Four Shapes of Pensacola

Pensacola Epilogue #1

Well it’s been just over 4 months since we got back from Pensacola. So much has happened. As soon as we got back, a flood of administrative and teaching duties came our way from having been away. And then, a few days later, I got really sick with symptoms remarkably similar to COVID-19, and passed it on to Alex. Then as we were both recovering we were told to prepare for the University to shut down.

The ensuing months were difficult but enlightening. We tried to keep up production but the reflection needed to understand the pandemic situation and enforced isolation inhibited a free flow of ideas. We still very much valued the experiences we had in Florida and the data we collected, but they became distant very quickly as the more immediate situation enfolded.

It wasn’t a complete shutdown of creative activities. We tried to work with the Camellia scan data. We processed it in different ways. After a while we had to admit we just weren’t falling in love with them. There was just something about the composition, the too-much-ness of Camellias, that thwarted our efforts. It may be that they can’t be treated as a standalone study. They may find themselves interjected into the other works. And this, in a way, seems fitting given the way we encountered them in Pensacola. They were very ordered, prim, in contrast to the wildness of the bayou and forests. Yes, they were everywhere in the city but somehow seemed like an addition. Like a lawn. Here is a frame from one study of the Camellia data:

camellia scans

Camellia scans processed through Touch Designer.

Recently as things have started to reopen and become more predictable, I started to play around with the shapes we had scanned on a rainy day. I also started to think about the colours we saw when we went down to the beachfront — bright joyful colours reminiscent of carefree beach holidays. This too seemed to be Pensacola. Again the contrast. In the end I made a composition of 4 of the shapes onto bright saturated backgrounds (featured at the top of this post). It may still change (maybe the camellias make an appearance??). We want to try printing it with the Risograph at Emily Carr. This is a standalone study for the mushroom shape (the accident that started it all):

Mushroom Shape

An accidental mushroom

There is still much to investigate and document from our time in Florida and we will keep going in fits and starts as we deal with all the changes in our lives.

0

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.

 

 

0
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.
]

0
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.
]
2
April 21 Detail of Materials

Epic Walk Diaries (April 21)

circumvent the upper class
   kin yet rejected
  not prepaid
      private you know

musqueam welcome
     he said river
  walking good
    a dog rides cheerful
 meander to laughter
      family

tidal flats
   pretend easy
 bones say otherwise
      dispersed vertebrae
   skull     memories of eyes
     spineful finale

stick to the grass!
   mud traps and chasms
  oil underlay
 rivulets    at some scale
     rivules really
  follow the line serpentine
       algorithmic life art merger

reed waves
    rise and drape
   hide and house
  red winged black birds
     check check
 bushtits pootiweet
  do we only hear alarm calls?

human detritus
   photogenic barrels and balls
      easter gloves
 reed mud life asserts
    life wins
      patient

stoic sentinel field
  ritual ancestors
    stand orderly
  skeletal
      siren song
   mud bounce

 d e t o u r

chasm labyrinth 
   go left!
 stick to the grass
   leap!
    part the typha forest
  log highways
     positively running now

surprise opening
  listening oasis
 layers of song

greenery boundary
  contrasting relief
 honest map check
    grit to origin

taunting brambles
 brambles mud
   brambles branches
  brambles reeds
    brambles roses
  cedar saviors
      water bombs

coloured goals
   pull
 sorrel  irises
    yellow  white  pink
  just unwrapped green
      horsetail forests
    nettles
   awake awake awake

up the creek
  cedar root path
   fern handles
 red berry finish
     i hope you laugh

--
[
  Start 1:15pm
  End 6:05pm
  Avoid the colonial greens,
  to Musqueam cultural rotunda,
  meet the dog, witness the egg hunt,
  down to the river flats.
  around and around up and down backwards
  leaping slipping sinking
  scrambling brambling
  backward tracking to the creek
  remembered climb back to colonial greens.
  Encounter on private land, you know.
  road to Lola with unexpected forest walk.
]
0