To the Editor,
As one who appreciates art, I find the lovely architecture and the devoted health care workers of West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni to be a statement in functional beauty. Like anything beautiful, however, it is always more so when compared with the truly ugly.
Health and illness for example, are direct opposites, and at WCGH much of the illness could be linked to cigarette smoking. Thus when one looks on the ground around the hospital this paradox becomes marvellously apparent. There are literally thousands of cigarette butts.
Everywhere one looks—under plants, on the road, in the entrance way, by the benches—thousands of cigarette butts; white ones, lipstick smeared ones, brown ones, as if compiled by some great mosaic master.
How do they get there, one wonders. I asked the commissionaire at the nice desk in the lovely atrium, offering him a huge Big Gulp cup full that I had picked up in the entranceway. “It’s nothing to do with us,” he replied, somewhat shocked. “Well if this is a hospital and a place where people are supposed to get better and be healthy, isn’t it a bit off message to allow the place to become a huge ashtray?” I asked. He only shrugged.
I wondered if VIHA secretly wanted these millions of cigarettes to be smoked around the hospital so that they could have client base all lined up for the future…so as to keep employment up with the lovely health care workers?
Then there were some health care workers smoking up and tossing their butts out too. “Well,” I thought, “it is certainly a strange thing.” Does the management tacitly approve of all this? Clearly they aren’t doing anything about it, like cleaning up the place once in awhile.
So one must just say this is VIHA art. It must be a public art show demonstrating the polarities of sickness and health, of glass and steel and bricks and concrete and the soft yellow cancerous cigarette butts: like millions of tiles in the great mosaic of life.
Congratulations VIHA, you are a marvellous lot. One does not have to go to posh galleries to witness this amazing paradox of objects and ideas.
A lady in a wheelchair who had just discarded her butt, remarked horsely to me, “thanks for getting the butts” then smiled, her friends solemnly pushing her back inside.