Institution & Community

Triptych 2013, Hashtags 2016

IMG_8392

 

 

This work continues through the accompanying hash tags. Though there is humour in the use of appropriating text that was originally written by a certain individual in a specific context, this is a serious critical approach to (different meanings of) industry, language and physical positioning of idea in space.

The last days of Sanford Avenue School – a raw video walk around

It was a cold and windy evening…

This heritage worthy building we fought for is now in mid-demolition and I am not sure how much longer there will be any structure left. It really was suddenly cold and windy, but I felt the urgency to document this last stand of one of the last of the great Barton Village classic buildings.

This is pretty raw footage of me walking around the building. I do make a brief statement at the beginning, but this is for reference for … future use. Hopefully, we’ve made a difference overall in Hamilton for other communities going forward.

Sanford Avenue School was a very special heritage building, built in 1932 during the great depression. One of the gems of a notoriously poor neighbourhood, this is the sort of structure that is attractive for a very wide range of opportunities including a college, a community centre or health facility. Despite well documented flaws in the public consultation process and the demolition / heritage process, the HWDSB, the City of Hamilton and then the Government of Ontario failed the future interests of  the Barton Village community and allowed the first 100% steel framed building in Canada to be sold as scrap. No public interest from developers was allowed to be entertained.

For the record, below is a list of  trustees who voted to allow Sanford Avenue School to be demolished, and not to allow any alternatives to be presented by private or non-governmental organizational interest. Also included on this list of “Heritage & Community Shame” are the City and Provincial elected officials without whose express support and approval this tragedy could not have happened.

At the time of this posting, there is no secured funding or concrete plans for any development of the site into a park, soccer field or Recreation Complex expansion.  The most frustrating part for most of us? There would of been enough room for all of this if they had agreed to re-arrange parking instead of demolishing this beautiful structure that would have served nicely economic tool for revitalization. There is a need for new leadership in Hamilton, and the following elected officials should not trusted with public office again:

Ward 3 Councilor 

Bernie Morelli

Hamilton Wentworth District School Board Chair

Tim Simmons

HWDSB Trustees:

Bob Barlow

Todd White

Lillian Orban

Wes Hicks

Jessica Brennan

Karen Turkstra

Ray Mulholland

(Former) Liberal Education Minister

Laurel Broten

sanford last video 023

friend, fellow heritage activist and Photographer Joanna St. Jacques

sanford last video 017 sanford last video 018 sanford last video 019 sanford last video 021 sanford last video 025 sanford last video 026 sanford last video 028 sanford last video 029 sanford last video 031 sanford last video 036 sanford last video 037 sanford last video 053 sanford last video 055 sanford last video 040 sanford last video 041 sanford last video 042 sanford last video 043 sanford last video 044 sanford last video 047 sanford last video 048 sanford last video 049 sanford last video 050 sanford last video 051 sanford last video 052

See also http://hamiltonsusualsuspects.blogspot.ca/?m=1 for more photos and discussion

Who watches the opacity? Art & activism in the shadow of big industry

I thought I was alone these last couple of years watching in awe the monstrous, billowing, sky creatures of Hamilton’s industrial sector.

069 Collage

Oh, I know Hamilton is and has long been an area of fascination for artists both casual and professional. Most of what I’ve seen (and much of my own work) is based on the ground up i.e structures and landscapes. But just above that is another landscape entirely – and I’ve been referring to the airspace above the industrial sector as “landscape” because what is going on up there is far too solid and far too much a permanent fixture to be called anything else.

I look for the flames when I cross into Hamilton from work, and I’ll always glance to the air above the architecture to see what is billowing where … and just marvel at how large and, literally, “opaque” these are. Night and day, though wind and rain, I would explore vantage points and study these shapes. I started to take pictures, then time lapse pictures, then movies, then collages… and now, thousands of photos later my first exhibit with this series of work opens tomorrow at 173 James Street North. Both formal and a flight of fancy influenced by a healthy dose of local activism and politics, I started to anthropomorphise the emissions as kind of creatures of mythology. (Is “anthropomorphise” the right word? I’m not sure as technically I am ascribing qualities of non-humans, greek gods, to non-human emissions… )

The relationship, for me, drew similarities to what I assume living among titans and gods would of been like. Huge and obvious, dominating and affecting the landscape yet uncaring and oblivious to gnats like me frittering away at the edges. Sure, I can indirectly communicate with the people operating this machinery, but that is also a claim of priests and oracles at any temple. There are always prophecies of doom and of hope flying about in classical mythology, as there are in Hamilton council and on the local chorus – twitter. I could go on, but that’s basically how my mind always keeps connecting things on me and then I tend to go “deep into the rabbit hole” with work and research. And that’s how I arrived at this collection of digital prints, my first solo exhibit in many years. It’s called “Uranus of Hamilton” – and yes, I know. The name has a few different stories to it, though it is the correct name as this 7 work exhibit refers to the creation mythology of Ancient Greece.

047

Anyways, so I thought I was alone out there watching for industrial emissions because of their visual qualities. But I was not alone – here’s a recent CBC Hamilton news article about Lynda Lukasik, executive director of Environment Hamilton, who was out there around the same period “documenting and photographing the emissions for months”.  I didn’t know there were laws on the opacity of industrial emissions, and it’s neat to think that what I saw as formally fascinating yet rationally horrifying was kinda validated by this unfolding environmental story.

I am very impressed with Lukasik and local residents for their work on this, and very grateful. It’s a real effort, I think, to break out of our accustomed blind-spots that build up over time and prevent us from seeing some of the absurdity right in front of our eyes. These titans of industry are no slouches – they know what they are doing and they know how to minimize the perception of their presence. For example, I can’t get anywhere inside the industrial sector – I once got in trouble by three security guards for standing on patch of corporate lawn to take a picture of a statue. Public parking is also non-existent in that area and they spend a lot of time and money doing marketing and PR based on charities and the arts.

As thick and opaque as Dafasco’s industrial emissions, this kind of practice shields their activities from most citizens by associating what we are seeing with warm and fuzzy feelings about community and jobs and things like that. Adding insult to injury is the fact that they are spending millions on marketing while receiving millions to keep the plants open. They are also not spending the millions government is spending to clean up toxic areas such as Randal’s Reef.

This asymmetrical scale of priorities and responsibilities is a neat trick of smoke and mirrors. I learned it takes full time dedication from patient and perceptive locals to see through it and be able to change the titan’s behaviour. I, on the other hand, was only observing the titan behaviour.

Some more work from that series is in this post, but not of the works in the exhibit though. You’ll have to show up sometime with April 12th to May 6th to see those.


045

Bonus: I’ve included a sort of “hidden” work in the gallery that is based on the below raw footage of Tartarus.