the fifty fifty percent off store is a subversion of the popular notion of “Victoria” as an idyllic tourist destination. Behind the superficial pantomime erected for the blocks of tourists milling up from the cruise ships is a city out of touch with its own history and troubles. Homelessness is rampant; rental occupancy is close to zero, yet expensive mansions are selling for millions. Meanwhile, business after business is shuttering up downtown, because the rent has become so unmanageable.
“Victoria” has a difficult history. There is an acrimonious relationship between the government and the indigenous people of the area stretching back to the first Hudson’s Bay Company fort. The city is built on unceded territories. The Garry oak meadows, once the foundation of local food systems, have been razed to build golf courses and strip malls. Horrifically racist incidents mar “Victoria’s” past. Yet none of these matters are openly acknowledged. The façade “Victoria” puts up as a sleepy enclave of charming old England doesn’t allow for such thorny conversations.
This store, then, presents a gift shop and tourist hub atmosphere that reflects an alternative representation of “Victoria”. Post cards and brochures offer up descriptions of “Victoria” with a counter-narrative vision. The store offers photographs on the walls using a combination of digital and analogue mediums.
Meanwhile, gift shop tee-shirts, hand stitched from vintage clothing, contain messages one certainly wouldn’t find in the popular shops along Government Street. Here, the twist on the prototypical souvenir is accentuated by the fact that the shirts are constructed out of scraps.
The store features clothing and postcard racks, as well as benches are all hand built combining old growth wood, salvaged from gentrification/renovation projects in Chinatown and Market Square, in combination with a series of racks and metal taken from dumpsters behind chain stores. The history of the city is literally becoming scrap for the dumpster.
The fifty fifty percent off store is meant to be playful, but at the same time, it seeks to hold a troublesome mirror up to “Victoria”. The object is to record and question the massive physical and mental dispossession currently occurring here in “Victoria” as the city enters into a new phase of gentrification.