Artist's statement – Uprooted
Devastating storms that dramatically altered the landscape in 2006 led to the creation of an art residency opportunity hence this first work is an expression of gratitude to the park and all of its living systems. I was drawn to explore off trail above Lost Lagoon where the damage is radically evident. There are a number of uprooted cedar trees, their massive root wads exposed. The area appears startlingly primordial and reveals a savage chaos both unsettling and magnificent.
One root wad in particular attracted me. Overhanging flaps of moss-covered earth had formed a niche-like space and at its base was a pool of vivid green water. The surrounding area was covered with fallen branches made up of intricately delicate twigs, probably the outermost tips of the uprooted trees. I was captivated by the contrast between these branches and the fiercely severed root wads; the light skeletal airiness opposite the dense masses of darkness, all part of a whole.
Searching for a means to pile up the branches, I recalled the metal spike system for collecting phone messages on pieces of paper, and I felt pertinence to the association of these branches as messages. I embedded a long straight bough vertically in the pool of water and then randomly stacked the braches over top to build up a slender form that occupies the niche like a shrine. This simple gesture brings together the extremities that previously formed a mature living entity. It was a surprise to step back and see how the curved branches and the space between them somehow creates a sense of whirling motion and energy. I was reminded that all matter contributes to new life and growth, and that creation and destruction are part of a continuum that is constantly at play.
A sudden and strange weather system passed over while I worked. What began as a gentle rain turned into an intense downpour, first followed by hail and then a blizzard of snow. Disoriented by the whiteness, I completely lost my way back to the trail. Although it was miserably uncomfortable it was also thrilling to briefly experience this lack of knowing where I was or how to return anywhere.
Ecological response provided by Robyn Worcester of SPES
Because there are few areas where root wads were not tipped up, these are now a very valuable resource for wildlife and we should do all we can not to disturb them.
If this site is used and work will proceed near a root wad, perhaps a sheet of plywood covering the soil where she will be working (and walking back and forth) would protect the soil from too much disturbance. It should be removed when she is not working.
If the root wad itself is manipulated, Shirley should bear in mind that she is making it unsuitable as a winter wren nesting site. Also, if the mineral soil (hanging in the root wad) is disturbed or removed it will reduce the colonization of specialized plants such as goblins gold moss, licorice fern and fungi.
If she is removing woody debris, rocks or other materials from the forest floor, she is reducing the habitat that is utilized by small wildlife. Wood and other materials should only be removed/moved from areas where they are plentiful.
Artist's statement – Fringe
My creative process is fuelled by a curiosity to explore and discover what is around me, in a seemingly meandering search. Ideas begin to form through conversation with others, research, interaction with the land and an investigation of materials.
Much of my recent work incorporates synthetic or manufactured materials juxtaposed with nature. The Stanley Park art residency presents a challenge for me to make use of solely natural and/or biodegradable matter. As a way to still bring about contrast, I chose an architectural site rather than a purely idyllic setting for Fringe. The stonework bridge at the entrance to Ravine Trail had long been obscured with ivy until about five years ago when park staff decided to remove the heavy vines. The stateliness of its design struck me, especially as it comes into view through the forest. Light from the inlet imbues it with a mysterious glow and presence. The bridge shelters Beaver Lake Creek, a passageway used by fish, wildlife, and humans, so it functions both as roadway and underpass. It is the underside that I am drawn to for this ephemeral installation.
My concept for the residency is to explore the social and physical relationships that take place in this forest within a city, and how they continue to shape the park. Horses have had a role in Stanley Park throughout its history, and before this land was named. Horse-drawn tours continue to offer visitors a more leisurely tour of the park, and the Vancouver Police Department patrols the trails on horseback to keep the park safe. In conversation with groomers at the park stables, I learned that birds regularly perch on the backs of horses to pluck hair for lining their nests. I became intrigued with the idea of utilizing a material that could be appropriated by other species.
Horses embody a power that is harnessed through cooperation rather than domination. The preference to work with horsehair is based on its tactile and symbolic qualities. I work from a premise that materials are laden with meaning, but like in dreams, association is embedded within layers of personal experience. Long white hair may possibly conjure up wizards, mythology, white knights and fairy tales – and the rusticated bridge, a medieval castle. The dangling forms appear as natural phenomenon; icicle-shaped stalactites that hang from the roof of a cavern, formed from the dripping of mineral-rich water.
A friend mentioned Jean Barman's book Stanley Park's Secret: The Forgotten Families of Whoi Whoi, Kanaka Ranch and Brockton Point when we talked about the potency of place in the memories and stories held. Barman's book contains references and drawings of Burrard Inlet and two aboriginal settlements that existed there for generations prior to the late 18th century. Beaver Lake Creek falls roughly between these shoreline villages once known as Whoi Whoi and Chaythoos.
Fringe is outspread and apron like in construction – a garment of protection by definition.
Fringe disappeared sometime in late January 2009. Created as an ephemeral work, the horsehair was placed in the landscape as an organic material that could be scavenged by bats and birds and observed over time as it deteriorated. In a park heavily impacted by people, the process was disrupted when Fringe was physically removed. The cotton ties were cleanly cut, perhaps an indication that the work is now fulfilling an alternative purpose elsewhere.
Ecological response provided by Robyn Worcester of SPES
The ephemeral work you are describing would not have a big negative impact ecologically, and I think that aside from birds being able to use the hair for nesting material, there are not many significant positive impacts that I can think of.
The only negative ecological impacts I can foresee is that Ravine Trail is likely used by bats and birds as a travel corridor (from Beaver Lake to the seashore), and if the horse hair is blocking the entrance to the underpass they may feel restricted by it. From your description, it seems like this might be the case as it is eight feet wide. Also, since this riparian corridor is one of the most ecologically sensitive areas of the Park, I would like to see that there is as little disturbance done to the surrounding environment as possible during the installation.
This sounds like a very interesting art installation and I am grateful for being allowed input on this project.
Artist's statement – Hibernators
I was in search of a site for an envisioned series of soft sculptures when I first became aware of the bear pit during a survey walk. The enclosed concrete environment was formerly part of the Stanley Park Zoo until it closed in the mid 1990s. An adjoining building has been converted into a demonstration salmon spawning hatchery that is managed by the Vancouver Aquarium. Situated in the middle of the park, the pit now appears utterly dilapidated and in sharp contrast to the meticulously landscaped surroundings. Nature is already reclaiming the area – vines claw their way up from the moat below while a massive yew tree extends its branches overhead, and various root systems determinedly penetrate the barricading concrete wall.
Earlier in the summer I had discovered a material called BioNet that is being used as part of the massive Prospect Point reconstruction. I learned that BioNet is the trademarked name for a biodegradable erosion control blanket made up of shredded coconut fibres stitched with jute. After some experimentation, I worked with a sewing process to create various amorphous shapes that I stuffed with wood chips from the park. The forms, entitled Hibernators, are quite malleable and capable of assuming lifelike and emotive postures.
I had observed that park visitors still pause to lean against the bear pit railing hopeful of something to see. In a parallel process to the restoration of Stanley Park, Hibernators is intended to revitalize the zoo through an intervention that draws attention to its potential as a viewing stage or theatre. A transition between what was there and the future. The forms interact with each other and the site in a drama that is subject to the viewer's interpretation.
This installation is a result of collaboration with various individuals from the Parks Board, the Stanley Park Ecology Society, the Vancouver Aquarium, and a private contractor from the construction site who originally donated the BioNet. Each phase was facilitated with hands on assistance, from the delivery of wood chips that arrived at the art studio in the park, to the individuals who helped carry the forms into the pit. For me, the finished work is akin to the period at the end of a sentence.
The bear is one of the last true symbols of the primal, natural world, and many ecologists believe that how humans respond and protect their lands and their future will be the most honest depiction of how serious we are about preservation of our environment and the natural resources within it.
Ecological response provided by Jarrid Jenkins, Public Programs Manager at SPES
It doesn't appear to us that there would be any negative ecological implications for the materials you have chosen in the site you have identified. One caution on our part is to make sure that you do not end up using any BioNet material that comes pre-seeded with any seed mixes that could take root and introduce new plants to the park. It will be interesting to see what kind of life (plant and wild) that takes advantage of the new habitat you'll be creating in an almost barren environment. We're wondering how the materials might be useful to animals looking for nesting materials as well—similar to your Fringe piece.
And as I shared with you on our walk when locating the site: the opportunity to contrast "natural" materials with that concrete space is very exciting, especially on the grand scale you have illustrated in your proposal. The "local" organic forms on display will contrast nicely with the imported wildlife that were originally housed in the enclosure.
So, to conclude, we have little concern ecologically about the impact of this piece because of its location other than ensuring that the BioNet doesn't come pre-seeded.