Provisional Structure 2:
Carmen Papalia 

Vancouver Art Gallery

Artist Collaboration
Installation Design


Vancouver Art Gallery Curatorial Description:

Provisional Structure 2 is an architectural installation and gathering space created by non-visual, social practice artist Carmen Papalia and architect Michael Lis. In its concept and form, the work represents a dynamic model for accessibility that can emerge in response to the needs in a community at any given time.

Notions of "provisionality" are evident in the design and material sensibility of Provisional Structure 2. The installation is comprised of two central components - a modular tent-like form, and towering wooden support structures that surround this enclosure. Suspension cables run from the wood scaffolds to an oculus in the room of the tented room, to suggest that the structure has nimbly dropped into place, and can consequently be pulled up and disassembled.

The tent form is constructed from custom-made acoustic panels covered in black fabric, to create a dark space where sound is the primary mode of perception, referencing Papalia's privileging of the non-visual senses within his own life. The content that Papalia has chosen to present in this space is from an online protest called the Disability Filibuster. Organized in March 2021, the Disability Filibuster challenged the passing of Bill C-7, which expanded eligibility for medical assistance in dying (MAiD), to included people living with disabilities who are not at an end-of-life stage. In a landscape where many disabled people encounter barriers to care, some community members are troubled by the amendment, and view the policy as a form of cultural eugenics. Papalia and others have noted that the Disability Filibuster was an important moment within the contemporary disability movement, when people from across the country gathered to communicate their concerns regarding the potential harms of Bill-C7, while holding space for the cultures and histories of disability in Canada.

The dialogue and exchange at the Disability Filibuster also highlighted other issues. The notion that the opioid crisis is a disability issue for example, is a growing conversation that in recent years has resulted in increased advocacy for safe drug supply and harm-reduction services. With this issue in mind, Papalia has placed six black balloons at the centre of the structure, which represent the number of people who die each day from overdose in British Columbia. These balloons are related to the installation of 846 balloons in the exterior windows of the Gallery. Visible on the building's Georgia Street facade when viewed from šxʷƛ̓ənəq Xwtl'e7énḵ Square, this mass of balloons represents the total number of overdose deaths anticipated in British Columbia over the course of the exhibition.