Brew­ery District art turns heads

Edmonton Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Fgri­wkowsky@post­

Would the owner of a 1988 blue Ply­mouth Car­avelle please head back to the park­ing lot — you left your lights on. Oh, and your wind­shield seems to be scan­ning the side­walk at 20-sec­ond in­ter­vals. Did I men­tion it’s bal­anced on its end, nose-first into the pave­ment?

Over at Ed­mon­ton’s Brew­ery District, a new piece of pub­lic art is al­ready turn­ing heads — the full-sized, ac­tual K-Car de­scribed above, with sculp­tural vis­ual glitches in its shiny up­right body that make it looked hastily scanned, some­how, while rolling off the as­sem­bly line. That’s one rea­son the art­work’s called Car­bon Copy — note the dou­bling down on the pho­to­copier jar­gon with the light ef­fect in its wind­shield — but the ori­gin story doesn’t end there.

Where it be­gins is a pair of Cal­gary artists who re­sponded to an open call by First Cap­i­tal Re­al­ity, who own and op­er­ate the Brew­ery District — in­clud­ing its six-acre un­der­ground parkade and var­i­ous sur­face lots, al­ready a place of cars.

But the cor­po­rate en­tity was in­spired enough to not just beau­tify but in­sert an ex­tra philo­soph­i­cal di­men­sion into what could’ve been just an­other pull-in retail space by com­mis­sion­ing mean­ing­ful, con­tem­po­rary pub­lic art.

Hence, Car­bon Copy — se­lected by jury, paid for pri­vately.

The artists be­hind it are Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Gar­rett, 29 and 34. This is their first-fin­ished pub­lic art com­mis­sion.

“The first step was to find a car,” Brown laughs. “And we wanted a K-Car.”

Adds Gar­rett, “Be­cause we’re dis­rupt­ing the land­mark of the car, we wanted one with these boxy, square-likes — the kind of car a fiveyear-old would draw with two rec­tan­gles.”

“It also does a re­ally funny thing with scale,” ex­plains Brown, “be­cause you think of cars as shorter than you. As soon as you put it up on its end, it sud­denly has this sig­nif­i­cance. We wanted to make some­thing that wasn’t too beau­ti­ful, and also said some­thing crit­i­cal about the space.”

Now when Brown says “crit­i­cal,” she doesn’t mean the piece is an at­tack — but some­thing to think about a lit­tle.

Stum­ble upon a mass-pro­duced car bowed on its nose, vis­ually glitch­ing, there’s go­ing to be some meat. “You can hear it in the ti­tle: Car­bon Copy,” says Brown. “There are lit­tle seeds we’ve planted. Mass pro­duc­tion, con­sump­tion — its site in the park­ing lot.”

Adds Gar­rett, “The piece is part of the land­scape, so you want to make some­thing that responds or fits or con­trasts — but cer­tainly con­sid­ers where it is.”

En­ter the K-Car it­self, so ubiq­ui­tous through the ‘80s and early ‘90s as to be ba­si­cally in­vis­i­ble. Post en­ergy cri­sis, there was a rea­son the sim­ple de­sign ex­ploded, said Gar­rett.

“It saved au­tomak­ers from dy­ing be­cause they were able to re­pro­duce 20 dif­fer­ent mod­els on the same frame and use it over and over again to cheaply pro­duce tons of cars.

“It marked a devel­op­ment in mass pro­duc­tion and con­sumer car cul­ture, al­most to­wards a dis­pos­able car, to a cer­tain ex­tent.”

Brown says, “I know that was one con­ver­sa­tion with the Brew­ery District and this com­mu­nity: how car-ori­ented should this space be? Retail needs drive-up. In North Amer­ica, the role of the car is huge in the way we plan our cities.”

These are con­sid­er­a­tions they ’re happy to spark with their car as art, but, “Our work isn’t try­ing to be holier than thou,” she stresses. “We’re all part of this. We drove up here from Cal­gary.

“As part of this piece,” she laughs, “I got my driver’s li­cence.”

On the car’s belly will live a plaque com­mem­o­rat­ing the his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance of the area as Mol­son Brew­ery, which op­er­ated be­tween 1913 and 2007. Its 1925 ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fice now houses Wil­fred’s restau­rant, one of the old brick build­ings still stand­ing.

The car be­ing vin­tage — 30 years old — is a nice ad­di­tion to the rather mod­ern her­itage site, which plays mu­sic to its shop­pers in the park­ing lot. Joni Mitchell’s Big Yel­low Taxi (they paved par­adise and put up a park­ing lot), for real, played dur­ing the in­ter­view.

Be­cause the car is al­ready older, it makes one won­der what might oc­cupy this lot 30 years from now in 2048 — fly­ing cars? Only bi­cy­cles? Mu­tants scour­ing the ru­ins for tasty wild­cats?

Over five months, F&D Scene Changes fab­ri­cated the piece, their pre­vi­ous projects in­clud­ing re­paint­ing the world’s largest di­nosaur in Drumheller, Karim Rashid’s caramel seat­ing Kop­per­scape at the air­port; Craig LeBlanc’s 10-foot Dal­ma­tian in Strath­cona County.

The en­gine and trans­mis­sion were plucked out to re­duce weight, while a solid me­tal frame in­side keeps it stand­ing and sturdy.

The head­lights and tail lights — and that scan­ning ef­fect — are pow­ered by elec­tric­ity from the lot be­low. For the Fiber­glas glitches, Gar­rett said, “We ac­tu­ally de­signed it by tak­ing images of the car and mov­ing them on the scan­ner.”

Peo­ple think of roads and park­ing lots as lim­i­nal non-spa­ces but, Brown notes, “You’re hav­ing an ex­pe­ri­ence in your car. It’s dif­fer­ent every time.

“That’s the glitch.” An­other as­pect of the piece is sto­ries the artists have been col­lect­ing about peo­ple and their cars. They’ll gather more on-site from 4–7 p.m. Fri­day and noon–2 p.m. Satur­day, and these will end up in the glove box — a sort of tur­bophile time cap­sule. The his­tor­i­cal plaque and car will be of­fi­cially un­veiled at 10:30 a.m. Fri­day. “There’s go­ing to be a gi­ant pair of scis­sors and a rib­bon — but ap­par­ently they don’t ac­tu­ally cut,” Gar­ret laughs.

Brown jokes, “We thought about go­ing to Cana­dian Tire to get a car cover, but …”

Dur­ing the in­ter­view, dozens of peo­ple walk up to the oddly po­si­tioned sedan, pos­ing for pic­tures, get­ting their fin­ger­prints all over the win­dows.

“Is that go­ing to be Op­ti­mus Prime?” Gar­rett says one kid asked. Oth­ers have won­dered if it was an ac­ci­dent, an ad cam­paign — and the two don’t mind am­bi­gu­ity.

Two un­am­bigu­ous his­tor­i­cal icons, though, are the tree air fresh­ener on the rear-view mir­ror and a cig­a­rette burn in the pas­sen­ger seat, a scar from long ago.

Not only is this K-Car used, ex­plains Gar­rett, “The guys we bought it from are from Ed­mon­ton, they had it on Ki­jiji. It had re­ally low mileage — we bought it so we wouldn’t have to do a lot of body­work.”

Brown pats the side door at head level with a smile. “Their car is now a mon­u­ment.”

Car­bon Copy is a new-pub­lic art in­stal­la­tion in the Brew­ery District by Cal­gary artists Cait­land r.c. Brown and Wayne Gar­rett.


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