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Cabin Fever Exhibition Considers Big Definitions of Little Spaces

Thursday 07th, June 2018 / 07:00
By Adam Deane

Photo by Dorothea Lange

If you’ve found yourself at the bottom of the inevitable social media hole that is Instagram, you’re not alone, and chances are you’ve stumbled upon a tiny home or two – maybe even a cabin in the woods of our great province with a bearded, plaid-clad individual enjoying a cup of joe in their $49 mug.

Hashtags, movements, and shows like PNWLIFE, Cabin P*rn, and Tiny Homes have recently drawn much attention to a novel way of living that existed long before the shallows of this century. In reality, that million-dollar cabin in the woods at the top of your Airbnb wish list had its humble architectural infancy in a time where its sole function was most likely a shelter for hunting, some sort of emergency use, or a tranquil place for the recluse in all of us to get away and create, popularized by the likes of introverted writing greats like Thoreau or Salinger.

This month, Vancouverites will be lucky enough to take part in an interactive three-month-long exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery, “Cabin Fever,” curated by none other than Jennifer Volland, the creative heart behind the popular 2013 VAG exhibit, “Grand Hotel.”

“’Cabin Fever’ will look at architectural typologies that have often been overlooked,” Volland explains. “I think people have certain one-dimensional ideas regarding cabins, so we really wanted to represent a larger and more comprehensive history in the ways of design, culture, society, and politics. At the same time, it was more personal as I have always wanted a cabin or a place to escape to, which I’ve realized to be a rather common urge.”

If you’re hesitant to believe in that urge, have a look at the latest posts under the hashtag #cabin on any social media platform and you will realize this is a trait common to all of our tech-obsessed, urban-dwelling little hearts. Volland draws that innate urge back to childhood and our early interest in forts and a constant quest for introspection and community.

“For families, there’s an offsite the gallery has which will be featuring a Shigeru Ban project,” she says. “He is an architect that does a lot of work with emergency relief shelters. That is something that we look at in the exhibition as well – a broader definition of the cabin as an alpine hut, emergency shelter, or a fire lookout tower. We want to expand the definition in every way. Even just in Vancouver, you could look at the squatter’s cabin, or writers like Malcolm Lowry, who lives in a shack up Burrard Inlet, or the canneries in Port Edward, BC. There’ll be something that appeals to everyone.”

If you’re feeling city-locked, you can escape to “Cabin Fever” at the Vancouver Art Gallery this summer and channel your inner recluse, child, or modern-day adventurist.

Cabin Fevers runs from June 9 to September 30 at the Vancouver Art Gallery.