Edmonton Public History Churchill Square

Wave Reader,Winter 2015

Consistent with the other pieces found in the gallery, this carving, also destined for a project in Norman Wells, NWT, is inspired by a comparative reading of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican and Andean interpretations regarding the intricate relationship between the arc of the horizon, the movement of light and complimentary insights into the similarities between waves of water, sound and light. When gently nudged in either direction the will neatly rotate or rock while too much force will produce an unhappy result. The rock for the Wave Reader was quarried from the region of Kinbasket Lake, BC in late August, just when the salmon complete their migration towards the Rockies. A few weeks after the carving was returned to the School of One Wave Reader embarked on another journey to Norman Wells, NWT.

Group Journal

Our group chose natural vs. man-made sources of water within the urban environment for our project theme. Our main inspiration for this theme was the name of the carving itself, Wave Reader. The description of the carving refers to different types of waves like sound, light and water. During our discussion on how to link this carving to the theories we discussed in class we decided to try to connect it to Foucault’s theories about institutions. In particular, we were interested in the way that architecture, appropriation, and how water could be used or manipulated by people or institutions to serve a variety of different purposes. We feel that this picture of our carving in front of a man-made lake in an urban environment best represents our theme. It brings together both the natural and man-made elements of water. This photograph captures what we feel like is a balance between those two elements. The lake and the rocks surrounding the piece represent the “naturalistic elements” sought by the creators of this space while the houses in the background remind us that the area is artificial. Our vignettes are influenced by places like West Edmonton Mall, the River Valley, Whyte Ave, clubs, bars, restaurants, coffee shops, swimming pools, and parks. In short places, where students can gather outside of the University setting while we also revisited memories of a “Red Bull Crashed Ice” event, West Edmonton Mall threats and an evacuation, the Charlie Hebdo attack, and a Groat Road closure.

Wave Reader at West Edmonton Mall by LM

This picture was taken at West Edmonton Mall on Sunday, March 8th 2015. That day, the temperature outside was 8° Celsius. I had gone to The Mall that day to see the movie Chappie with my fiancé and I decided to take the carving with me because I thought that a mall, especially one as big as the West Edmonton Mall, was a good example of the type of institutions that Foucault discusses. It is a space designed to attract people to spend money, a process that helps stimulate the economy, and which is good for all levels of government and the other institutions that they support. My group had chosen a theme of natural versus man-made sources of water used by people and institutions. This made me think of the water park located in The Mall. I discovered two things after taking a few pictures there: 1) It is virtually impossible to get a picture of the water park without people in it and 2) Taking pictures at the waterpark from the outside looking in is a little bit creepy.

I realized though, that there are many other sources of water in a mall, since the idea is to bring the outdoors in and to keep people there so they will continue to shop. I first considered elements of The Mall that require water to function. Bathrooms, restaurants, fast food, cleaners, to mention a few parts of our lives, require water for their day-to-day operations. I did not photograph any of these things, however, because I felt that they would not produce a very interesting picture.

Next, I considered the ways in which this mall brings in the outdoors. I noticed the decorative fountains that give a park-like setting to the space, their Marine Life attraction, the Ice Palace (an indoor ice rink), and the Santa Maria (a replica of Christopher Columbus's ship!). I decided to take a picture of the "ocean" in which the Santa Maria sits to show how an institution like the West Edmonton Mall and those who designed it, have been able to use water to create another world inside the mall. It is something unusual for a mall but it brings people in for reasons other than shopping and by doing so, provides The Mall and its stores customers and enables these establishments to be profitable.

Wave Reader at Hollick Kenyon by JCh
Wednesday, March 18, 2015 Time: 7:30PM
Temperature: 12° Celsius
Location: Lake by Hollick Kenyon in Northeast Edmonton

Edmonton Public History Culture North

I took this picture at a lake in the Hollick Kenyon neighborhood. The weather was surprisingly warm for March in Edmonton and most of the snow had already melted. My partner and I decided to go for a walk in the neighborhood. The lake is surrounded with walkways and benches so that people can enjoy the view. I decided to take the group carving to this lake area because our carving is called the Wave Reader. As a group we thought of many things that could be represented in waves, but decided to go with the theme of water. We decided that it would be interesting to look at water in all the spaces it occupies. We concluded that water can be found either in a natural or man-made environment. Therefore, this is the theme I have tried to capture in my photograph.

A significant portion of the picture is focused on the carving and the natural aspects of the environment. At first glance, the rocks near the carving and the lake on the back represent the natural beauty of water. However, the hazy background depicts houses and neighborhoods, which confirms that the lake is artificial and man-made. Although this picture represents an artificial body of water, there is an aspect of it that makes it seem so real as well. This leads me to believe there may be differing degrees of naturalness or artificiality.

In terms of cultural themes related to class, our group decided to address some of the ideas forwarded by Foucault. Again, the lake in this picture is clearly not a natural lake but a man-made one. Though my picture does not technically represent an institution, I believe it is a created space. More importantly, I believe this created space has the purpose of attempting to impose an atmosphere that affects the social practices of the inhabitants in the neighborhood. For example, the architects of this created space may have had intentions for providing a venue for such activities as exercise, and social gatherings. What I mean by this is that the lake area (as an institution or man-made structure) is able to afford such activities, and therefore shapes social practices and everyday events of the people living there.

Wave Reader at the North Saskatchewan River in Riverbend by YR

Edmonton Public HIstory North Saskatchewan

The picture was taken in the Riverbend area on Sunday, March 14, 2015 at 4PM on one of the first warm days of the year. It was 14° Celsius and I went for a walk with my family. I love the view of the North Saskatchewan River and I like to bring our guests from abroad there to show them the vast scenery and tell them about the two houses that fell into the river a few years ago at that very spot.

I got inspired to take this picture by my group’s theme “man-made waters” vs. “natural waters”. My neighborhood Riverbend is situated at the bend of the North Saskatchewan River, a natural river flowing from the Canadian Rockies to Saskatchewan. Historically, it was used as a transportation route for Cree and Métis beaver fur trappers. The highlands surrounding the river were used by the Hudson’s Bay Company, the institution in power and control of the trade during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, to control the activities on the river, a feature of the business that included monitoring the activities of various Indigenous peoples. I chose this particular picture, because I find that it is a good reflection of the position of power the lookout point offers to the object or subject looking down on the river.

Many years later “the highlands” overlooking the river valley became attractive sites for real estate and the venue still was a means for gaining and articulating power. Thinking they could conquer nature, people started building houses on top of the ledge overlooking the river. However, the river continued to carve away at the embankments and, eventually, erosion caused the two houses to fall into the river. Luckily, none of the residents were physically harmed.

The historical and current events that continue to shape the North Saskatchewan River and its various “lookout points” made me think of Foucault and De Certeau’s ideas regarding the attempt by institutions to take control over people through landscape and urban space. As the Hudson’s Bay Company used nature and the landscape to exert power over the Indigenous people, the builders of the “fallen houses” thought they could overrule nature and control the river’s activity by pressing wire cages filled with rocks onto the riverbank. However, similar to De Certeau’s Walker, the water chooses its own path and eventually eats its way through the soil. It is the gaps in and around the wire cages that allow the water to resist the imposition of power structures, institutions, or even humans themselves.

In addition to the Cultural Studied Reader, this vignette was informed by an interview with Terri Aihoshi, ABD in Anthropology.

Wave Reader at the Millwoods Ravine” by LH
Date: Saturday March 28, 2015 Time: 6:37 PM Temperature: 8° Celsius
Location: Millwoods Ravine


At first, this project made it slightly difficult for me to decide on the perfect venue to take pictures of the Wave Reader carving. Originally, I was just going to drive around and go to the nearest body of water I found, but then my partner Sh recommended the Millwoods Ravine. We ended up walking around the ravine with Sh’s dog Meira, and I was able to gather several different pictures of the carving. The path we took was both steep and flat and it didn’t help that it was super slushy and icy. Meira had a blast while Sh and I kept trying to keep our balance. While I was taking the pictures I realized one side of the rock looked like a waterfall, so I took several on that particular side. I found that it complimented the ravine in the background because of its flow. After we got home, I picked my top three pictures with the carving. It then occurred to me that I never questioned if the ravine was man-made or not since my group’s theme is “Man-made vs. Natural.” I ended up asking Sh and he told me it was natural. After discovering this, I was a bit upset when I realized I might have to go out and take pictures all over again. While explaining this issue, Sh made me think about all the things that are socially constructed around the ravine. Before, there were never any bridges or houses until humans constructed them. This situation reminded me of a lot Benedict Anderson’s “Imagined Communities.” Our communities are changing because of new advancements that are introduced, therefore making it imagined and unnatural even though these venues are an unconscious part of our constructed identity. Although the natural features around the ravine are lost, I think it’s a good thing. It allows us to be creative with our communities, and adapt to our environment while still preserving some of the original landscape.

The reason why I picked my image is because I think it best represents our group theme, and because the portrait is consistent with the carving’s history as found in its description. There is water, variations of light, and sound if you can imagine “hearing” the waterfall in the background. This project made me incredibly mindful of certain things I would often ignore and not think about. It gave me a different perspective of looking at objects in our world today, which is good thing since we need to be socially engaged citizens.

Wave Reader among its Peers by AK
Date taken: Wednesday, March 18, 2015 Time: 7:37 Temperature: 12°C
Location: Lake in Hollick Kenyon (NE Edmonton)

Edmonton Public History Culture North East

My group’s theme for this project was “man-made vs. natural waters”. Taking our rock’s name into consideration (Wave Reader), we decided to focus on a type of wave. This picture was taken at a man-made lake found at a nearby neighbourhood. The photograph was captured on the “shore” of the lake, since the rest of the water was still frozen over.

I decided to place Wave Reader among a cluster of other rocks knowing that it would stand out due its unique design. The resulting contrast caused me to think of Wave Reader as something that can contest the scripted/ constructed path that De Certeau asserts for The City. Both the Wave Reader and the water captured in this picture have deviated from their planned paths. Water is not only found not only in the lake but also in the uddles and streams along the paths and surrounding areas found outside of where the water is supposed to collect according to its design. Thus, the rock is a symbol for resistance for this constructed space, and it stands out from “the masses” (ie. the rocks around it). Thus, the venue and the carving tend to confirm what De Certeau observes for The City: Spaces do not limit or hold us back. We, like the water, write our own paths, and Institution cannot control the people through constructed spaces.

The loss of “aura” that Benjamin yearns for can be seen in this picture as well. This photograph, for example, has been reproduced twice already and may be reproduced further, each time losing its authenticity and originality. If we look deeper, moreover, the water seen in the picture is also a reproduction since it is found in a man-made lake, a reproduction of nature. Walking around the area, the beauty of the lake is often overlooked by the people as the “aura” of nature has disappeared. This causes the people “to naturalize” this fictive or fantastic space, hence reducing it to the status of a routine venue devoid of the awe intended by its creators.

Visiting this man-made “container” of water has enabled me to draw connections to what we’ve learned in class to the “Real World”. I was able to see something that has been naturalized and overlooked by many and realize that it was due to reproduction and loss of “aura”. The design of the rock also allowed me to see the contrast between it and the others, connecting that to the idea of deviating from the masses and writing our own paths.