Varying Proximities: A New Series of Works by Broken City Lab

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For the past year or so, we’ve been working on a residency with Watershed+ in Calgary, Alberta. Watershed+ is a unique public art residency program that creates a climate of opportunity for water initiatives to build an emotional connection between people and Calgary’s watershed. Our task was to embed ourselves within the Water Centre (and Calgary in general) and really take the time to explore what the watershed means to Calgarians and us as visitors.

The Bow River and Elbow River are Calgary’s main sources of water and during our residency we explored ideas inspired by their physical structure, social implications, and municipal infrastructure. We went on a number of tours and took hundreds of photographs, audio clips, and short videos. After months of brainstorming, meeting, and reconfiguring, we have produced a series of works called Varying Proximities. An exhibition of the project was generously hosted by Stride Art Gallery Association in Calgary and will remain on view until Saturday, August 2nd, 2014.

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Varying Proximities (Connecting to the Bow Hotline) 

“Hello. One moment as I connect you to the Bow River.” With this simple introduction, you are transported to the river’s edge and begin to experience the Bow’s rushing, gurgling, and babbling efforts to connect to you. Whether nearby or across the world, anyone can attempt to connect to the Bow, and begin to explore its wisdom, or its secrets, or its songs, creating a unique opportunity to explore proximity and access as fundamental components of our relationship to the Bow River.

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The toll-free number to connect is 1-844-OUR-BOW-RIVER (1-844-687-2697) and the hotline will remain active for the foreseeable future. We installed a retro telephone at Stride Gallery to allow visitors to call the hotline.

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Varying Proximities (Bow-Inspired Hard Candy) 

What does the Bow River taste like? What colour is the water flowing through it? How does one savour the Bow? With the creation of Bow-Inspired Hard Candy, residents of Calgary can start to explore these questions through a fun and interactive public art work. Candies made from colour and flavour inspirations of the Bow allow residents to wonder about where the flavours and colours of the candies end and their own subjective experiences and memories of the Bow begin.

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The installation consists of 10 jars, each filled with about 100 candies of a specific colour. Municipal water from the Bow River was used in the production of these hard candies.

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Varying Proximities (The Results of Searching for “The Bow River”) 

In order to understand how images and ideas about the Bow River change over time, we produced a small booklet consisting of images pulled from a Google search of “The Bow River”. This collection of halftone images suggests a moment in time and further explores the notion of “varying proximities” in terms of web search language.

Copies are available in Stride Gallery and we encourage visitors to grab one from the two shelves mounted in the main gallery space before the exhibition ends on August 2nd.

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Varying Proximities (Subtext: River Signs) 

Distributed along the Elbow and Bow Rivers and affixed to the stormwater outfall signs, Subtext: River Signs, will aim to engage the public to consider a number of questions about the rivers that have come to define the City of Calgary. Playfully asking a series of questions, Subtext: River Signs, will be installed on up to 100 posts for three months and encourage thousands of residents and visitors to think about the ways in which we collectively and individually experience the rivers and how these questions might cue new relations, memories, and stories of the Bow and Elbow.

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Nearly 100 signs were installed in the second room of the gallery and demonstrate the breadth of the questions posed. Viewers are invited to ponder these questions and how they might relate them to their ideas about the river.

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The signs on display will be installed on posts around the Bow and Elbow Rivers this fall, so stay tuned for more updates!

Day 3 & 4: Glaciers and Wreckage

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Over the weekend, we took a trip out to the Bow Glacier to see first hand where Calgary’s only water source begins. The three hour drive proved to be rather scenic with beautiful mountains in the background.

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Anticipating the scary scenario of encountering a bear, we equipped ourselves with a bear bell and bear spray. Both those items became useless when we spotted a bear and her cub on the side of the Trans Canada Highway. The black bear was so uninterested in us taking photos, she never looked up at us and just wandered back into the forest. I guess they’re not as scary as we thought.

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Josh getting his first glimpse of the Bow Glacier.

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After spending a few minutes staring at the glacier, we realized that we still had to hike to the top.

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About an hour later, we arrived to the top of the waterfall. Seen above in the top right, this waterfall is spilling glacier water directly down into the Bow Lake and eventually feeding the Bow River. It’s pretty amazing to imagine the distance the water travels; from the glacier all the way to the homes and gardens of Calgarians. The theme of time, flow, and repetition keep coming up in our research.

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Yesterday, Randy Niessen, the Programming Coordinator at TRUCK Contemporary Art in Calgary and the Project Implementation and Development Lead for WATERSHED+, took us on a bike ride to see what’s left of the damage that the flood left behind.

Above: The 10 foot mark on the meter next to the bridge is how high the river rose in this area.

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Trees completely ripped out of the ground.

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Temporary fences mend the completely eroded trail.

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Josh observing the wreckage. Behind him, once cemented stones have been completely ripped out of the ground.

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This part of the trail is now completely gone.

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A lot of sites throughout Calgary are still under repair. However, it’s quite amazing to note that the majority of flood issues were taken care of during the first week after the flood.

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This bridge collapsed as the water rose and began eroding it. A cargo train was crossing over at the same time and it took search and rescue crews 12 hours to back the train safely off the bridge. They’re still working on its reconstruction.

More soon.

WATERSHED+

This one goes out to Josh for his love of play, design, and Calgary…

Innovative drinking fountains are being installed in Calgary. Linked to the drinking water system through fire hydrants and designed to have their workings exposed, the fountains have three distinct design “characters” suggesting different gathering around water: “strangers” (or the “dating fountain”), “family” (set up like an family picture with bowls at different heights and the dog bowl), and “group”. Each fountain also has taps to fill bottles and dog bowls.

This initiative was developed by the City of Calgary UEP department through the WATERSHED+ art program, the fountains were designed by Sans façon and built by the municipal fabrication workshop.

via WATERSHED+.

Spontaneous Bunting!

Spontaneous Guerilla bunting at construction site on Pelissier (1)

Spontaneous Guerilla bunting at construction site on Pelissier (1)

To help celebrate the recently changed water valve that will unite our neighbours water bill with ours, we thought the construction area needed some dressing up.

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Hopefully when the utility workers return, they will appreciate our spirit.

Spontaneous Guerilla bunting at construction site on Pelissier (4)

 

CAKFA.11: Reflect on Here

Reflect on Here, text installation at CAFKA by Broken City Lab

Reflect on Here, text installation at CAFKA by Broken City Lab

After months and months of work, we finally installed our project for CAFKA.11. Led by Josh, Hiba, Kevin, and myself, the project took an incredible amount of research and build time, but we were incredibly excited to see our efforts finally in place in front of Kitchener’s City Hall when we wrapped up the installation last night.

Reflect on Here calls on passersby to think on the infrastructure of the city, the attempt to create place with architecture, and the materiality of the text itself. This project was made possible with the generous support from the Ontario Arts Council‘s Exhibition Assistance Program and the incredible team at CAFKA.

Continue reading “CAKFA.11: Reflect on Here”

Matthew Brandt’s Lakes and Reservoirs

I have recently come across a very gorgeous set of photographs from Los Angeles, California’s Matthew Brandt. Matthew took snapshots of various lakes and reservoirs in California and soaked them in water from each corresponding location. The results are pretty random and, in my opinion, all beautiful. What he ends up with are sort of “personalized” portraits of these lakes and reservoirs.

Image above: Stone Lagoon, CA (C-Print)

Continue reading “Matthew Brandt’s Lakes and Reservoirs”

Robofish Detects Environmental Pollutants

robofish

Designed at MIT, this robotic fish can swim to detect environmental pollutants in the water and inspect oil and gas pipelines.

Check Natalie Jeremijenko for interesting environmental monitoring projects that cross art and science, and imagine how good this could be for charting the flow of pollution in the Detroit River.

[via Inhabitat]

Time and Tide Bell

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I like public art that does something. I like thinking about architectural works as art and about the potential for viewing city layouts as art and so, I like art that exists as something more than art.

Marcus Vergette‘s Time and Tide Bell is an early-warning system of sorts for the rising tide that will inevitably be the outcome of climate change. The work involves a newly invented bell form, which allows multiple tones to be struck in one structure, so as the tide rises, the bell’s clapper is moved to strike the bell. As the tide rises, the bell will ring more often, but will also become further submerged.

Watching the video above is kind of strange—it shows the first strike of the bell in the water. As people clap and as the bell rings again, it’s strange to think that there is art like this to be made. This bell appears to be the first of other bells that can be installed in other communities, and in some capacity, created with consultation with that community about the inscription on and tone of the bell.

Of course, I’ve now begun to wonder what a public work that would demarcate something very distinct to now, or very distinct to the place we’re heading that could be installed in Windsor. If there was something you could leave for someone to see well into a post-apocalyptic future, what would it be? I think I’d want to say, “I’m sorry.” ')}

Floating Bikes: New Detroit River Crossing?

floating bike

Make your bike floatable through this DIY solution, courtesy of Li Wieguo from Wuhan of Hubei Province, China. The bike is modified to be equipped with eight water buckets acting as pontoons and an adjustable vane wheels as driving power.

Who needs the Skylink?

[via Inhabitat]