Mica Knight,Winter 2015

Edmonton Cultural History 1

The stone for this piece was found near Yellow Jacket Creek, just where it flows into Lake Kimbasket Lake, BC. The area is extremely rich in Mica deposits as exemplified by the natural sheen and flecks of light found throughout the piece. Mica night is guided by a comparative reading of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican and Andean interpretations regarding the intricate relationship between the arc of the horizon and the movement of light as well as complimentary Eurasian insights regarding physical balance and a “cosmic egg.” When viewed horizontally, the piece neatly “floats” while the diamond defining Mica Night’s mouth recalls the leading role played by Polaris in the Western Canadian cosmic landscape. Mica Night was given as a gift to an exceptional Science Teacher at the Amiskwaciy Academy, at the very end of the 2014-2015 School Term, in recognition of her contributions to advanced and innovative pedagogy.

Edmonton Cultural History 2

Alone in the Dark by MP

Weather: 0°C, Slightly overcast with a light wind
When: The picture was taken at 8:40 p.m on March 17, the temperature at that time was -6° Celsius.
Where: I was in front of my house, located in a cul-de-sac.
Why: I decided to take the picture of the rock in front of my house because this whole setting is so important to behaviour and controlling the way we act (one of Michel Foucault's assertions). Also, my house is a comfortable setting for me and it’s the place where I spend most of my day. I do everything in my home, including cooking, cleaning, and sleeping, and it’s even where I do my homework.

The carving was taken in an urban residential area. The neighborhood is comprised of houses purchased by couples and families who have bought them in order to settle down and to have a personal living space of their own. The photo was taken during the night in order to demonstrate how different forms of light contribute to the regulation of behaviour within society. Many of us are unaware that light is one of the factors that can influence, if not control, our daily routines and personal behaviour. The cycles of natural light, for example, help explain why we go to sleep at night when it’s dark, why we wake up at sunrise, and why we frequently feel tired at sunset. Even though the cycle of daily light plays a role in our lives, not all of us choose to follow this natural regimen.

Obviously, the picture affirms that streetlights are on at night. We have streetlights in order to make it easier for us to navigate the neighborhood at night, especially for those who choose to walk or drive at this hour. As fixtures in the urban environment, streetlights give us more of an opportunity to make our own choices and to challenge the cycles of natural light and the environment. Even though we are supposed to be sleeping at this time of day, the artificial man-made lights found throughout the city make it more inviting for us to stay up and roam the streets during the night, a feature of public spaces that seems to challenge at least one of the theories of Foucault. In one of our readings, Foucault contends that public space and its modern environment are constructed in order to control our behaviour, but the public streetlights defining urban space in the photograph seem to suggest the opposite. Even though it is naturally dark at night, people have the opportunity to do as they choose due to the artificial streetlights in a manner that familiar and not so mysterious.

Edmonton Cultural History 5

Mica Night Getting Artsy by MSL

This photo of Mica Night was taken March 10th at 12:06 pm, in front of the Old Arts building at the University of Alberta. Although we often expect noon to be the sunniest, brightest part of the day, this photo demonstrates that this is not always how things happen. It was also colder than is typically expected at this time of year, about -1° Celsius. In this instance the light found at the venue can be measured against Michel de Certeau’s ideas about how spaces regulate everyday life and we can further appreciate how patterns of everyday light affect daily life much in the same way. When it is bright and warm outside, individuals are more likely to leave their houses and go out into the world for a positive public experience. However, on gloomy, colder days, people often find that it is just easier to stay in bed to avoid becoming gloomy and cold as well. Unlike De Certeau’s individuals, who challenge the prescription of specifically designated and constructed spaces, people tend to be regulated according to the type of light provided by the weather or seasonal cycles. De Certeau states that by moving to a different area above the city, a person can “leave behind the mass that carries off […] any identity of authors or spectators.” Here, too, we can observe the structures suggested by this space in a more objective manner because of the artificial vantage point a photograph offers. Yet, there is no way for authors and spectators to remove themselves from the grasp and weight of different types of natural light. Unless you stay in a dark room for an unhealthy period of time, light will always affect your body and how you live. This enduring feature of the natural world suggests that elements of light are somewhat interwoven into the way we construct our identities and interact with public space.

Edmonton Cultural History 10

Downtown Night Light by BD

I captured this photo on Monday, March 30th at 12:31 a.m. It was a clear night, one of the first warm nights of Spring with the heart of downtown Edmonton recording 8° Celsius. I shot this photo on the deck of my townhouse, which is a short walk away from Chinatown. The venue overlooks several Edmonton high-rise buildings and the many lights of downtown compliment the city’s rich cultural, artistic vibe. The residents of the city certainly know and appreciate its cultural diversity. There are numerous festivals held in downtown Edmonton, particularly in Churchill Square. This central location invites Edmontonians and other people from across Canada to enjoy and to experience features of many cultures.

There are many cultures that can be found downtown, and, in this context, it is worthwhile to recall Sedgwick’s “Six Axioms”. In one axiom, Sedgwick explains that people are different from one another. Although this seems to be a blatantly obvious concept, it is one often forgotten during the exploration of unfamiliar cultures and the multi-faceted people we find downtown. Gender, race, class, and nationality are only a few of the many factors that we use to describe a citizen. Meanwhile, sexuality is another factor that influences the construction of identity, one frequently ignored during interpersonal or public encounters in such places as downtown.

It was important for our group to capture pictures of the rock with an aspect of light in the photograph. The photo that I took captured a lonely street light, with the lights of downtown in the background. The lonely streetlight in my rock photo represents the notion of individual introspection possible in this typically busy part of the city while the multitude of downtown lights in the background represent the multitude of cultures and people framing the space. The downtown lights never turn off, just like culture is never “turned off” in a multicultural city such as Edmonton.

Edmonton Cultural History 13

Mica Night and Lister Lights by AP

This picture of Mica Night was taken around 9:00 P.M on April 4, 2015. The temperature was about 1° Celsius and the night was fairly clear with barely any clouds in the sky. This picture was taken through the window of one of the Lister Center buildings and shows another Lister residence in the background. While I myself don’t live in Lister, I visit the residences occasionally. The first Lister buildings were completed in 1962 and the most recent was completed in 2003. Lister is home to many students, from both in and out of the country, with the majority being first or second year undergraduate students.

In the background of this picture you can see that even though it is late, the majority of the dorm lights are on. Technology has made it possible for people to change their surroundings in order to suit them. This tends to confirm Michel Foucalt’s ideas about how different spaces can be changed in order to fit different needs. This space is home for many University students, and, thus, is also used as a study space at all times of the day and night. Though most people do not notice, the artificial lights are conspicuous and even overwhelm the different forms of the natural light found during the evening. Nighttime, for example, often makes me think of the moon and the stars and even though it was a clear night, there were not many stars visible.

For the majority of its residents, living in a university dorm is many students’ first experience living alone or away from their parents. I think that this is in large part because many residents come from other countries or from rural communities in Alberta. I find it very interesting to meet foreign people and see the ways in which they not only adapt to their new environment, but also the manner in which they maintain their own traditions. The interaction between Lister residents, their environment, and their fellow students is a real life way of thinking about Benedict Anderson’s theory of imagined communities and the contrasting notion of romantic nationalism. From my own experience with international students, I find that most people generally do not fit perfectly within either the models or mold of imagined communities or romantic nationalism, but, instead, can be found somewhere in between.

Edmonton Cultural History 15

Mica Night at the End of the World by SK

I took this wonderful photo of our carving Mica Night on March 31st, 2015 at approximately 17:00. It was a fairly chilly day with the temperature hovering around 3° Celsius. There was plenty of wind. I recently learned about this “pure gem of a spot” in Edmonton, known to select residents as “The End of the World.” I reckoned that it would be the perfect setting for a Mica Night photo.

The remnant of a retaining wall seen in the photo is all that is left of Keillor Road, which collapsed into the river in March 2003. The diamond shape of Mica Night’s mouth seemingly depicting the principal role Polaris plays in our landscape seemed as an ideal point of departure for my contribution to our group project. Polaris, the North Star, is another form of light, the key word and concept for our group theme. I decided to balance the carving on its two bottom corners because I felt like it reinforced the place of Polaris in the sky with its god-like view. Both the position of the carving and the background of the photo seems to demonstrate Michel de Certeau’s notions regarding the navigation of “The City” as a voyeur. As voyeurs, people have a god-like view of the city and are able to see the official geography imposed throughout.

I also believe that the background of the portrait can be understood according to some of the assertions about spaces expressed by Michel Foucault. While the City of Edmonton has prohibited public use of the space, the No Trespassing sign seems to be practically nonexistent since “regulars” frequent the place for peaceful thought, as exemplified by the packed down foot trails. As Foucault contends (and as we learned in in class about Brazilia), city planners cannot fully control the behaviour of the people further exemplified here at “The End of the World” by the graffiti challenging urban rules and prescriptions.

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.