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Archive for April, 2014|Monthly archive page

Making Streaming Twelve

In Uncategorized on April 20, 2014 at 1:18 pm

IMG_1832The older I get, the more fun art-making becomes. I remember it as agonizing when I was in my 20s, rather Sturm und Drang tied up by minimalism. Now I play with toys – witness this sweetie-pie aerial drone quadcopter, owned and operated by Andy Harris of LEV8 (EL-EV-ATE) based in nearby Welland.

I got the idea to use a drone camera after listening to an episode on drone journalism on The Current on CBC Radio One. I began by checking out the cheapo model mentioned in the radio conversation, available on-line at Best Buy, but the learning curve for piloting was going to be far too steep for my needs. I made enquiries with professionals, (prohibitive to those who didn’t get their Canada Council grants) and happily found LEV8 here in Niagara. My friend Rowan Shirkie of Selene Communications had in fact mentioned Andy in response to my FB enquiry, but it didn’t stick and I later found him through an intermediary via Kristen Nater of Fourgrounds Media, who are doing the webcam part of Streaming Twelve. Yes, lest I forget to mention, all this hunting and gathering resources is in aid of an installation titled, Streaming Twelve, which will be in a group exhibition at Rodman Hall curated by Stuart Reid, The Source: Rethinking Water through Contemporary Art. The other artists are part of a project called Immersion Emergencies and Possible Worlds; I am somewhat of a local interloper introduced by Stuart (bless him). Immersion is a SHERC-supported project led by Patrick Mahon.

IMG_1829IMG_1830Andy did two shoots and the result will be an aerial view of The Twelve Mile Creek from the Burgoyne Bridge to Glendale. (I would have gone to the Decew Generating Station but I didn’t want to be rude after they were so nice to me – more on that later). I missed the first shoot because I was in rehearsal with Niagara She-Bang and made the second. (Thank-you, yes the performance was fantastic and a great success.) It was a beautiful day, albeit cooler than I would prefer, and a little breezier than Andy had hoped – quite calm at ground level but the wind changes even a little higher up and it affects the navigation of the JDL quadcopter. The daffodils are out in the Walker Botanical Garden below Rodman Hall and a hawk watched us descend to Twelve Mile Creek.

IMG_1835IMG_1842Andy recently added a piece of equipment to the quadcopter that keeps the camera steadier. He confessed to a knot in his stomach when he navigates over open water. Hydro wires and bridges require careful calculations as well as wind. It was great fun to watch the coptor and Andy and I got a particular kick out of witnessing his catch as it returns to earth, making a suitably UFOish kind of whir.

The other very fun recording session so far in Streaming Twelve production was one of the audio tracks. I was very fortunate to get access to the inside Decew Generating Station No. 1, the oldest continually running hydroelectric generating station in Canada, where I walked the inside and outside with my Zoom H2n recording the sound. (I was introduced to these little portable recorders some years ago at a NAISA Sound for Artists workshop – I worked with Darren Copeland a few times in the past including on the first in the series of works on the North Niagara Watershed, Fall at the Grimsby Public Art Gallery. Streaming Twelve is the third in this series. Distance of Their Mouths, commissioned by Gallery Player of Niagara, was the second.) Jean Bridge, my friend and great supporter of Streaming Twelve, lent me her monopod and I have since acquired my own.

me at Decew1The very kind and helpful Public Affairs and Property Management Advisor for Ontario Power Generation escorted me and provided me with shoes, helmet and safety glasses. He was full of information, appreciation for the machines and their history. The beauty of this generating station built in 1898 is overwhelming. There is something majestic about these immense machines, which are ancient in terms of the history of mechanization in this world and practically sacred given the disposability we associate with machines. The very fonts on the generators are exquisite. I first found my contact at OPG a year ago through my City Councilor, Mark Elliot. My contact was so very generous but some discomfort showed and he preferred I not publicly credit OPG. I depend upon my anonymity as a blogger that very few of you are reading this and will not betray us!

My enquiries at the local hydro utility were received quite differently, which simply means I don’t include anything about them in the work, which is no skin off either of our noses. I was interested in them because it is only recently that municipal utilities started, the relationships are complex, and St. Catharines Hydro just received the go-ahead on its own generating station. But no matter, I go with the flow and there is too much research material to find a presence in the work anyway. The major lens through which I have approached my research is one of ownership and governance, and it’s hard to tell at this point the degree to which this lens will be apparent in the finished work.

No one in Canada owns actual water. Below Brock University’ Rodman Hall, on the portion of the Twelve Mile Creek I am working with, OPG owns the creek bed, the embankment and controls the flow of water. The City owns the intervening strip of land between it and land owned by Brock University. That strip, the Merritt Trail, is for public use and enjoyment, as is Brock’s Walker Botanical Garden below Rodman Hall. (Rodman and its garden were until recently owned by a not-for-profit corporation.) OPG is a Crown Corporation for generation of power in the province of Ontario and is one of five companies formed out of Ontario Hydro, formerly the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario. A private company of Hamilton businessmen called Cataract Power Company built and first owned Decew Generating Station. And earlier, what treaty governed this land’s use by settlers? That appears to be unclear but it is customary to refer to the 1701 Nanfan Treaty. It has been my intent for months that the audiotrack of Streaming Twelve include part of the treaty, spoken in Mohawk. I am not expressing a polemic with Streaming Twelve but I am looking at our ideas about ownership and governance of The Twelve Mile Creek, which lies below where The Source: Rethinking Water through Contemporary Art will be exhibited.

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