August 5 Detail of gathered materials

Epic Walk Diaries (August 5)

pre-amble on salvage island
twisted metal in wait
glimpses of old world
conveyor cowboys
log wranglers

factory canned beach

hark a nameless park!
wild mint aspiring oregano
eclipsed (finally) by blackberries

not so hopeful start
factory canned district
hopeful forest sighting
trail maybe?
yes! and quietude

salvaged land(fill)
from dump to cute
heir of Avalon
and french colonials

parched stressed golds
ungraspable plums
gold and violacious damsels
in amaranthine drought

glimpses of Floridian chaos
snows of alder
search for elders

gratitude for paths
borderland forests

Start 4:10pm
End 5:45pm
After a tour through Mitchell Island, lunch at Burnaby Foreshore trail, walk through new River District neighbourhood (Olympic Village v2?), to Marine intersection, greeted by steampunk cyclist, sighting a forest we sniff out a trail (and an entire park!). Buoyed, we go up red alder trail, with some offshoots onto grey gum and blue elderberry trails, through cute co-ops. No streams in sight. We head back down, greeted by lovebug dog, down to Lola, more hopeful for the next leg.

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July 29 Detail of gathered materials

Epic Walk Diaries (July 29)

glad to be at gladstone
eager to pick
thwarted to the way back
we agree
it’s pleasant in pleasantville after all

riverside living
groomed wild community
careful peace
gardens for the curious
noted garbage absence

heavy machine interrupts
gas side living – naturally
fortissimo!

heron floats into the booms
adjacent camouflaged geese
perfectly distanced

three pink tugboats

comfortable joy
solo walks
family noodle picnics
signs of birthdays
makeshift bonfires

heat
heat
so hot
some sweat some overheat

grateful for
cottonwoods maples mountain ash
and unnamed sun shields
paths among friends

sustained by plumpest blackberries
baked to perfect sweetness
and hospitality

four paintings
relate a change of relation
river as witness
wesgroup looks away
river as district
commodity community

boundary achieved!
a gate greets us
tempts us
to burnaby beyond

—-

[
Start 1:49pm
End 5:15pm
Start on a very hot day at gladstone park, follow the river path, the railway, around a fortis gas construction, to the shore, back to the path, lunch at riverfront park, best pesto ever, to adcy beach, past a lot of log booms, to the new river district, arriving at burnaby fraser foreshore park – the end of this side of the epic walk, back along the paths and railway, collecting blackberries, to lola and air conditioning.
]


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July 22 Detail of gathered materials

Epic Walk Diaries (July 22)

perforated walk
greeted by gurgling starlings
and putrid scents

you test the mud
I wait anxiously
not snapping a picture
so close to the 007 boat
the mud won
special mud

fire in our thoughts
not sightlines
still     we watch water

jets of water for rocks
starving plants nearby

sidewalk fragments
protect the banks
or us rather

gothic highlife in style
a mural in best (uncanadian) color
type with character
and cancel canadian

another rat another railroad

the shoreline apportioned
to industry columns
concrete human-made remains wood
material mountains

hopping column to column
gobbling fat juicy blackberries
no access no problem

lo the northern cafe!
a family oasis with history
solid red vinyl booths checkered floors
low uneven roof
we eat like family
yelp family

the shore gentrifies
groomed for plants fishers readers
not crows ducks gulls cormorants
though community all

—-

[
Start : 1:07pm
End: 4:44pm
Start at Prince Edward and Kent, to the muddy shore, into the mud, back to the car, drive to the next access point, onto the cement fragment shore, back to the car, drive to the next access point, no access to shore, cautious permission given through concrete supply yard, onto bike path, unde Knight St Bridge, to Northern Wood Products, lunch at surprising (and popular!) family run Northern Cafe, past the Cold Fish store, onto walkway through river district, past fishers and readers, to gladstone park, and back along the railroad and bike path, with a lot of blackberry stops, to Lola.
]


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July 15 Detail of gathered materials

Epic Walk Diaries (July 15)

the smell of cedar
captured
breezy wheezy dusty and loud
by a too dangerous—for you—lumber mill

delivered onto old technology
rails and slats
a spike! the First Spike, not the Last
flying grasshoppers – with action timelines
dried rat husks, two unknown ends
stagnant canal imagined mutated life
lined with corn flower

a guy on the fence
a bag on the pole
both wave in the wind

cement wombs
hiding spiral blades
enticingly empty, inert cocoons
perfect for songs of resonance

shoreline refuse refuge
new old fibre shredded, pulped
molded, wetted, watered, sliced, diced
delivered
we smell the rot

finally the jade river
grasses and mud
aster surprises
iris pods
skunk cabbage masquerading as bananas
papyrus? we may be denihilists

a brutalist abandoned boat
a heron on set

detoured again
this time by the shore itself
delivered to bracken water nettles brambles spiders
oh the memories

ground zero of cheesy rot
high or low road?
we go low
alarm sounds – shrug

rocket for the middle class
sends us to the trestle stoner bridge
a fitting dead end

—-

[
Start: 1:02pm
End: 4:15pm
North Arm Bridge to Mainland Sawmills, denied entry, follow railway to Southernstar Enterprises, to Kent bike path, past Lafarge, Mason Sewing, lunch at the riverview private park with a cool breeze (technology for living), onto the shore, under the bridge, around an inlet, scramble up to a smelly pile of reclaimed wood, down the embankment, to an abandoned bridge at the foot of Prince Edward Ave, back onto Kent, retracing steps and picking up stored steel spikes along the way, back to Lola.
]


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July 8 Detail of gathered materials

Epic Walk Diaries (July 8)

rebooting reorienting retracing
losses changes and pivots
mark a half century

lo a saint in the sea grasses
among lovingly arranged boulders
strewn slabs of long discarded concrete
iron cast-offs

what is lively here? what lives here?

fenced fallow asphalt lots
separating spirit from soil
united by wild flower determination

rusted remains of metal supports
sculptural now


air land water machines
compose a mechanical symphony
with a chickadee lift

escaped logs lazily float
easy as
the taste of first sweet blackberries

a square column of cattails
cattails!!

spatial imprints of clovers
crisped in place stoically unwilted
in sudden heat death

no people
not this time not today
their smeuses a true gift

—-
[
Start: 12:40pm
End: 2:50pm
Bottom of Shaughnessy, backtrack along the shore to remember where we were, to oak stree bridge, walk on beaches, rocks, slabs, up onto deserted paved parking lots with traces of buildings and habitants long gone, through holes in fences, to the north arm bridge, through the parking lot, over a fence, squeeze through a close gate, onto Kent avenue, and back to Lola.
]


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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.

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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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Campus X

Today our walk began thematically at parking lot x – leaning into Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy. Venturing past the nature trail and bayou on the campus we moved towards the larger Escambia river that flows into Pesacola’s Escambia Bay. Ultimately we didn’t find foot access to the big river, but we did find our way to a larger, deeper part of the Conecuh (pronounced Cah-NECK-ah) river that feeds the bayou on the campus.

Following an unmarked, decommissioned road we came to a dock on a deep, slow-moving part of the Conecuh. It sported a rich wetland with grasses, watery ponds and an abundance of the chaotic forest style that is typical here. In addition to the deep stillness that typifies the bayou at this time of year, there was a low persistent thrum coming from the large smoke stack of the Gulf Power Crist Plant – a plant currently run on coal, that has been negatively affecting the ecosystem with its run-off. Maria made a few sound recordings, but the sound that was captured was overwhelmingly the deep bass sound emanating from the plant – making us wonder how deeply it affected the ecosystem as it runs day and night. In Jeff’s trilogy Area X manifests and captures land that transforms into pristine primordial nature with its ecosystem revitalized. Area x also has the power to transform humans. A bit of this magical thinking would go a long way here.

Entropy is evident in this place. Perhaps it’s less so during the growth season, but the bareness of the winter reveals primary strategies. Mushrooms and lichen colonizing their hosts. Plants that rely on each other to climb have created loops of intertwined branches that have unwittingly captured falling twigs. All of this forms unlikely assemblages that are beautiful chaos. This place is messy. Messier than Vancouver. Primed by the stillness and grey cast of the day, our minds were stopped by a saw palmetto shoot moving vigorously back and forth in the otherwise stolid forest floor. Nothing moves like that without some sort of very directed energy. We surmised that a creature was digging a tunnel and affecting its root system. The uncanny nature of the event (captured on video) woke us up — pure enchantment. We also came across a lonely champion twinkleberry tree. Apparently the biggest twinkleberry ever spotted. It was awarded this distinction in 1977. We don’t know if another has surpassed it. It certainly looks worse for wear and its trunk is being devoured by champion termites. The whole scene was desolate and abandoned. So strange to be labeled a champion and left to die on this unloved road.

 

On our return walk to the campus we visited the camellia garden and returned to the studio with 10–15 varieties. We started a camellia scan based on a visual strategy we developed over three years ago for a begonia. The rounded corners, and squarish shapes seems just right for the over-the-top aliveness and attitude of the camellia.

We also received plant gifts from students in Robin Blyn’s class who dropped in during the afternoon. The ferns and shoots (including a swamp shoot!) they brought in will find their way onto tomorrow’s progressive scan. Carrie Fondor’s thoughtful New Genre class dropped in this evening and gave us some great feedback and inspiration for new directions to take the work. We heard about the Taj Mahal of Pensacola and also got some great tips about the Blackwater park. Some of the students may be joining us on our walk at 8am tomorrow!

 

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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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