“Our body is not in space like things, it inhabits or haunts space. It applies itself to space like a hand to an instrument, and when we wish to move about we do not move our body as we move an object. We transport it without instruments as if by magic, since it is ours and because through it we have access to space.”
– Maurice Merleau-Ponty. “An Unpublished Text”. The Primacy of Perception: And Other Essays on Phenomenlogical Psychology. Translated by Arleen B. Dallery. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1964.
Hallowed Winds has been in incubation / thought / slight working process for over six months now. The journey started with collecting stories about a memory of touch offered from my community. I am grateful for the diversity and deeply personal nature of these stories that have been contributed thus far.
The last two weeks the development of this installation has ramped up substantially with the start of my six week artist-in-residence position at Quest University. In particular, I have to note that a few days ago I was ecstatic to answer my phone and learn that the Canada Council for the Arts is supporting this project along with the Squamish Arts Council. I have arrived. Deep breath out.
The grounding work of the project has resulted in twelve sandbags filled with material from Squamish. Mostly I’ve collected sand from Nexen and Mamquam – physically these have proven to evoke the nature of the body. Each bag weighs about 40lbs – and it is a dead weight. They need to be lifted and rolled on a dolly. They remind me of a lifeless body, heavy and weighed down by an extreme sense of gravity.
Other materials have emerged as well – rocks, drift wood and wood chips from fir timber. The drift wood has been smoothed and shaped by the water, selectively considered and placed in the sandbag. These bags are pokey and will give a sense of discomfort. These might evoke a sense of skeleton bones. I picked some rocks from Mamquam which almost broke the sandbag. This bag is lumpy and awkward. The wood chips from fir timber I collected from Fraserwood Industries – I wanted to nod to the legacy of the logger industry in Squamish. These bags smell so rich. I kept thinking more about this installation in terms of touch – but this new material will bring in the smell of Squamish too. A great surprise.
I have been knotting, tying and twisting white bed sheets which will contribute to the mound that people with lie on. These sheets are wandering into my project from a variety of sources – a hotel in Whistler, Wonderland Campground, Anzico Furniture Liquidators (again, old hotel sheets), Howe Sound Women’s Centre – I can’t imagine the stories they could tell. Each process of working the sheets offers a new language for me to work out. How many knots, how much should pillow out, should I stuff a section, pulling closed the knot with more of my body – such as stamping a knot closed by my foot and hands. The sheets are a daily meditation work.
Yesterday, I started to join all the sheets together with zap straps. (Who ever came up with zap straps is genius!) This has become a fascinating part of the project – like putting together a giant puzzle. I am going to work this in sections and join them all together later in the main exhibition area.
Recording of the voices for the project started last week and will finish today. I never realized that there would be a question of authenticity with the voice work – a great surprise. The intent with these stories is to have readers enact them, to feel and act out a sense of empathy for another person’s memory. I want to have many voices reading the same story – so you will hear it from a deeper male voice, and then the same story from a soft feminine voice. Genders will be swapped and break down assumed notions a dialogue might have in terms of gender. He will become she and he will be with he. Lines for assumptions will be blurred.
The external sound channel is also complete at this stage. I’ve done a few field recordings while on grounding missions. There are some notable sounds for me that refer to Squamish such as the beeping of a logging truck down at Nexen. These sounds offer up the Squamish wind and give a sense of restlessness, unease, a storm that one wants to hide away from and morning anticipation.