Reservoir by Peter von Tiesenhausen – Dynamic Environment Exhibition

November 14th, 2019

In Reservoir, Peter von Tiesenhausen collaborated with sound artists Jen Reimer and Magnus Tiesenhausen and cinematographer Dave McGregor to capture the immense space and presence of the Saddleridge reservoir through sound and video. This project was developed while the artist was embedded in the UEP Department during the Watershed+ Dynamic Environment Lab.

Hidden beneath two soccer fields, the Saddleridge reservoir provides drinking water that originates from the Bow Glacier and watershed to north-eastern Calgary. With the capacity to hold 38 million litres of water, the reservoir has remained sealed to the outside world for forty years, sitting in darkness and silence as it supplied water until it was opened for scheduled maintenance in the spring of 2017. The underground concrete chamber is unlike any surroundings we are familiar with. The smallest of sounds will echo throughout the vast empty space and certain frequencies build upon themselves, intensifying in resonance. The improvised sound performance and fleeting images explore the unique nature and ambience of the space and combine to create Reservoir. Once maintenance was completed the colossal chamber was refilled, restoring it to silence for the next forty years.

This work is on view at Contemporary Calgary as part of the Dynamic Environment exhibition until January 5, 2020.

Previously shown at TRUCK Contemporary Art and the Art Gallery of Alberta in 2018.

Surfing Underground By Stokley Towles – Dynamic Environment Exhibition

October 31st, 2019

Stokley Towles gives the public a glimpse into the working lives of Calgary’s Water Services employees through his performative piece Surfing Underground. This work was developed while participating in the Watershed+ Dynamic Environment Lab where he was embedded into the UEP Department.

Towles is a storyteller fascinated with the seemingly mundane. For the last decade, the artist has scrutinized various municipal systems that allow a city to thrive while going largely unnoticed by the public. During his time in the UEP Department, Towles’ focused on its employees and wanted to answer the question: What is it like to spend your career working in a hole? Over two years, Towles followed construction crews tasked with repairing water and sewer pipes listening to their stories and insights.  

Surfing Underground combines their anecdotes with images and artifacts in a compelling performance that reveals the hardships and nuances of working underground. Touching on a multitude of issues ranging from personal space: “Working in such close proximity, you get to know the other crew members, the shampoo they use, their deodorant”; to things like safety: “Place a pebble in the crack of a dirt wall. If the pebble moves, the wall is coming down”. Towles’ performance provides an intimate stage for getting to know the people who care for our infrastructure. He prompts audiences to look at the mundane and scratch beneath its surface to see the remarkable.

This work is on view at Contemporary Calgary as part of the Dynamic Environment exhibition until January 5, 2020.

Photographs courtesy Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye.

Flow Paths by Tim Knowles – Dynamic Environment Exhibition

October 30th, 2019

Flow Paths are a series of drawings by Tim Knowles that capture the movements of the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary inhabitants. Knowles developed this project while participating in the Watershed+ Dynamic Environment Lab where he was embedded in the UEP Department.

The Inglewood Bird Sanctuary is a natural reserve of 59 acres on the west side of the Bow River intended to give migratory birds a place to rest. To date, 270 species of birds, 21 species of mammals, and 347 species of plants have been recorded at the sanctuary. It’s an environment bustling with life; a space in constant flux and Knowles wanted to “map the movement of everything”.

In 2018, the artist undertook an intensive residency where he started to catalogue the activity in the sanctuary by using a GPS enabled tablet with detailed satellite imagery. He collected data on the flow and tracks of birds, animals, and people. He recorded the industrious work of the beavers and the paths they took with their felled trees. Knowles used the information to create a series of drawings that expose the inner workings of the sanctuary. Patterns of animal behaviour become clear and viewers can infer the relationship between animals and their environment. These insights influenced the continued restoration of the sanctuary after the 2013 flood, informing the routes of water channels and paths as well as the artist’s own original design for a hybrid structure that is part log jam, part bridge, and part bird blind.

This work is on view at Contemporary Calgary as part of the Dynamic Environment exhibition until January 5, 2020.

Photographs courtesy Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye.

How Deep Is Your Love by Becky Shaw – Dynamic Environment Exhibition

October 28th, 2019

Through a series of actions, objects, and tools, Becky Shaw’s How Deep is Your Love invites Calgarians to explore their relationship to the extensive water infrastructure supporting their lives. This work was created while participating in the Watershed+ Dynamic Environment Lab where artists are embedded in the UEP department and is the culmination of three years of research and development.

While integrated in the UEP department, Shaw became fascinated with the work of leak locators. Locators have the near impossible task of pinpointing a leak three metres underground by relying only on sound captured with an analogue geophone. “Listening with the geophones is difficult; you must hold your breath and try to sink beneath the ambient noise” the artist explains. It’s an intimate process only few will know and even fewer will have the skills necessary to interpret the sounds into a physical location. Shaw wanted to open this experience up to everyday Calgarians and connect them directly to their infrastructure through an unexpected way. Working with city engineers, Shaw commissioned a mini version of the geophone accessible for public use. This new tool was utilized during guided tours by the artist where participants experienced the unique process of listening to running water deep below the surface.

Contrasting this personal and intimate experience, Shaw displays the vast and complicated nature of Calgary’s sprawling infrastructure by piecing together a map detailing the diameter, materials, and joints of every pipe. The floor installation envelops the viewer with its complexity and you can’t help but marvel at the intricately designed system hidden beneath our feet. By displaying these latent processes and objects, Shaw encourages the viewer to examine how their lives intersect, unknowingly and knowingly, with their infrastructure.

This work is on view at Contemporary Calgary as part of the Dynamic Environment exhibition until January 5, 2020.

Photographs courtesy Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye.

Dynamic Environment Exhibition – Panel Discussion

October 24th, 2019

The Watershed+ Dynamic Environment Lab was developed to explore the intricate and delicate relationship we have with our watershed. It’s an unconventional initiative that embedded artists into the systems and processes of Calgary’s Utility and Environmental Protection Department. The lab facilitated beneficial exchanges of perspectives while fostering a collaborative relationship between artists and city employees throughout the development of new art works.

Dynamic Environment, hosted by Contemporary Calgary, is the culmination of the lab and presents a selection of works from the five DE Lab artists: Becky Shaw, Steve Gurysh, Peter von Tiesenhausen, Tim Knowles, and Stokley Towles. Each artist worked in vastly different mediums to explore various aspects of our watershed and extensive infrastructure.

Opening night of the exhibition featured a panel discussion moderated by amery Calvelli with Watershed+ lead artists Sans façon and the DE Lab artists. This intimate discussion recounted the history and creation of the lab as well as the artists’ experiences of operating within a city department. It highlighted the successes and challenges of working in this non-traditional way and how it has affected the perception of what public art can be, in Calgary and abroad.

Dynamic Environment is on view at Contemporary Calgary until January 5, 2020.

Photographs courtesy Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye.