Muskeg Fish Canoe and Solar Sail Marlin,Winter 2015

Edmonton Culture History 22

These two pieces are 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 gently nudged in either direction the Muskeg Fish Canoe will neatly spin with the Solar Sail Marlin on its back while too much force will produce an unhappy result. The rock for the Canoe was quarried from the banks of the North Saskatchewan R.iver. Meanwhile the Solar Sail Marlin originated from the area of Kinbasket Lake, BC, in late August, just when the salmon complete their migration towards the Rockies. Following the inclusion of these two pieces in this gallery project, the carvings embarked on a new chapter in their history at the Amiskwaciy Academy

Edmonton Culture History Arena District

Edmonton Arena District, by BRB 28 March 2015, 12:15 pm
6° Celsius, Square 104

This image was taken inside an apartment complex (Square 104) that is adjacent to the nascent Edmonton Arena District (EAD), a purported “world-class destination” that seeks to attract Edmontonians and visitors “from around the world” to “live, work and play” (Edmonton Arena District). The development and construction of the EAD, already publicized as the future “hub and heart of Edmonton,” will introduce an arena, hotels, shopping centers, residences, commercial offices, and other major changes in the infrastructure of a significant part of the downtown core (Edmonton Arena District). But which bodies and objects are antithetical to the image of a space as a city’s “hub and heart,” and how are some bodies and not others repudiated in the discursive and geopolitical move to gentrify urban space? In my interpretation of select ideas forwarded by Michel Foucault, I assert that gentrification is a technique of power that is invested in architecture, that gentrification is a classist, racist, and colonial-settler means through which the freedom of some people (to live, work, and play) is made possible by the erasure of the other(s/ed). If, according to Foucault, “space is fundamental in any exercise of power” then gentrification (which, according to the scholar Katherine Burnett, often is packaged as “urban regeneration”) is about placing something or someone to a space by displacing others. This image is intended to help us visualize (and temporally immobilize) the industrial matter and machines that gentrification frequently marshals: The metal girders and cranes physically converge to take up space and to claim that space. The organic morphology of the carvings, however, exemplifies the tensions caused by the suggested force embodied in gentrification, which appears to engulf and overwhelm organic life forms in the production of ‘urban regeneration.’

The portrait affirms that the underlying economic goals of gentrification demands the investment and cost of capital that negates any space for low-income residences or the original inhabitants of these urban places, many of them First Nations peoples. In short, the EAD will dispossess and displace many Indigenous inhabitants and other impoverished communities from downtown Edmonton. For me, this process seems consistent with the way Indigenous bodies were alienated from the land—from their traditional territory—according to the fungibility of colonial-settler usurpation. This image captures the ugliness of gentrification as an industrial monster insofar as architecture and construction “ensure[s] a certain allocation of people in space, a canalization of their circulation” as Foucault elaborates. When we appropriate Foucault’s use of ‘canalization’ literally, we can posit that architecture and its construction also regulate the racialist composition of space, and that gentrification creates ‘canals’ of possibility for certain bodies or people and not for others. This carving, however, represents an organic anomaly since it contests and gazes upon the space and declares its presence against the assumed (and requisite) absence fashioned by industrial gentrification. Indeed, what would it mean to declare our presence in the aftermath of dispossession as a form of radical politics?

Works and Links

In addition to the Foucault selection from the Cultural Studies Reader, please see Katherine Burnett, “Commodifying Poverty: Gentrification and Consumption in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.” Urban Geography 35:2 (2013): 157-176.

Edmonton Culture History Park Allen

Parkallen Community by EB
March 24, 9:00, -7° Celsius

On March 24th at 9:00 in the morning I decided to walk outside and take my photo for our group project that centres on gentrification. While it appeared to be a normal day, and relatively uneventful or routine once compared to the potential excitement found in other endeavours, it had much importance to me. The temperature outside was -7° Celsius. For some people this may be chilly, but for me on that day it had the sense of Winter drawing to an end. I chose to take a picture on the street where grew up. I also chose this familiar venue because it is seems so different from the one I remember from my childhood. While many great Edmonton buildings have drastically changed, I feel a very personal change here. The community I remember was always full of children, and the 1950's houses that lined the streets could only be differentiated by colour. As I grew and spent less and less time on these streets I hardly noticed the changes underway until this past winter.

When I grew up here, the community was mainly middle-class families with young children. Everyone was roughly within the boat, and you knew at least half the people living in the neighborhood, if not more. Today this is an area increasingly populated by wealthy young professionals and, as a result, many of the houses have doubled in price since when we first moved here. While there used to be block parties every second weekend and kids played in hockey rinks in each other backyard or could be found in the same venues using sprinklers to cool off in the summer, the streets are now filled with impersonal expensive cars and renovated or rebuilt houses. The empty field near us is now dominated by a professional office space and the nearby LRT station causes an artificial population surge in the neighborhood with people using the streets as a shortcut to work and public transit.

I placed the carving on our old van. For me, the van and its venue represents the old community, and the portrait recalls how the streets were formally lined with minivans driving kids to after school sports programs. These personal memories are now just that and not a reflection of the present since most houses here are recently renovated, and I couldn't name more than two neighbours, other than the colour of their winter jackets. As I pondered these changes Henri Lefebvre’s “Notes on the New Town” seemed most relevant for consideration. The New Town is akin to the changes within this new community, while these changes distort the original one that I knew and now remember. It may seem trivial to look at something as simple and seemingly banal as this neighborhood, but it is the most personal form of gentrification I have seen and experienced first hand.

Edmonton Public Culture History
Edmonton Public History Culture

124th Street (Calder Area) by TM
Date: April 6th, 2015 Time: 4pm
Temperature: 3 degrees Celsius

People are motivated by primarily selfish desires. When most people see a deal or an opportunity, they rarely stop to consider what opportunities led to this opportunity presenting itself to them, the structures of privilege that are naturally implicit in these opportunities, the other less privileged people that might not have the access to take such a deal, and other pervasive power structures. I live in a neighbourhood that has yet to be gentrified, but the early signs are becoming apparent. Local businesses are being driven out by more mainstream corporations, local gas stations are displaced big name oil company ones, and real estate prices are slowly climbing, pushing people who found haven in cheaper prices outwards to more dangerous places. For me, the carvings give the image of a boat or a ship carrying cargo, and this analogy visualizes itself as people searching for a new homes, projecting their desires for a new and better place to live and sailing away from their current surroundings. This applies both to those who wish to gentrify neighbourhoods, seeking rustic charm or simply lower rent, and those people who are driven out of their neighbourhoods by those willing to pay a higher rent then the current occupants. And again, local business that people rely are bought out or supplanted by corporations.

It is important to recognize that these neighbourhoods and communities have very specific balances of people and business that support and work with the chemistry of the community, giving them their own distinct aura. By large-scale gentrification, these communities can be overwhelmed by the white, cisgender, heteronormative gentrifiers who do not think about privilege or other types of marginalization and instead are only seeking to fulfill their own selfish desires.

Edmonton Parks Public History Parker

Jackie Parker Park by SH

I took my photo at Jackie Parker Park on 50 Street. This photo was taken on Wednesday March 25, 2015 at 2:45pm. The park was still blanketed with snow, but the sun was out and the temperature was +6 degrees. This park includes a spray park for children, a lake, a walking trail, a climbing wall, and a playground — all of which back onto Mill Woods Golf Course.

Our group chose to focus our photos on the theme of gentrification. Jackie Parker Park is a prime example of gentrification in Edmonton as it was once a garbage dump and is now a beautiful park and golf course. It is frequented by families who come to enjoy the spray park in the summer, as well as many school field trips who bike on the trails, and skate on the lake in the winter. Once a location for discarded items, it is now a place where nature thrives and as a ‘hang out’ for Canada geese, who were present at the time this photo was taken, and weren’t too happy to see me.

Jackie Parker Park proves how a city can gentrify areas in an attempt to reinvent a city. Repurposing an area of land that was once a garbage dump, in a very culturally and economic diverse area of the city, encourages various forms of recreation, and creates a space for positive interaction between citizens. The theme of gentrification and city planning relate to our discussion of the case study of the city of Brasilia, and ties into the idea of space and planning as discussed by Michel Foucault.

Group Journal

The two pieces are 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. Also inspired by Eurasian insights regarding physical balance and a ‘cosmic egg. The carvings include a Muskeg Fish Canoe and a Solar Sail Marlin on its back. The Muskeg Fish Canoe can spin with the Solar Sail Marlin on its back if gently nudged.

Cross-cultural ideas of movement and transportation are also apparent in the assemblage of the carving(s). By marrying various cultures to a global need to explore and visit new places through various modes. The carvings could dialogue with history and social studies insofar as they explicitly reference ancient civilizations and/or non-Western societies and their geometric, ideological, and semiotic frames. The carving could also be used to think through physics and the ways in which the magnitude of force applied to an object by another object structures its movement. The two carvings could dialogue with the archeological aspect of history, as they reference human activity in the past. The carvings, because of their shape, require careful balancing, as with more contemporary studies in psychology that focus on the balancing of social, biological, emotional and spiritual aspects in an individual's life.

Cultural Themes and Venues

Gentrification: Downtown Edmonton, Chinatown, and new housing projects in The City

I [BRB] work with Indigenous folks (particularly youth) in downtown Edmonton who are homeless and/or low income. Many experience police brutality and other forms of structural violence because of their visibility in public space (spaces surveyed to reproduce white supremacy, to criminalize and repudiate Indigenous bodies -- perhaps this is its own form of settler-colonial usurpation).

Gentrification: Mill Woods, Jackie Parker Park

This park was named after a star Edmonton Eskimos football player from the mid 1905’s to early 1960’s. Repurposing an area of land that was once a garbage dump, in a very culturally and economic diverse area of the city, encourages various forms of recreation (i.e. skating, golfing, walking etc.) and creates a space for positive interaction between citizens.

Gentrification: 124th street and the Gallery District

Flipping properties and new apartment and condo developments are modifying what was otherwise a less desirable neighborhood into one more appealing for middle to upper class, primarily white and heteronormative families and citizens.

Gentrification: Influences

Our subjects studied during the school term include cultural studies (included texts in critical race studies, the politics of space, subcultural studies). Select classes in Native studies and philosophy informed much of BRB’s thinking for this project. Meanwhile, EB spent time helping with outdoors groups such as scouts, and spent more time in the river valley and have watched the transformation of more untouched areas to more focus on preservation and introducing new trails to reduce the impact created with illegal bike trails.

Rationale for Our Project:

Our group decided on the theme “Gentrification”: the socio-economic event in which low-income or putatively disadvantaged neighborhoods undergo urban regeneration, thereby pushing marginalized families and communities out of these spaces as an effect of the associated increase in the area’s standard of living. Insofar as Edmonton continues to expand and re-make its urban spaces we thought that this theme would allow us to document the process of gentrification across the city. We also discussed the race and class-based particularities of gentrification and planned to incorporate them into our vignettes.

Influential Spaces For Our Own Cultural Production

For many Indigenous students the annual ASSC Round Dance is a moment of Indigenous resurgence, of Indigenous communalism. For many students, Van Vliet Center is a place to meet and work out or participate in intramural sports. With the new renovation for the most part completed, Van Vliet offers a meeting place for students to take time out of their days to exercise, de-stress, have fun and meet up with friends in a positive environment. For many students, Whyte Ave and its surrounding neighbourhoods (Belgravia, Park Allen, Garneau) offers restaurants and bars for students to meet and congregate directly outside of the academic setting and into a more informal one. Many individuals who belong to the Nordic skiing community congregate in the eastern parts of Edmonton (Capilano, Goldbar) because of easy access and maintenance of ski specific trails. Meanwhile, The Old Strathcona Farmers Market brings individuals from the Strathcona area together through the locally run market that sells locally grown food, and goods created within the community.