The Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG), a place often associated with colourful pieces, has a rather stark and colourless display in its windows right now.
Hundreds of black balloons fill the windows facing north, across the popular šxʷƛ̓ənəq Xwtl'e7énḵ Square where protests and events are held on a regular basis.
To be precise there are 846. That number is important.
They're a piece by Carmen Papalia called "Stop F**king Killing Us." Papalia is a local non-visual artist whose current exhibition Provisional Structures with the VAG opened on Dec. 3 and ends on April 16.
The number of balloons is important because it represents the number of lives expected to be lost due to overdoses during Papalia's exhibition. In a post on Facebook, the art gallery notes the number is based on an estimate that six people die each day in B.C. from an overdose.
In January 2023, the most recent month for which data is available, there were 6.8 deaths per day from overdoses, or what the B.C. Coroners Service calls illicit drug toxicity deaths. In December the average was 6.7 deaths per day. At those rates, Papalia's estimation will be short by more than a week.
"Stop F**king Killing Us" will end when the rest of the Provisional Structures exhibit ends.