In Edmonton on September 19th 2014 on 97 Street and 101A Ave there was a temporary public art exhibit, Park(ing) Day. It was put on by the Drawing Room. Each participant was given a parking stall to set up a space of their own to run from noon till 8 pm. Some moved their backyards there and read music notation for most of the day, others formed a band and a putting course of unimaginable difficulty cropped up amongst many others. I had submitted, with my collaborator Haylee Fortin, to put on a rock concert for the street, but I’ll get back to that later. I was able to work with the Drawing Room and secure three other stalls for my senior level Intermedia course and assign groups of three a one week time frame to engage with the space. We talked about the location, 97th and 101A, a magnificent place in Edmonton where you have on one side the outcroppings of the bourgeois, world class art and music institutions, theatre, federal, legal and civic governance and a public square for festivals. On the other side is an immediate shift to run down buildings and a far different socio-economic demographic of persons. I tasked them with developing their stall with this in mind. After all of it they all were on the news and the radio, and one group was even asked to come and recreate their piece as part of the Royal Bison Craft and Art Fair.
One group formed a stall titled Photobooth 97, run by Kasie Campbell and Anna Miklas, where they would simply take one’s photograph, their name, consent and email address. They wanted to engage with the public and social media. Quickly what happened was more and more of the public participants didn’t have email let alone an address. They had stories though. I was lucky enough to be standing with them talking when an older man came up with a walker and asked what we were doing. I told him he should have his picture taken. I’m not going to tell you the rest, I will leave that to the photo-essay written by Kasie Campbell. It’s well worth the read. Meet Edgar Marquis. Here are some of their photos:
Another group, made up of Alex Linfield, Kristen Hiemstra and Jeanette Lazar, set up a booth called Strange Exchange. A maze of bureaucracy (traffic cones and construction tape) lead the participant to a table and over hanging signage (and, depending on the weather, a poorly, yet appropriate, tarp). Here the participant would write their address on the back of one blank postcard and then were given another blank card and asked to put something on it, text, drawing, glitter, anything they wanted. There was a table full of all the art supplies a child could wish for. Every participant would get someone’s drawing through the mail and theirs would be sent to someone else anonymously. I just got mine in the mail a few days ago. You can see all the drawings HERE.
The last but not least was the group of Claire Otto, Badieh Mozayan Bashman and Erica Morton who created a Confetti Shower—a small stand-up make shift shower where people could enter and be showered in confetti. The confetti whirled around you, your eyes and mouth kept closed, and at the end you emerged as a fabulous shimmering body for all the friends you came with, the ones that convinced you to enter the shower, all to their enjoyment. The confetti stuck to you, in your hair, down your shirt, pretty much everywhere but even after you shook most of it off you still sparkled from angle to angle. You were beautified through and through. They had a GoPro camera set up recording the event and many of the experiences can be found on YouTube. Here are some examples:
Oh ya, and there was Haylee and I, Haylee being another student in my class. I would like to say that all the destruction, changes and epic fails of the piece were all part of a larger performance, but I couldn’t spin it that way. We imagined a micro-concert with all the spectacle but no performativity, just a stage, fog and stage lights. The lights were controlled by a silent track of Haylee playing Ode to Joy on her eighth grade recorder. It became a boxed-in cube of wood and clear plastic wrap of smoke with the sun fading out all the light effects, so just a grey haze. Soon a gust of wind came and ripped all but two sides of the plastic off. We rolled with it and the fog would poof out but quickly was taken with the wind. It was a lone stage with lights laid bare. Haylee and I sat there in front of it in shared sadness. Then Haylee pull out a speaker and let the terrible recorder version of Ode to Joy play, barely audible because of the unbelievably loud generator we rented to power everything. We were a little happier in its failures. Another booth gave use label maker titles to put on the work, mine was ‘YOU ROCK U R AMAZING’ and Haylee got ’48 SECONDS CONC’, meant to be ‘concert’ but, of course, the label maker ran out of tape. Fitting. As the sun moved behind Canada Place the fog, ever so slightly, flickered in the light before being gust away. We waited. And waited. At 7:30 pm we threw up the ripped off, shredded plastic to block the wind and with the sun setting we finally put on the show and documented it. Right at eight o’clock the light was more or less gone and two people from the neighborhood came and sat and watched the show. It was on for about 5 minutes and you could see it all the way from blocks away! We turned everything off and after all that the best recording I have is a shaky smartphone video. Here you go:
In the end I could have never imagined a more perfect way to begin a semester with a class. Thank you Drawing Room, thank you public and thank you students. YOU ROCK U R AMAZING.