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Still from Citizen, 2000
photo courtesy of Monte Clark Gallery, Toronto/Vancouver
Roy Arden was born in Vancouver in 1957 and studied at the Emily Carr college of Art receiving a diploma in 1982 and an M.F.A. from the University of British Columbia in 1990.
In his early works Roy Arden incorporated archival images producing photo-based art that addressed photography and modernism. Arden has gently moved away from using archival sources branching into a new body of work consisting of colour photographs where he addresses what he called the "landscape of economy" focusing on the everyday surface of a city and its environs. City wastelands predominate in these images focusing on the precariousness of human life and social structure as a result of economic change in the city. These two stark black and white images - Crow and Cup - appear as traces drawn from the very bottom of existence - evidence of human civilization found in alleyways, sidewalks, and parking lots. These images are similar in approach to a project titled Terminal City by Arden, a series of black and white photographs that centered on the borders of an expanding city - areas utilized by society's marginalized people as well as wildlife.
Arden has expanded his practice to include time-based works such as videos that feature moments of flux and change. Citizen is quintessential Arden in its exaggerated flow of time and space. In Citizen the camera is fixed on a young man crouching on a traffic median in the center of a busy intersection. A car makes a rough circle around him like a predator, finally pausing next to him at a red light. At this point the man becomes aware of the camera and very calmly returns the gaze. The young man is wearing a patina that suggests he is homeless. He appears indifferent to the traffic. The cars with their corporate logos - Toyota, Honda, Mercedes - are manifestations of the everyday economy from which he is excluded. The video is presented in what Arden refers to as a "modernist formal operation and a poetic one", turning light and time into slow motion.
Still interested in making art about photography, Arden remembers that the depiction of the lower classes was one of photography's first projects and he says that he often "had the work of British photographer John Thompson in mind" during the production of Citizen.