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.