Thursday, December 17, 2015

Cultural Engineering: Cement Mix

For the fourth issue of SAW Video's Cultural Engineering project, both Tim I. Smith and Meredith Snider bring their focus to bear on the deep pit that will soon provide the foundation for the new Arts Court tower. If you have been watching the videos from the previous issues, you will note that a lot has changed at this location at the corner of Daly and Waller. Cityscapes act as impressive records of history that appear to be cemented in place. Still, the fixed properties of concrete, stone and rock can also be made malleable through action and erosion. The artists in this issue overtly manipulate their source material, through time-lapses, cuts, jumps, and the addition of electronic sounds, suggesting that intervention in the course of history is always possible. You could say that the artists are remixing the events of the Arts Court reconstruction as it unfolds. Each remix has been constructed to draw your attention to the elements highlighted by the artists.

Timothy I. Smith, The Pit, November 28th, 2015, 2015, digital video.

In Tim I. Smith’s work, The Pit, November 28th, 2015, we witness the end of the excavation stage for the Arts Court redevelopment and the removal of the heavy machinery in preparation for the next stage. Smith has compressed the events of an entire workday into one two-minute video using long exposure photography to record the action. Smith has stated that the main theme in his work is photography, a medium that also once had the property of being fixed. In the digital era, new connotations for “fixed” arise in photography, both positive and pejorative. Smith’s composition reveals itself to be as constructed as the site that is his subject.

Meredith Snider’s Break Ground opens with a “ground breaking” party held in the offices of the Ottawa Art Gallery to celebrate the beginning of the redevelopment project. In her role as a Cultural Engineering artist, Snider has taken a fly-on-the-wall approach, often focusing on overlooked or seemingly peripheral elements of the project. At a training session to gain access to the construction site, she found that the dangerous nature of that environment was something she rarely considered. In response, Snider has created a music video in collaboration with J├ęsus Tovar to underscore the skillful choreography of the construction work as well as the risk in its undertaking. Her video ends by honoring an often unsung workforce.

Considering the artists’ contributions to this issue as remixes sees them participating in the history of music as well as the history of the Arts Court redevelopment. In the history of music, innovations have almost always at first been dissonant to the ear, only to be later accepted as customary. In that way, new music announces the future. Remixes at least keep the material up to date, reminding us that change is not only a constant but also a main component in the construction of the future. Link to the fourth issue here.