Musings from the First Week

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The House curated by Caitlind r.c. Brown (front and back)

A week has elapsed since we announced the official line-up of Artists behind WRECK CITY, and while it appears that all is quiet on the home front, inside our strip of Sunnyside homes, subtle transformations are beginning to take place.

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BLOG POST BY CAITLIND r.c. BROWN:

As one of the eight Artist-Curators behind WRECK CITY, I’m delighted to be working with a brilliant variety of Artists inside a big white House, a Greenhouse two lots away, and in surrounding yard spaces. The Artists working in this space have suggested works that:

  • Physically Interact with the architecture of the space
  • Defy the laws of physics (however you choose to interpret them)
  • Take advantage of the houses, not merely as surfaces, but as a collection of interlocking spaces which can be permanently altered or destroyed
  • Are intended for interaction
  • Are playful

Overall:

  • Works reconstructing, re-imagining, or re-developing spaces

Artists who:

  • Are interested in working with installations
  • Delight in public interaction
  • Experiment with a variety of materials and concepts

On a conceptual level, I find these the most interesting elements of working in an urban environment destined for redevelopment. Between bittersweet bouts of unfolding hidden histories, forging relationships with former tenants, and accidentally collecting stories, WRECK CITY offers incredible freedoms. We have been gifted nine domestic spaces to re-imagine into something entirely new, and while the Artist-Curators have been vigilant about safety and established a loose list of “Guidelines,” we designed WRECK CITY as a way of opening new potentials to some of Calgary’s most awesome Artists, literally tearing down walls between strangers, and challenging the limitations of countercultural spaces in our city.

As a group, we want to learn to play blissfully with garbage, build treasure out of unwanted junk, and open eyes to the possibilities of abandoned spaces. As individuals, we all have reasons for wanting to be involved with this experiment – something to learn, something to gain, and something to share. The Artists involved in my space include Alia Shahab, Daniel J. Kirk, Eric Heitmann, Ivan Ostapenko & Studio North (Mark Erickson & Matthew Kennedy), Jaye Benoit, Lane Shordee, Lauren Simms, The Satisfactory (Mynthia McDaniel & Jane Durham), Renato Vitic, Steven Cottingham, Svea Ferguson, and Wayne Garrett. Together we are visionaries, architects, utopians, dreamers, humourists, romantics, scavengers, and constructors. Our stories will vary over the course of this project, but within our separate scopes, we will gain some unity from sharing a space and sharing a community – even if only temporarily.

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Artist Lane Shordee, leaning on the fence behind the house.

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The Green House

On an intrinsic level, this Project is also meant to create a collective sigh of relief. It’s not pretentious, unattainable, or snobby – at least, it’s certainly not meant to be that way. It’s opportunistic, liberating, and communal. To me, one of the most exciting elements of WRECK CITY is that, at the end of the project, nobody has to clean up. We just wait for the wrecking ball.

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View of downtown Calgary from the window of the House

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about Calgary. What characterizes our city? How does the Art Community play a role in forming, shaping, and re-inventing what we can become?

I’ve spent a lot of time away in 2013. Until just over a month ago, I was in Russia with Wayne Garrett building a second edition of CLOUD, a project made “internet famous” during Calgary’s first Nuit Blanche when 10,000 Calgarians decided to show up with blazing smart-phones and over-active Twitter accounts. In Moscow, a city of 12-21 million people, it occurred to me suddenly that Calgary is often trying to be something we’re not. We’re not a sweeping metropolis, or a cultural super-power, or even a romantic western town (these ideas are addressed well in Chris Turner’s article Calgary Reconsidered). Actually, our most important power is something we hardly ever talk about…

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View of Calgary’s suburbs from the air, as captured on March 22, 2013

We’re SMALL. We’re undefined. We’re still wandering through our infancy, and this is hugely exciting, especially in an era of international communications. Artists in Calgary have the amazing advantage not just to create opportunities for themselves, but to define the rules of the game. Calgary’s cusping on the edge of something very exciting, and our cultural entrepreneurs and DIY community actually has the chance to heavily influence the trajectory of that growth. People still say “Yes” in Calgary, and that’s a hell of an advantage for kinda-crazy-kinda-awesome ideas like WRECK CITY.

Of course, WRECK CITY also plays with other Calgary-specific (or First World specific) ideologies surrounding “The New,” consumer culture, and the tendency towards demolition, but there’s an equal interchange between critiques of these practices, and the possibilities they entail. In the end, WRECK CITY is a social exploration of time and place. To borrow some more ideas from Chris Turner, projects like WRECK CITY have the potential to teach a city about “the latent value of temporary, flexible urban space and the importance of granting permission.” It also has the potential to build new channels for art-making and art-showing that are accessible, innovative, and ironically sustainable.

But who knows? There’s plenty of space for mistakes. WRECK CITY is still an independent project, after all. We’re just making it up as we go along…

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