Based in Vancouver, Canada, Reece Terris is however widely known beyond the borders of his native country. You can easily find footprints of his artistic defiance in the US, Liechtenstein… His artworks are mostly connected with architecture, sculpture, performance, installation, and photography. Unlike the construction industry, which demands plan-following and code-obeying, Terris’ art is born to turn upside down urban everyday reality. The works he is famous for are: a cascading fountain of 15 urinals in the men’s washroom of Simon Fraser University’s Alexander Street studios; an elegantly arching wooden bridge between his house and his neighbours’; a six-storey, time-spanning “apartment tower” in the rotunda of the Vancouver Art Gallery; a false front to the false front of the building that houses Vancouver’s iconic Western Front… All his projects have sometimes diverse but eventually the same agenda.

Buidling A Metaphor: Canadian Artist Reece Terris Exposes Public Art

Art as a tool

As Terris claims, his works are “architecturally additive and adaptive”. He creates in aim of helping people to gain a loud voice of understanding. “Maybe art gives people the opportunity to unzip the bag or whatever, and just start thinking about the structures we’ve been given,” Terris told The Creator Project. “I think that was the most exciting thing about art for me because it just made me aware. It made me aware of situations that I could comment on.”

With all that political background we are suffering now, Terris believes “that art, perhaps more than ever, is the last refuge of pure creativity. That it is, ultimately, the final act of defiance and rebellion.”

Buidling A Metaphor: Canadian Artist Reece Terris Exposes Public Art

Here is how Canadian Art described his works: “Terris’s large-scale projects are often historically referenced but also very much of their time—and they’re concertedly site-specific. They’re not about creating a three-dimensional object and then dropping it into some neutral display context; they’re about finding a way to reconfigure the architectural conditions of their setting.”


Embodying the thoughts

That men’s-room fountain, for example, titled American Standard (2004), was a direct reference to Marcel Duchamp’s most famous readymade, the urinal he named Fountain (1917). Terris’ fountain was a bold, technically challenging and labour-intensive project; the artist had to remodel and re-plumb the washroom guerilla-style, at night and over the school’s winter break, when few people were around. “I gutted the bathroom after coming up with the concept and figuring out the plumbing, and I made a manifold to basically bypass the system, so it wasn’t a high-pressure system—it was a low-pressure system, circulating on a pump,” he explains.

Buidling A Metaphor: Canadian Artist Reece Terris Exposes Public Art

A pyramid of American Standard urinals, as it’s described on Terris’s website, “draws upon the ‘readymade’ and confronts its art-historical underpinnings (recalling Marcel Duchamp’s iconic Fountain), while imparting more than pure reference, as it extends beyond the object-oriented readymade into an architectural space. Rather than demonstrating how context produces meaning within objects, American Standard presents an environment in which objects re-contextualize their space, revealing architecture’s dependence on standardized form and socially assumed function within even the most private of public spaces.”

Another noticeable project is simply titled “Bridge”.  This temporary construction was meant to link two Vancouver residential homes in the early fall of 2006. Realized according to ancient Chinese engineering technique, this Bridge looked impressive. The main goal was to provide people with a high spot where everyone could easily look down on social and civic governing structures which are quietly dictating our movements in public space. The Bridge’s lifetime took six weeks until the bridge was disassembled.

Buidling A Metaphor: Canadian Artist Reece Terris Exposes Public Art

Terris’s footprint can be also found in Philadelphia, PA, due to its eye-catching size. It’s called “Good-Bye Work” referencing another installation located at street level, assuming the form of an inversed mirror reflection, underneath the original stainless steel Globe Dye Works sign.

Buidling A Metaphor: Canadian Artist Reece Terris Exposes Public Art

As the website explains, the installation “considers the socio-economic impact of the closure of the company, and its subsequent re-emergence as an artisan live-work development. These considerations are framed in the context of global corporate practices, as related to the regional community, where outsourcing and off-shoring have undermined the economic base of American society.”


Against art mandates

He stays loyal to his main goal – commenting on the world via public art which is now put in a strange position. “In my opinion, the culture has become so bereft that we have to mandate culture,” Terris confessed. “What is that? Is it that fascism or something else? I don’t know.” But art, especially the public one, is now turning into a conveyor, is now dumbing down because of the money background. This is unacceptable. Art should stay free. And Reece Terris is a brilliant example of a middle finger risen up against the developers, entrepreneurs and so on.

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