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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A visiting day

Working with the delightful students here has defined our day today. At 8am, Thomas Asmuth and his digital foundations class viewed the installation and conversed with us about the process of creating it. Afterwards we walked through the campus Bayou (Edward Ball boardwalk trail) and found ourselves seeing it anew through the lens of the local knowledge and memories of our guest walkers. Thomas identified the fish in the water, (blue gill and small mouth bass) and many, many of the plants – he even spotted an exotic, definitely non-indigenous, opportunistic taro plant tribe. How it found its way there is a mystery. Alyx Jeffreys, the student in our feature image, brought a handheld bluetooth digital microscope that allowed us to see the bayou in a completely new way. She also had a regular SLR and took some wonderful images – including this lichen.

photo courtesy of Alyx Jeffreys

The students thought ahead and brought bags for collecting garbage and left the bayou better than they found it. We heard about the behaviours of local wild life (Dylan had intimate knowledge of possums – not as cute as you’d think). We saw lots and lots of spider webs of all kinds. It was unclear whether we were seeing so many because they were made more visible by the rain or if the rain had somehow prompted the creation of more webs. They were hard to photograph but we all tried. The view with the microscope was very interesting, especially viewed sidelong.

  

The collection from this walk collection yielded new pine life, new ferns, and new mushrooms including a tapioca slime mold (ok, not technically a mushroom). Wikipedia claims that this slime mold got its official name, Brefeldia maxima, because it was thought to be particularly ugly. Granted, the specimen we saw was not so big but judge for yourself:

Alyx got a picture of it using her microscope and it looked like snow crystals. I hope we get our hands on this picture to update this post!

In the early afternoon, Nick Crogan, the director of the Pensacola Museum, brought his museum design students to visit us. We discussed all aspects of the exhibit, from conception through to visual technique to production and the the multiple changes and adjustments we all went through in the installation process. We also discussed the unusual format of being highly visible and interactive visiting artists-in-residence and all the advantages that this format has had for us.

Yesterday Noah, a ceramic and sound student had brought up the idea of bringing in physical bowls that could be played in response to the soundscape Simon Overstall created for the installation. He came in with a variety of bowls today and Maria and he experimented with recording them in a rehearsal room using the 360 microphone (Rode NT-SF1 Ambisonic mic). On Thursday we will try recording them in tandem with the installation.

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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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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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