Kathy Slade

Wherever you go, you will be a city.
2020, Billboard at Princess and Hastings Streets, Vancouver, BC.

The billboard depicts a bright blue sky with fluffy clouds that are partially framed by various shades from the green foliage of treetops. While Slade’s billboard is site-specific, the image it depicts could be from anywhere in the city, a suburb, or the countryside. It is a cinematic-like scene that suggests daydreaming, of looking up at the sky on a summer’s day. The sentence “Wherever you go, you will be a city” is presented like a subtitle for an English translation of a foreign film. While not from a film, the text here is a translation that stems from Hannah Arendt’s reading of Thucydides and the Classical Greek idea of πόλις, the polis. In The Human Condition (1958) Arendt writes, “The polis, properly speaking, is not the city-state in its physical location; it is the organization of the people as it arises out of acting and speaking together, and its true space lies between people acting and living together for this purpose, no matter where they happen to be.” Arendt’s hope is to return to this older notion of the polis not as a traditionalist but to critically re-present this idea from the past for the sake of a better future.

Site and images © Kathy Slade; Essays © the writers