Fractured Bookworm,Winter 2015

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Consistent with the other pieces found in the gallery, this piece is guided by a comparative reading of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican interpretations regarding “cosmic bundling and stacking” as well as complimentary Eurasian insights regarding physical balance and a “cosmic egg.” When gently nudged in either direction the Bookworm will neatly spin while too much force will produce an unhappy result. The natural fractures found on faces and sides with the defining layered fissures of the carving tend to recall the cascade of light in Edmonton’s river valley during Summer twilight. The rock for the canoe was quarried from the banks of the North Saskatchewan River in late August 2014 and Fractured Bookworm embarked on a journey to Beijing, China in May 2015.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: the Fractured Spaces of Edmonton by MM
12:29 PM March 4, 2015
Weather: 0°C, Slightly overcast with a light wind

I am a person that is always late. No matter the scenario, it is almost guaranteed that I will never be on time (let alone early). Thus, it was no surprise when I missed my connection at the South Campus Transit Centre and remained stranded until the next bus arrived. On this occasion, I decided to walk around the terminal area instead of waiting at my designated locale. It was through my walking that I came across this piece of graffiti of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

This graffiti mirrors characteristics of the carving, Fractured Bookworm. Designed with the intent to reflect pre-Columbian Mesoamerican and Eurasian concepts regarding balance, Fractured Bookworm marshals balance and responds to force. The carving spins when nudged with the appropriate amount of force, but will topple over if too much is applied. Likewise, the natural scar on the face of the carving illustrates the balance of two halves. These characteristics are reminiscent of author Robert Louis Stevenson’s characters Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde testify to the struggle between good and evil, as well as conformity and rebellion confronting humanity. In this instance, Dr. Jekyll represents the law-abiding citizen while Mr. Hyde acts as his rebellious alter ego. As individuals living within urban society, we can relate to the characters’ needs to balance society’s expectations with our innate desire to rebel. I find it particularly interesting that this symbol of the fractured person (caught between two truths/compulsions) is depicted through graffiti to serve as a larger commentary on the power of space as a major fissure defining and dividing society.

Space reflects the power dynamics of institutions and attempts to regulate the behaviour of individuals. As scholar Michel Foucault asserts, however, architecture cannot determine human interaction or dictate how people will use a space. Although a building might be designed to elicit specific reactions, there are fractures and fissures that allow for subversive behaviour. Likewise, the bus terminal, designed for people to wait in designated areas for specific bus numbers, displays its fractures of dominant ideals of order and beauty challenged through the graffiti.

Graffiti is an expression of a unique type of style: the style of subcultures. Although the medium may be used by various subcultures, it demonstrates a common ideal or means to challenge hegemonic culture. Scholar Dick Hedbige proclaims that subcultures subvert mundane objects to interrupt the process of normalization. In this case, a power box is repurposed by the graffiti artist to provide a commentary on society within the context of a struggle between good and evil. In contrast, Fractured Bookworm embraces the appropriation of a mundane object (a rock from the Edmonton River Valley) for the purpose of expressing notions of “cosmic bundling and stacking”—as perceived in the fractures and fissures observable on its exterior. And yet, Fractured Bookworm also illustrates the balance needed to survive in Edmonton found somewhere between the apparent need to obeying institutionalized structure to function in society and acts of rebellion frequently required to assert agency and style. We are all Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but how will you choose to act in society?

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Gendered Spaces and Limiting Difference by A.C.

This photo of an “open concept” male washroom was taken on March 16, 2015 at 12:42pm at the intersection of 82 Avenue (Whyte Ave) and Gateway Boulevard in Old Strathcona, Edmonton. It was a bright and sunny day although it was 6° Celsius with a cool breeze. I chose this location because it was a place that combined my academic studies throughout my 2014-2015 school year. My picture was applicable to the story of our group carving, Fractured Bookworm and intersected with our reading of Michel Foucault and my own personal interest in the work of Judith Butler. When recalling the courses that I have taken this year, I realize that they can be categorized into cultural studies, gender, and politics. I picked the male washroom because I have noticed this open concept bathroom on Whyte Avenue many times while I have used the female bathroom once. I think the venue is ideal for marshaling natural light and urban architecture within a clear gender-specific narrative. I learned throughout my studies this year that gender has been constructed within a patriarchal view in Western society. Gender binaries are constricting and do not acknowledge equality for difference within our society. Male or female gender is reflected not only in public bathrooms but also found within government policies, including tax laws, which are quite constricting for transgender, queer or non-nuclear families.

I realize how interdisciplinary and interconnected my studies are when I reflect upon my school year. Politics connects to gender narratives and constructs as well as cultural studies once situated in Western societies and values in particular. For me, Foucault work was important for understanding how spaces have been constructed with a purpose. Following Foucault, I think it is important that public spaces need to be to be inclusive rather than non-inclusive, hence explaining why I chose a bathroom to illustrate the way difference is gendered. Meanwhile, the work of Butler was truly a theoretical inspiration to me for this project, especially with respect to the way gender constricts and restricts people. There are many individuals within our world that do not align their lives with their biological sex and choose to identify differently. My picture showing an open male bathroom in the background really speaks to Butler’s idea of gender as a social construct, and, invariably, culturally accepted. I think it is important that we all view what it means to be a male or female very differently, and everyone should give support for equal rights for transgender, queer and non-gendered people within our society.

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Spaces in the Classroom By S.B.

This picture was taken in a classroom in the Humanities Department at 4:30 PM on March 25th, 2015. The temperature at the time the photo was taken was 0 degrees Celsius. The Homeglen School of One considers Pre-Columbian American, Byzantine and Eurasian notions of physical balance and architecture of light, and incorporates these factors in the carving. The carving can be carefully spun, but the exertion of too much force or power while spinning it will cause it to topple over, producing an unhappy result. This notion of force and power can be related to Foucault’s essay, “Space Power and Knowledge”, where Foucault looks at the ways in which disciplinary institutions can exert power over human life practices. Following the discussion of Foucault, professor O.C.’s class presentation considered the way that space is designed for those who are in control. The structure of the classroom takes on this role to enable the professor to have control over the students. This classroom in the picture brings back the memory of my first semester, when I took an English class with a professor who played a role that was crucial to my university experience. This professor acted as a mediator between class discussions and encouraged students to participate in critical thinking. Our ideas were valued, and, as a collective body of students, we learned how to become actively engaged.

While classes can become repetitive and bland when instructors do not allow for these discussions amongst the class, with a balance of instructing and urging class discussions, it can result in an unforgettable experience for many students and instructors alike. This classroom does not have windows and only contains fluorescent light. However, when the hallways were quiet during class hours, the professor would open the doors, allowing for the natural light from the large windows in the hall to illuminate the classroom, resulting in a calming and natural space. Together, the carving and the natural light that enters the classroom when the doors are left open are reminiscent of the beauty of Rossdale and the North Saskatchewan River, the area in which this carving was first conceived. I interpreted the notion behind The Fractured Bookworm as follows: every student has different experiences depending on the way they are taught in the classroom, and when power is used in the right way, it can lead to unforgettable memories.

An Overworked Bookworm by A.Ch.

It was a regular brisk morning in Edmonton, Canada. At 8:35 in the morning, the temperature outside was a low of – 5° with a high of 3° Celsius. Inside, students enjoyed a cozy 19 to 21° Celsius. A.C. arrived at school early to take this photo on Tuesday, February 24, 2015. A Ch specifically chose this space for the picture because it represented, perfectly, a mixture of an “analogical persona of an everyday student” with Michel Foucault’s assertions regarding the way an architect designs a space as well as his views regarding the relationship between the architect and the individuals who use a space. Furthermore, the way A.Ch. attached personal meaning to the sculpture demonstrates Foucault’s perspective that the architect, (or artist), does not control the meaning or use of a space.

When the picture of the Fractured Bookworm was taken, A.Ch. giggled too because of the seemingly unimpressed expression carved into the surface of the rock. A.Ch. noted the symbolic representation of the name, The Fractured Bookworm, especially with respect to the frustrations and struggles that are frequently encountered within the pursuit of knowledge. Inadvertently, A.C. had created an allegoric persona of the sculpture of An Overworked Bookworm with her understanding of the experience of an average student from the University of Alberta.

A.Ch. noted that the carving would spin perfectly (if gently pushed). However, it seemed symbolic that if pushed too hard the unimpressed expression on the sculpture would become seemingly stern, if not erect. Die A.Ch., this seemed to represent how students become so unhappy if you push them too hard. A.Ch. also examined the fissures and natural colours wrapping the sculpture and how they almost appeared to orbit the rocks surface. The fissures seemed to indicate the different paths that each student takes throughout their lifetime. Each “orbiting pathway” is different, but they intersect in multiple places and different spaces. Whereas a bank of a river valley accumulated individual rocks over thousands of years, the pedway was space where the paths of individual students generally intersected on campus.

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The architect of this pedway is similar to the artist of the sculpture because they both used a functional design that encompassed multiple meanings. The use of a bench invites tired and stressed students to sit down and relax, much like the riverbank accumulates individual rocks. The windows used in the pedway make the space appear larger and allow for natural lighting in order to reduce the costs of electricity. The architect strategically placed this bench in an area where many individual, overworked students’ orbits came to rest, not to mention a convenient seating area with a relaxing view to help unwind.

The Other Ledge by S.R.
March 30th, 11:45 am, ten days after the spring solstice.
The time when light once more overtakes the dark, a time that here in Alberta I eagerly await each year.
A time that is not often accompanied by weather that most would classify as "springish", but this year has happened to be an exception.

This is one of my favourite places in the city. It is a ledge overlooking part of Whitemud Creek South, just a slight trek off the main path provided by the city. The weather was a warm 10° Celsius and mostly clear, sunny with just a few clouds — nice enough for only a light spring jacket. It was great weather for this time of year, and taking this photo was a lovely excuse to be outside. It was a slightly treacherous trip to get there, as the downhill path was packed with two inches of ice making it slick with melting water. In a manner very-fitting with our group theme and contested space, I actually had to head up into the woods and cut through someone's backyard to get back to the main road since I could not manage to walk back up the path.

This photo was influenced by a reading of Foucault and de Certeau's concepts of space and authority. The location is not part of an official path, but, instead is at least a one minute journey from one the trails constructed by the City of Edmonton. Even though The City has redesigned the ravine to be traversed through such official trails and pathways, but people choose to use the space how they please. For me, the unofficial route and the specific venue represent a “second poetic geography” of my own creation, also fashioned by other people, where often I find myself alone. I still share a connection with the people who hiked this unsanctioned spot before me, and who also continue to use it in the future. In the sixty seconds it takes to veer off the designated path to get here, one's viewpoint is transformed from “the walker” to “the voyeur”, a transition from a limited, constrained view from an official path lined with trees to a panoramic, unofficial view from above, looking down upon the seemingly contradictory designs laid out by both the creek and The City. Meanwhile, the bridge found in a moment’s notice of the hazy background of this unofficial perspective is about five more minutes of additional travel on the official path.

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Group Journal

Part I: Our Thoughts About the Carving

Fractured Bookworm was influenced by Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican traditions of ‘cosmic bundling and stacking’ and Eurasian principles of balance. The carving incorporates cultural symbolism of the cosmic egg through its egg shaped design and ability to spin (demonstrating physical components of balance). The carved face is split into two halves via the natural scar of the stone. This divided face represents dualities of identity and culture: past and present (Mesoamerican and contemporary culture), organic and artificial, whole and splintered. The exterior of the artifact is layered with natural fissures. These fissures can be interpreted in various ways: representative of the Edmonton River Valley (from where the stone was found), the complexities of U of A students’ lives, and Edmonton’s mosaic of cultural heritage. Fractured Bookworm demonstrates the layered lives of University of Alberta students. Even though we all have different backgrounds and experiences, we come together through shared space. With this in mind, we explored the photo-project through interpretations of space and Michel Foucault’s theories of architecture/space.

Characteristics of our carving (grooves, spinning capabilities, engraved face) can be interpreted by a myriad of fields, such as Architecture, City Planning and Engineering. Relatable in their interpretations of space, these fields of study are institutions that determine the functions of land according to hegemonic society. Contemporary buildings/cities have to consider accessibility, aesthetics, and cultural values--natural lighting is usually a key figure when designing space. Likewise, Fractured Bookworm considers aesthetics, cultural values, and light. Our photographs included elements of lighting and intention of the architect’s influence on space, as well as the aesthetics of location and carving. The name of the carving, Fractured Bookworm, can be interpreted through the study of Language Arts. ‘Bookworm’ suggests literary analysis, while ‘fractured’ pertains to state of the mind that can have multiple interests and spaces they enjoy.

ACh: Classes that I have found memorable have been all of my Latin American Studies classes-205, 210, 313 and 415. As well, my Political Science class on the Politics of Gender. I think these classes have been so memorable because of the people I have met as well as the forms of multimedia that were components of the class. When I first moved to Edmonton from Toronto in my first year, I did not explore Edmonton. I took the bus to West Edmonton Mall and Whyte Ave and took the LRT downtown sometimes. In the Summer of 2014, I stayed in Edmonton and worked at Fort Edmonton Park. This helped me explore the trails along the River Valley, explore different neighborhoods in Edmonton and I am now able to appreciate the City of Edmonton more. For me this rock combined how my University experience has improved in my third year and how my confidence in myself and my schoolwork has improved as well.

AC: The place I have found most memorable on the University of Alberta Campus is Hub Mall. I cannot come to campus a single day without going into HUB multiple times. Sometimes it is because I take the LRT occasionally, and others it is simply due to the fact that all of my classes are either in Tory or Humanities. In my opinion, the fractured bookworm represents a student and its groves represent the random paths that each student takes. Hub is a place on campus where the paths of students will generally intersect.

JB: One of my best experiences here on campus was in my first year. I had an English class in humanities with a professor I’ll never forget. Instead of constantly lecturing, this professor acted as a mediator between students and often allowed for class discussions, which helped us become actively engaged. Instead of standing at the front of the classroom, she would often direct the attention to each student that contributed to our discussions, creating equality and challenging a space that is primarily meant to control. My photo of the carving takes place within this room, and taking into consideration the theme of balance within the description of the carving, I immediately thought of this instructor’s unique and inclusive method of teaching that was staple to my university experience.

MM: Although my university courses are important, some of my most notable memories have been at Edmonton’s music venues. Locations such as Wunderbar, Bohemia, Space, Cha Island, and the Artery have been integral to my social life and music appreciation. That being said, I live in West Edmonton and spend the majority of my time commuting to shows or school. Thus, Edmonton’s transportation system and transit centres have been equally important in my appreciation of Edmonton’s cultural identity. Due to this (and my inability to catch the bus on time), I photographed part of South Campus’ transit station for my monument--a common location for many U of A students.

SB: This semester was a return to campus for me, to finish my degree after a two-year hiatus. CAB (Central Academic Building) has always been my main haunt as my Arts degree has included classes that take me everywhere and CAB is somewhat central. Despite my time away and most of my university social groups having moved on, CAB has remained the most likely place to find me between classes. My walking paths during the winter tend to include as many pedways as possible, so to echo another in my group, HUB is another place where a lot of my transition time has been spent.

Part II: Foucault Reconsidered

Within our group’s theme, we focused on scholar Michel Foucault’s theories of space, as found in the excerpt of ‘Space, Power and Knowledge’. Architecture is designed with a myriad of considerations: mainly, cultural significance and functionality. For example, windows can give the illusion of openness (valued in contemporary design) while also serving the purpose to decrease dependency on electricity (more environmentally friendly and cost efficient). However, designed space is also interpreted differently by individuals. Foucault asserts that architecture alone cannot explain how people will interact in a given space. Instead, it is the interactions and connections between people that can subvert a space to create own meaning.

ACh: From my own experience, the spaces I enjoy at the U of A and Edmonton have changed considerably since my first year. As I said before, I used to just stay within the University area and I never explored the rest of Edmonton. But I know love the spaces in Edmonton, such as Tres Carnales, where they have the best fish tacos and an entertaining atmosphere. As well, the Funky Buddha on Whyte Ave is a dynamic space where my friends and I love going to dancing but also chat and catch up. I really enjoy the outdoors and getting to run through the River Valley and explore the trails.

AC: In my personal experience, Hub is one of the main spaces that students meet or encounter one another. Being an Arts student, I often run into many other arts students or friends in HUB. This is because it is the closest area to purchase a quick snack or coffee and it also can shelter you from the cold on the way to your classes (during the winter months). It is connected to multiple buildings with classrooms, an LRT station, and also includes student housing within it, so HUB is hardly ever empty of people!

JB: Another space in which students often meet during the school year is main quad, however, due to the weather, students often retreat to warmer spaces located within the university. When the temperatures allow, though, students are able to freely enjoy the fresh air at the heart of the university. While quad may seem like a liberating space, it still does have intentions that are implied in its structure as a controlled space. Foucault focuses on the ways in which institutions and spaces are designed for control and power, and this was the theme that we concentrated on as a group. Quad is a controlled space in that it is enclosed by an institution. While it allows students to enjoy free time, the buildings surrounding the space act as reminders of the importance of study and education, prompting students to use their free time wisely.

MM: As with most public spaces, bus terminals demonstrate ideals of hegemonic society through structural form. The objectives of the flat and simplistic space are clear: wait in your designated local until your numbered bus arrives, be quiet, and be respectful to other commuters (all extensions of society’s code of conduct). However, graffiti transforms the space to display creative acts of rebellion. Creating fissures in institutionalized architecture and space, graffiti challenges local bylaws and appropriates public space. The process of graffiti not only expresses personal rebellion, but invites the public to partake in critical thought--it disrupts processes of normalization to question hegemonic culture. In this sense, graffiti brings the population together. Likewise, music venues, such as the Artery, bring Edmonton’s population together. Unfortunately, as reported by the Edmonton Journal on 26 February 2015, the Artery would be closing down due to issues pertaining to the building’s structure safety. Thus, my intent was to photograph the exterior wall of the building (which has a mural--a form of ‘authorized graffiti’), but I missed my bus and improvised my monument at another communal location instead.

SB: A previous class I took also talked about space and reading the text of a city (or campus, as it were), and since then I have often found myself imagining the what the result would look like if I conducted a social experiment in HUB where a group of people linked arms all the way across during the ten minutes between classes and refused to move. I also wanted to mention the High Level Bridge. For most people, it is an icon of Edmonton, a part of the landscape of the North Saskatchewan River. Or it is a major traffic vein, place for the City to channel people from one side of the river to the other. One of the most memorable things for me in the past year is an article that told the stories of 4 people who committed suicide off the High Level Bridge, the first of which was a friend of many of my friends. The article provided such a poignant and sad alternative reading of a place that I previously only associated with positive use, like watching the fireworks on Canada Day.