Smoking Rossdale River Orca,Winter 2015

Edmonton Public History Culture River Rock

Consistent with many other carvings produced by the School in 2014 and 2015, this piece 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 gently nudged in either direction the River Orca will neatly spin while too much force will produce an unhappy result. The mahogany obsidian used for this carving certainly serves as a reminder of its importance for mirrors used for the manipulation of light and for trade in Mesoamerica and Ancient Eurasia. The carving may also prompt an alternative explanation for the origins of the name “Smoking Mirror”. Smoking Rossdale River Orca’s whereabouts are now unknown and was last seen by the School of One on a table in front of Ho Ho Chinese Food in HUB Mall, University of Alberta, in late April 2015.

Eat and Study by MQ
Date: 03-20-2015 Time: 2:31 p.m.
Temperature: -2° Celsius and sunny
Location: My study room

Alberta Public History Culture Cook and Books

This photo was taken in my study room. The room is a space where I normally conduct my school related work and it is also a place where I can relax. The rock is balancing on a stack of school text books and some cookbooks I am currently flipping through. The sunlight that is peeping through the window blinds is casting lines of shadow onto the stack of books and to the back of the sky blue wall. Somehow the rock looks unaffected by the sunlight. The dark shadows blend into the dark obsidian colour of the rock.

In the ancient Aztec culture, obsidian was linked to Tezcatlipoca or Smoking Mirror. This deity is also frequently associated with a wide range of concepts, such as the night sky, the night winds, hurricanes, the north, the earth, enmity, discord, rulership, divination, temptation, jaguars, beauty, war and strife. In this image, I have removed the Ancient Connotation out of the obsidian rock and “re-appropriated” it to fit the meaning of my everyday life and some of the concepts that were discussed in our project checklist. This image represents the balance between my schoolwork and the pursuit of my hobby cooking. No matter how crazy or hectic my life becomes, I always find stress relief in flipping through the pages of a cookbook and cooking a delicious meal from the recipes that inspire me.

When I took this picture, I couldn't help but to reflect on some of readings we have done on culture and cultural production. The reading I am specifically referring to is Walter Benjamin's The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproduction. Yes, technology is changing Art but, at the same time, it has made Art more accessible. The printed textbooks allow me access to essays from past and current scholars that I would have not been able to access if they were not reproduced through technological processes. The cookbooks always contain photography of the food created from each recipe. The photos are often very stylized and staged through various lighting techniques and props that enhances the deliciousness of the food. When I replicate the recipes, my food will never turn out exactly like the photos depicted in the cookbooks. I am OK with that because I am creating my own art that exists in a particular space and time that is meaningful to myself.

Alberta Public HIstory Culture Nature

The Uniqueness of Nature by VS
Date: April 6th 2015 Time: 1:28 pm Temperature: 5 °C
Location: University of Alberta

Since the craving had been associated with pre-Columbian Mesoamerican and Andean cultures, I decided to take a picture in an environment that captured that connection with nature. At first glance, when I placed the carving on the rock it looked like a fish to me. Therefore, I thought that the background with the water and other rocks was appropriate. I initially thought of taking a picture with a rainbow as the background since our group had agreed that the reflection of light was an important theme to focus on. However, I didn’t have the time to make my rainbow idea work so my backup plan was to take the picture in that nice little pond by SUB which reflects light on the surface of the water.

In my opinion, I think that we have lost that the connection that older civilizations like the Aztecs had with nature and our surroundings. With all the technology we have, most people take nature as something banal not worthy of our attention. So it comes as no surprise as to why it is so easy for us to destroy it (nature). Personally, I think that nature brings peace. When you go camping and really disconnect yourself from the rest of the world, you can really come into contact with the beauties of this world and can relax. When I recall this perspective, I am reminded of Bruno Latour’s War of the Worlds and his insight into global warming and the deterioration of the ozone layer as well as the fact that nature unites us all within scientific truth. We all have different beliefs, cultures and perspectives but the main thing we have in common is nature. I agree with his assertions into how we share the same environment but there are many other features of life we have in common than just nature. Some cultures might overlap on certain values/beliefs, and I don’t think that we are all that different from each other as we are frequently led to believe. Nevertheless, no matter how different we might be, nature is and always will be something that we all have to cherish, protect and enjoy.

Furthermore, this picture can also be connected to Walter Benjamin’s ideas and it reminds me of his discussion about aura, authenticity and how things lose their uniqueness with reproduction. Even though pictures now can be easily reproduced, I think that this particular picture is unique because of the carving and the feelings that some people might experience when they think about what the person that took the picture felt like or what she was thinking about. In other words, even though it is easy to replicate just about anything, we are still able to make certain things “ours” or unique to us or to other people.

Edmonton Public History Culture Urban Planning

Urban Planning v. Resistance by AB
Date: 03-17-2015 Time: 4:45PM Temperature: 8°Celsius Location: Building across from my work building

I took this picture on the top floor of a building across from the building where I work. The building I work in can be seen on the left side of the shot. Taking into account the reflective nature of the obsidian carving we were given for our group project, the shot integrates the reflection found on the side of the building where I work and superimposes the reflected image of buildings actually located to the north upon the residential areas located to the West (as shown on the right side of the shot).

I think the way the multi-dimensional shot turned out raises questions regarding how our spaces are organized and how this pre-determined layout affects our behaviour. The office spaces within my work building and the office spaces suggested inside the buildings found in the reflection are nothing more than workplaces. An entire chunk of the downtown core area have been reserved solely for office space, or as Hardt and Negri would put it, these spaces have been deemed to serve the purposes of informatization and informatized industry. The question is, is this institutionally-imposed division that is simply determined by urban planners? Or is this urban layout a result of specialization as in Brasilia? That is, how much have we, the residents of Edmonton, influenced this layout?

Furthermore, I find that this shot is corresponds to the pictures that some of my partners took, especially the pictures by M and D. These pictures show spaces in which we work and study and are ascribed with certain authority. For example, the books in M’s photo claim authority in their respective subjects, and as readers we are asked to trust the writers therein as authorities in their fields. The University photos by D also show a place of authority, and we are expected to trust the professors within the building as authorities in their field, while the university stands out as the authority for multi-disciplinary research. Similarly, in my workplace, I am asked to trust the management team to represent the values of the employer. To take it even further, I am asked to trust that the organization I work for truly represents the values it claims to represent. In this sense, physical spaces and physical objects embody the fiduciary aspects of our relationships with the institutions in our surroundings.

Transition by KL Date: April 5, 2015 Time: 1:38 p.m. Temperature: 5° C
Place: University of Alberta

I took the picture of the craving on the bike in front of the SUB building. I decided upon this motive as I think it represents the perfect transition between the social life and the life at university.

I think it is very important to be able to draw a line between those two “lives”. For me personally, these bikes symbolize two very important aspects. First of all, they show the ability of being flexible and come and go to university whenever you want to. Of course, you don’t just leave the university but they just give you the feeling that you could if you wanted to. Second of all, sport plays a very important role in my life. Unfortunately, I don’t have a bike here in Edmonton; however I think that it would be far to cold to go by bike during these long winters here. Anyways, it reminds me of home as I always go by bike to the university. Moreover, as most people go by bike during the summer; I automatically have to think of summer, my favorite season of the year.

Furthermore, the longer I looked at my picture the more I had to think of the essay “The Work of Art in the Age of its technological Reproduction”. Although we live in the age of mass production I could not find one bike that was akin to another. Since all the bikes were quite old you could see that each one of them had its own history and aura, as Walter Benjamin would express it. I personally think that this image contradicts the Walter Benjamin’s statement although we enjoy the possibility of mass production it doesn’t mean that unique objects no longer exist.

Alberta Public History Culture SUB

State of Tranquility Found Amongst Chaos by DE
Date: March 23, 2015 Time: 1:27 p.m. Temperature: 2° C
Place: University of Alberta

This photo was taken in the pedway that links the HUB mall to the business atrium. I decided to take my photo on campus because school is where I spend most of my day. As a result of this, the reason that I decided to take the photo facing Tory is because Tory is the building where I spent the majority of my time throughout my undergrad. It is a place where I feel that I gained a lot of knowledge and I met a number of great, influential people. I also decided to take the photo in this location on campus because it is one of my favourite spots to stop and stare out into considering the beautiful view that it provides of the river below.

I was inspired by Michel de Certeau’s discussion of The Voyeur versus The Walker. For the past five years I have always walked the same route from the LRT, through HUB, to the pedway and finally to Tory. Based on the theme of light, there is an interesting juxtaposition between the lighting provided by the pedway versus the lighting in Tory. Truthfully I always dreaded spending so much time in Tory considering how cramped the rooms are, the chaotic temperature levels and the lack of cell service but I did always appreciate the walk through the pedway. Ironically, at first I actually tried taking pictures inside of Tory but the rock would always turn out too dark. This is why I found it amusing that when I finally decided to take a picture of the rock in the pedway it ended up displaying how beautifully the light reflected off of the different colours on the rock, even though it was a dark gloomy day outside. Furthermore, this is an interesting point of view to capture because I think it represents both a voyeur and a walker perspective.

Finally, this location reminds me of Foucault’s discussion of space and authority. The tory building is representative of a space where professors maintain a higher position of authority. They stand at the front of the class and lecture while students face them and listen. As student we are expected to put all of our trust into these authority figures and agree that what they are teaching is absolute. In the end I personally feel that I have managed to find a balance between the stresses provided by everyday life and the tranquility that this walk and pedway provide for me everyday.

Alberta Public History Culture Walkway


Community Escape by BS
Date: April 6th, 2015 Time: 7:34 PM Temperature: 2° C
Place: Remedy Cafe

Edmonton Public History Culture Remedy

It tried a few locations and pictures before deciding on this one. With respects to our rock, the Homeglen School of One’s comparative reading of select pre-Columbian Mesoamerican and Andean concepts in the production of the carving prompted us to develop an overarching theme of the project, especially with respect to emphasis placed on light, the movement of light and physical balance. For this reason, I found the location to be a very important feature. The pictures taken by our group reflect balancing of our lives—at this moment, as students—and thus, comparative concepts of time in relation to light.

Walter Benjamin asserts that art as reproducible. However, he also contends that works are distinct only during “the here and now” and, thus, are only unique in a particular place and time. Initially, I had hoped to capture the rock at the Starbucks’s location near my house in the far north side of Edmonton. During the week it is a place where university students who live close to the coffee shop come to study. The Second Cup near the University and the Remedy Café on Whyte fulfill a similar role and the latter venue is where I was able to take this picture. The moment that was captured in this picture at Remedy cannot be seen or recreated in those other coffee locations. With Benjamin’s ideas in mind, I played around with a variety of angles and possible outcomes at this Remedy and I confirmed that these perspectives cannot be reproduced at those other locations. The specific spot for this image allowed me to position the rock in a way that suggested or recalled students seated in similar spaces within this community coffee space. As one of the many coffee spots where students come to work and study, the owners of this Remedy have created a community where we can recognize or know each other even within the environs of a large post-secondary space of the university.

Group Journal

Our group met in class on Thursday March 5th. We went over the project checklist and started brainstorming on ideas of themes and places where we could take our photos. We learnt that the black obsidian rock has connections to ancient cultures, the arc of the horizon, and the balance of light. Initially, we thought of linking the carving to different parks found across Edmonton but decided instead to connect the balance and light suggested in the piece with our daily lives as students. Throughout the process we all shared the rock and alternated every few days so that we would each have a chance to take our pictures. We also kept in contact so that we knew how the project was coming along and if we maintained our chosen theme. The pre-Columbian Mesoamerican and Andean interpretation by the Homeglen School of One was used to help focus the overarching theme of our project. As the rock description states: “…when gently nudged in either direction the River Orca will neatly spin while too much force will produce an unhappy result.” Taking these features of the carving into account, we saw the influence that it had in these different locations and different aspects of our lives, as individuals who try to find balance in our work, school, social, extracurricular and personal lives. Each picture from our group contains the element of balance in some form.

With the use of both textbooks and cookbooks, M’s picture proposes a balance between hobbies and academic obligations. A’s photo also points to a balance between school and work, while hinting at a possibility of a balanced measure of resistance or residence-determined urban layout within the context of urban planning. V’s picture similarly proposes balance between obligations to the University and a desire to enjoy and commune with nature. In a related sense, K’s contribution also points to a balance between duties as a student and a passion for athletics, while further proposing the presence of a balance amidst mass production, with personal artefacts (bicycles) being personalized and infused with the aura of their owners. Likewise, D’s shot consists of balancing school-life and leisure with the title of the portrait further expressing the fulfillment of tranquility amidst chaotic circumstances. Furthermore, D’s image seeks to strike a balance between De Certeau’s Walker and Voyeur. Lastly, B’s picture addresses the balancing act that we as students face. The portrait documents a gathering place that serves as both a leisurely escape from the expectations of academic life and a tranquil space where students can focus and fulfill academic expectations. In short, our group project articulates a theme that may have very well been influenced by the collective pursuit of balance that the Student faces during the hectic last few weeks of the semester.