by Alastair Sterne
October 6, 2011
3 min read
This message was plastered on a building in Vancouver’s Chinatown. It caused a great deal of speculation. The truth is that real estate mogul Bob Rennie commissioned artist Martin Creed to install his artwork as part of a restoration project. The Wing Sang building is the oldest building in Chinatown. The phrase “Everything is going to be alright” was a reference to the upcoming 2010 Olympic games, and a hopeful message to the Downtown Eastside in general. The message and placement near Downtown Eastside (one of the worst neighborhoods in Canada) is perhaps the most compelling dimension of this piece. Everything is going to be alright. Really? To a neighborhood facing gentrification? To prostitutes trapped in an endless and on-going cycle of abusive violence? To the heroin addicts, cocaine addicts and drug dealers? Everything is going to be alright? To the homeless, abandoned and marginalized? To the social workers who are over burdened, under-funded and exhausted?
bandaids instead of solutions
The message is one we say every day when we face situations that make us uncomfortable; situations that press against our faces and force us to recognize the gravity and weight of what we face says everything contrary. We want everything to be alright because our hearts yearn for us to overcome pain, disease, heartbreak … you name it. But in some situations we know, if we dare admit it, that things aren’t alright. We blurt these words out as if we were allergic to suffering. But lets give ourselves some credit too. Sometimes we persevere. Other times we overcome and change systems of oppression. All our blood, sweat, and tears occassionaly leads us to say with satisfaction “everything is alright.” Yet this is usually short lived as we move onward to the next problem. The problems don’t stop, and so the message resounds in our conscious … how will we make everything alright?
Now please don’t hear this as an attack against the work of Martin Creed. I love the installation. But simply putting a message on a building will not change the every day reality just around the street. It may evoke our imagination, and in my opinion it serves to reminds us that we yearn to change systems of oppression and suffering. Is there a message that would take this hope within us and make it vibrant and alive?
I make all things new — Jesus said this but only after he entered into human history and suffered with us. He faced the worst suffering ever inflicted upon a person in the history of the world, because he is the only innocent person to be nailed to two crooked beams of wood. He hung naked, shamed by the leaders and powers of his time, and uttered words of forgiveness to those who placed him there as he died.
I trust him because he knows suffering and he rose from the grips of death. He is the only one I can trust to make everything right, because he is the only one I know who can make all things new.