Sound Flower Pickens

We started the day with a quick jaunt to Pensacola Beach and Fort Pickens via the Scenic Highway. This is something we had wanted to do during our stay but had never quite found the time.  On our way there we spotted the miniature Taj Mahal that we had been told about. Somehow in our minds we pictured it bigger but still the earnest kitsch quality of it was beautiful.

The sand here is indeed as white as people had told us. Like snow really (and more on that later). We had thought that the Fort was built by the Spanish but in fact it was build by the US government and was used mostly to ward off confederates. We don’t know the full history of the Fort yet because it was super cold today and we were way too chilly to read all the panels.

We rushed back to the lab for noon because we had scheduled a bowl recording session with Noah and Anastasia. Noah was ready with a series of bowls that he had made and filled with water to achieve certain tones. We collected various implements to bang on the bowls and recorded them on their own, as a collective, and as a collective with the Epic Walk composition by Simon Overstall. All of it was recorded in Ambisonic format using the Rode 360 microphone. We listened to portions of it later on using headphones (binaural) and it was delightful. Definitely led to some ideas about interactivity and sound.

We couldn’t do a full walk today but decided that it might be nice if the progressive scan ended on a colourful note so we went out on campus and collected a variety of small flowers, among them some cherry blossoms just starting to bloom — a fitting last gift to circle us back to Vancouver. We decided to let the scanners go for as long as we could and to do another trip to Fort Pickens in the meantime.

The second time around we had a bit more time and it was slightly warmer so we strolled through the Fort batteries and made out way onto the beach, past the bird nesting grounds where we are told we should leave them alone because they need space to forage, loaf, and court. This seems to us like exactly the kind of values we should keep in mind for humans — let us all create new human habitats that optimize for foraging, loafing, and courting. Life would be better for all.

Coming back, we decided to keep driving along the spit but about a third of the way in we realized it would take us way too long to get back to the University to pack up our studio. We had to do a UTurn! No problem. We have lots of experience with those by now. But as it turns out, the sand here not only looks like snow but also behaves a little bit like snow. As we tried to edge Loblolly the car back onto the road from the sand-flanked shoulder, we heard the sound of spinning wheels. Stuck in the sand in Pensacola in a quite deserted stretch of road. Maria tried to push the car from both sides to no avail. A car passed and stopped! Sean (a local man) had some straps that he used to link our cars together and try to pull us out. But the force of the pull snapped the straps without any kind of progress for Loblolly. We were about to try again with a slightly different technique when Dave and Donna from Kentucky stopped with their large pickup truck. They had a chain and a hitch and were able to pull us out without any problem. Meeting our embarrassment at being stuck in the sand, they said “it happens”. We thought they were just being polite southerners but in fact, apparently it does happen regularly here. In any case, we were charmed by the super helpful people that stopped and never made us feel stupid about any of it. We have no photo documentation of this adventure unfortunately.

Back at the University we took a look at the last few snippets from the progressive scan and the Camellia scan and printed a couple with the laser printer and pasted them in the notebook. We regretfully stopped both scans and started to pack up everything, leaving little traces of our presence here and there as bouquets, still lives, and best-of vegetation. It has been a beautiful time here and we will miss the studio, the people, the walks, the bayou. More on the learnings on a later blog post.

 

 

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A Bayou Bouquet

Today was a Bayou bouquet, literally and figuratively. We actually did go out and collect a bunch of Golden Clubs from the Bayou, and the rest of the day was a diverse mix of class and individual visits, printing of Hurricane Alex print, processing of the shapes scan from last weekend, artist talk, and wonderful dinner out with our new Pensacola friends.

Maria spent a good part of the day altering and cleaning the scan of the shapes to get them ready to be masks in TouchDesigner. Here are some results from those efforts:

Alex spent a good part of the day processing the files from the Hurricane Alex scanning experiment for printing, including some detail subsets. When the first print came out we weren’t happy with the level of contrast but noticed that when oils from our fingers got on the print, the blacks became blacker. So we rubbed mineral oil all over it and this helped a lot. We know Carlos will be interested in our hands-on innovation :–) The print now hangs in the studio space. Below is a detail:

We also went for a quick jaunt to the Edward Ball trail head to gather more of the Golden Club that a student had gifted us a couple days ago. We collected a whole bouquet of them and found a couple of mushrooms to add to it. Almost every one of them were added to the progressive scan. Here is a scan snippet with a part of the original Golden Club:

 

We have two scanners working now – one is working on the progressive scan mentioned above, and the other is our camellia scan. The camellia is deeply embedded in the land and culture of the Florida Panhandle. When we flow the scans through touch designer back in Vancouver we will be experimenting with layers, transparency, colour, texture, shape, speed and rhythm to capture this flower in its cultural complexity.The image below shows a red variety crisply dehydrated:

The end of our day found us discussing our installation and AIR discoveries in an artist talk held in the gallery. We had a warm and curious audience that, through their questions and comments helped us see how much we had done here. The innovative open studio model of this residency has been excellent as a method of generating ideas and materials. The format allowed us to become integrated into the creative community here in a natural, seamless and enchanting way. We will miss these people and this place!

The final part of our day was spend in the quaint part of Pensacola at a great Indian restaurant with the friends we’ve made here. As we left we looked up and saw this  charming chiming ceiling they’d installed to welcome diners and also offer a delightful goodbye.

 

 

 

 

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Rained out but layers!

We were supposed to go the St-Marks Wildlife Refuge today but with lots of rain in the forecast in Newport (and here!) we decided that the 3.5 hour drive wasn’t in the cards. Instead we went into the studio and decided to scan layers and shapes that will form the basis of a new visual treatment for the walks that we’ve done here.

When we walk in Vancouver, we typically set up the scan for 7-10 days but because of our limited time in Pensacola and the large number of walks we are doing, we decided to do a progressive scan. The scanner is going now (with the materials gathered by the students on Friday’s walk) and will keep going until we leave. As we go on more walks, we will remove and add materials so the overall composition will change gradually. The suggestions from the students from the Foxtrot walk on Friday were varied and we tried to follow at least a few of them. The composition is roughly colour based (with beiges at the top and greens/magenta at the bottom). We also concentrated on showing all the mushrooms gathered on the walk:

We also scanned some layers based on the the ubiquitous pine needle+leaves forest floor, lichens+mosses, grasses, and other miscellaneous compositions. Here are some highlights:

 

We also did some shapes that we think we’ll use as mattes of some kind:

Tomorrow we’ll be working with all these layers and shapes to see how we might integrate them into a generative composition.

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Foxtrotting

Today we walked with four lovely students! When we got to the studio this morning we were surprised to see people waiting to go on a walk with us because we hadn’t seen any names on the signup sheet before we left yesterday. So nice to have these wonderful enthusiastic people joining us. Rebecca, a student who knows the campus trails very well, offered to lead the group through the boardwalk bayou to the Foxtrot trail and back. The sky was cloudless, the air crisp and cool – a perfect day for an outing. We walked for 3 hours discovering more and more life within a seemingly dormant bayou. As happens every time we go on a walk, the eyes adjust to the details gradually. Initially we engaged in conversation about life, school, their experience with the campus, nature, etc. But as the enchantment of nature took hold, we started pointing out details like minnows, scales on scaly pines, spider webs, decaying trees, grasses.

We made a rule that we (Alex and Maria) would not collect anything on this walk. It would be the responsibility of the guest walkers. This would prove to be hard for us but ultimately the right choice as it was fascinating to see what they picked up, being locals. We did have some influence, particularly on how much of each thing was taken (they were more timid at first). In the end we had two bagfuls of bark, branches, grasses, mushrooms, needles, and more.

When we got back to the studio, we arranged our collection on one of the tables. Unfortunately Alex and I had to jet downtown for a talk but we left the very capable guest walkers with the task of coming up with rules for how we would set up the scan the next day. We still haven’t seen these rules but very much looking forward to the process of interpretation tomorrow morning when we quickly drop in to the studio before going downtown for the colloquium roundtables.

 

 

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Pensacola so far

We arrived in Pensacola on Saturday February 1st. It was cold. We didn’t expect that. Neither of us brought the required clothing. Since then it’s been up and down in temperature with a huge range (12-27C). So even though it sometimes feels like summer to us, it’s definitely their winter as evidenced by the vegetation, which is largely in a dormant state.

We were also surprised by the structure of the city especially since the University of Western Florida (UWF) where we are being hosted is quite far from the historic downtown area of the city.

Things we have noticed about Pensacola:

  • Their are many many baptist churches. And we have been told there are more than meet the eye. Some houses are churches. When one enters bookstores, there is a front section dedicated to God and religion. This is an important part of the culture here.
  • There are many Waffle Houses. We are not sure why. Apparently they are all freezing cold.
  • It is car country. The roads are ultra wide and there are not many sidewalks. We spotted one bike path. Our dream of getting around by walking was dashed. We rented a car. Turns out a tank of gas here costs all of $30 (CDN). It’s really hard to get our bearings because everything is so far apart and the visible landmarks are usually chains like Denny’s or Taco Bell.
  • U-Turns. The highways and main roads (and there are many) are extremely wide and are generally separated by a centre median. This means that to get to where you need to go (like a Waffle House, say), it is necessary to make a U-turn. It is sanctioned and encouraged (nay, planned well in advance) by the in-car nav. We miss the frisson of U-turns in Vancouver.
  • It is surprisingly easy to be a vegan here. There are some good grocery stores and a greater awareness about plant-based diets than one might expect.
  • When it rains it sometimes comes down in sheets. On the first rain we encountered here, 75-100mm fell in a few short hours. There was dramatic thunder and lightning. And then a couple hours later all the accumulated water was absorbed by the sandy soil.

We have learned a lot of about the area in conversation with our gracious hosts and other visitors to our makeshift studio in the TAG gallery. For example, we noticed that there are many camellia trees here and someone told us they know of a camellia tsar (his words). Turns out there is a camellia garden on campus and we walked through it today. It was absolutely amazing. We will do a camellia scan.

The campus is located on a hilltop and is surrounded by wild spaces. There are also many trees on the campus itself. Once we started walking, we loved it. There is a boardwalk trail through a Bayou a short 5 minute walk from the gallery. From there, there is a 17 mile network of trails. All of the trails warn of alligators and poisonous snakes but there seems to be no general fear about these encounters. We have seen one snake so far and it was a mutually benign encounter. We learned from Jeff VanderMeer (who gave a lecture today) that alligators are like scaly basset hounds, and that, if you need to, you can execute a well-planned jump over one. We also learned that there are attacking otters here. And that this area is the 6th most biodiverse area in the world.

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STEAM2020 Feb9 Detail of gathered materials

Epic Walk Diaries (Pensacola) February 9

perdido toward perdido
never quite though
the indolent (beep beep)
keeps us rotating north

lime yellow green
spike stems
glowing in moist grasses
memories of horsetail
neither moss nor pine
vascularly rhyzomic
sporifically versatile
the original flash photography

happy black snake
not seen      seen
not bothered either way

long live the longleaf pine
from grass to tree
needly joyful fireworks
friends of fire
blue skies and wind

pine savannahs
pulped to near extinction
colonized by slash and loblolly
saved by love and rainwater
long live the longleaf pine

saw palmetto
pierce ground and brush
radiate blades
cut through uncertainty
with planar precision

scintillating
sleepy tubing river
I can see alabama from here

first timers greet
memories of the ancient
no hurry
the snake shall remain black
long live the longleaf pine

memories of alberta
wild rose country
catching
brambly
insistent

quiet budding
summer to us
winter to them

simple vertical
calming spindles
this forest is hope

—-
[
Start 1:33pm
End 4:53pm
From University towards Illian, recalculating,
recalculating, to Perdido River Nature Preserve,
onto trail, didactic panels, sunning snake, muddy patches,
to the river bank, a look at alabama, quick chat with the local,
back to trail, stymied by mud and brambles,
escape to private property, wet feet, lunch on the road,
boardwalk through the bog, sleeping pitcher plants,
long leaf pine savannahs, grasses, back to private property,
feathery finish to The Indolent (now loblolly).
]

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November 1 Detail of gathered materials

Epic Walk Diaries (November 1)

metallic blue berries metallic blue metallic blue
like planes so many planes so many boats
heard so many cars
there was dust
there were the waves too the lapping of water
sometimes we couldn’t see the boat it was a crescendo of
metallic sounds

remember the music notation for silence?
it wasn’t there
but sometimes almost there

didn’t you love that there were so many fences
and as many holes as fences?
we were always at an almost-dead end
then a new portal
so good

caught once
(but to be fair many came before us)
we slip past the perplexed matriarch
“we’re not wandering in, we’re wandering off!”

hardened flyäsh
it’s condemned he said
it would move the needle but as it was
it only said 13480 lbs
with some flickers
but really 13 or so tons
this is the coolest parking spot in vancouver
so many shapes and the potential of flyäsh
and and and
an ecosystem fed by the fraser

we heard the sound of hell fire low deep resonant menacing constant
it’s behind a door there are no windows
how do we know it’s not hell in there?
we have no contrary evidence
except the flyäsh guy
he says its a blower
you know for those big ass cement pipes you see lying around
oh ya I guess they’d need some blowing

a playground of shapes
like kindergarten but rusty not soft not small
ratty curtains of orange and blue
a lot of land doing not so much toil not so much work
piles of sand and products of sand
sometimes more emptiness
but on a fresh surface

what a weird little spot we found ourselves in

an outside living room
a box of test tubes with industrial plastic wrap
a survival kit war field surgery guide wilderness survival
water filtration he was ready for everything
except
maybe his own self
a woman would use a backpack
you know…you need both arms
for survival
he’s a survival commuter

a little frisson
probably we’re not supposed to be here
the whole time
we’ll apologize
it helps we’re women

brambles are the original colonizers
creeping across the concrete
far criss crosses
such an interesting deadlive zone this is
we find a colonial talking stick
hard and definite
it never stops talking

we happen on two eagles
they happen onto crows that feel their own mortality
attack screech eagle feather floating down
once more a path opens and we think
maybe this feather is for us
no I think
it will bless this forgotten road instead

—-
[
Start 1:22pm
End 4:37pm
Fraser Park to educational panels,
through trails and down to beaches once in a while,
through holes in fences and makeshift homes and living rooms,
many steps on forbidden territories including a cement factory (garden?)
it kicks us out swiftly,
we walk through the garden of cement shapes,
past a condemned fly ash dispenser,
under a tressle bridge and abandoned structures,
under the yellow oak street bridge,
through a mossy green pebbly beach,
up an embankment to a business park,
and finally to a park at the end of Shaughnessy Rd
(with sand volleyball courts)
back through the railroad tracks (on flyäsh advice)
down Kent (crossing the beginning of the arbutus greenway)
back to Fraser park and Lola.
]

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September 2 Detail of gathered materials

Epic Walk Diaries (September 2)

fruity prequel
   apples pears and guests

[ there is nothing like an apple right off the tree ]

    brambly webs of striped predators
 to fenced greens and rocky shores
    later for this final reckoning of riches

quel 
   to the wrong riches
  not quel
 schloss is our gain
   a veiled secret to an entrance
     [why us?]
  glad to escape the colonial 
      mud says more

monoculture park
   an invitation to trespass
 ganesh welcomes this begin
     [ remover of obstacles! ]
   sacred care
      ruby before stones

low tide
   [ can a river have low tide? ]
 grasses muddy to a martha stewart hue
    show the waves of time
      hide chasms of mud
      [ only the feet know ]
   
  a hinted salamander
   small like a mouse
     scurries like a squirrel

sprinkles of violet [asters]
   yellow 
     white (joined by pink juniors this time)
  magenta strands of invasion
    the old browns standing tall
       rosehips (the colonial kind)
   hawthorn reds
       deadly ones too

you take the low road
     [ the logs captured enslaved corpses ]
   i take the high road
        [ hugging brambles ]
  feasting on unseen blackberries
           watching the shore one
     on muddy ganesh-approved tracks

merging for the stony feast
      brambles finally give
    we have earned this resolve
[ how many before we pay later? ]

rock steps of uncertain balance
   a dance with slippery partners
     [ how would the japanese do this? ]
  grace to the finish

surer returning steps
    a fall bouquet forming
      [ you look timeless
               with this wild beauty in your hands]

-----
[
  Start 1:30
  End 4:00
  False start at McCleery Golf Course,
  to the schloss at the Marine Drive Golf Club,
  given permission for early morning with a hint
  to an easier way, to the Fraser River Park full
  of hawthorns, past a NO TRESPASSING sign,
  past a Hindu shrine on the river shore,
  scramble through flattened grasses, logs, rocks,
  mud, wild flowers, brambles, to the edge of McCleery,
  and back, past the shrine now joined by sunbather,
  blocked by a sunstroked seashore-cleaning kayaker,
  and to Lola (and water).
]
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July 23 Detail of gathered materials

Epic Walk Diaries (July 23)

        permission to enter
   thank you for asking
          a past-teenage pass
      fields of chicory
         purply bright bitters

   river boat smell crows feasting
       on pungent impermanence

a true path
   a mud bypass
 beside a more river
at ease

      pump station
  prompts chaotic strategies
    inhibiting bacteria
      doubles us back
  to musqueam academy

 permission to enter
    yes 
      some may not be as nice
 beware of the fore

        Amigo greets us
          at La Finca
     zucchini blessings for all
   sleeping pumpkins
         waiting for halloween
    fore ball     pumpkin wow
  two hundred orange pounds
          not Portlandian

     figs roses sunflowers
         (not smiley yellow)
            mourning Gilbert
     Gilbert with the new apple tree
       
          smiles on imperfect grass
     river path edible sweetness
       Bauer bench
           a note to return

 a road to helpful extraordinary lips
        directed lively
   
   shaded limpid creek
 leaning queen anne
    thistles push pull poke
       guarding a soft finish

         fruity amble
          passed white history
      winched   embarrassing riches
             river cops
      doubly taken land

    ripe bounty
        chalky jade
     anne bourne moments
   groomed wildness
      village permeability
 inaccessible secure wealth
         wild boundaries
   generous contradictions

   damson plum finish

----
[
  Start 10:10
  End 2:20
  Musqueam Cultural Rotunda,
  to the river, cul-de-sac, back to Lola,
  to the Musqueam golf and learning academy,
  on Groomed Paths by the water, up to 51st ave,
  back down to the water, more Groomed Paths,
  along country club, past Deering Island, 
  Groomed (Fruity) Paths,
  Mccleery Golf Course, picnic under plum tree, 
  clean finish at Carnarvon St and Celtic Ave.
]
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