a spontaneous intuition Europeans had that things are wrong and that they’ve got to do something about it. When 2011 happened, I thought it was more or less the same thing, only that nothing would come of it. Because instead of responding to these events—the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, the London riots—as protest or the will of the people, they’d be policed and forgotten. They’d be called looters, hooligans, anarchists, as opposed to people who are simply responding to their conditions.

In the UK, it began with austerity measures, a consequence of the 2008 recession. University tuition went up by more than 300 percent between 1988 and 2010. They shut down the community centers, and so people were on the streets. Then, in August 2011, police shot and killed Mark Duggan, which prompted a race riot in Tottenham that spread, becoming something else, throughout the UK. It’s not the same as the Arab Spring, where there were specific grievances with each government. But there was still a common cause. They were not being represented; something was wrong. With Occupy, you had a very self-conscious emulation of the Arab Spring in New York. For my purposes, I’m putting the 2011 Stanley Cup riots in Vancouver into the same bucket. It’s shared intuitions, not necessarily articulated, in response to common conditions.

Canada has a quirky pavilion, but it’s got great light. We’re making four walls and putting one big photograph on each. Then there will be a video in an off-site space, an old sixteenth-century salt cellar in Dorsoduro. One of the photographs is from a pair I made in 2017 focusing on the 2011 riots in Hackney, London. I wanted to take the techniques I used there—hiring a helicopter and stitching together these high-res plate shots with aerial footage, videos of the actual police and rioters—but that was a nonstarter in North Africa, so I used the same technique I did for a series around New York’s Penn Station in 2020. It’s all very constructed, like a period drama. But after Covid, isn’t everything a period drama?

As told to David Velasco