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A House By The Water
residency exhibition · 2015

A House By The Water

A House By The Water is an exhibition of work I made during a summer residency at The Rooms in St. John’s, Newfoundland, as part of the Elbow Room Residency Series. It was on display from Oct. 3, 2015—Jan. 3, 2016.

A House By The Water

During my residency, I set out to explore the changing architectural landscape of Newfoundland. How has the way people inhabit the island changed, and what does this reveal about our relationship to it? How do vagaries of global geography and economics affect local communities and landscapes? How does the history of a place change how we see it?

Mary MacDonald wrote a wonderful review of A House By The Water in Cuss Journal.

A House By The Water

In A House By The Water, a digital projection shows typical suburban homes tumbling into the ocean, one after another. They’re large houses, of the kind that seems to be springing up all over the island, especially in communities just outside St. John’s. They occupy hillsides, jostling for the best view of the ocean. Compared to the landscape and older buildings around them, they seem comically oversized, almost surreal, as if they’re meant to be somewhere else. Dream homes.

The digital projection reacts to the number of viewers; when there are more people present in the room, more houses fall.

A House By The Water

Dwall consists of beachworn bricks suspended in midair. In making this piece, I’d set out to find an artifact that had been eroded by the water, some evidence of a lasting architectural presence or authenticity. As it turns out, these bricks are not very old, dating from the Smallwood era, but they’re already falling apart, clay crumbling back into earth.

A House By The Water

I first came across the word dwall in Wayne Johnston’s The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, where Smallwood’s character says “I was able to discover that to dwall was to spend a night neither asleep nor awake but somewhere in between. I at last had a single word to describe how I almost always slept.” Dwall, to me, suggests an intentional unconsciousness, an understanding while pretending not to understand, which is perhaps a common strategy when coping with drastic change.

A House By The Water

Dwall and A City By The Sea.

When I started the residency, I thought that my project was about houses and homes, but I gradually realized that it was more about the space between the houses, their relationship to each other and the surrounding land. It’s about communities, planning, sustainability, potential futures. It’s about how architectural building patterns and desires reflect larger changes in society and the environment. It’s about small moments, like light glinting off waves on a beach, and larger concerns, like rising ocean levels.

A House By The Water

In the second projection, A City By The Sea, light glittering in ocean waves takes the shape of tiny houses. When making this work I was thinking about older ways of building on the land. Rural vernacular architecture has a kind of lightness, as Robert Mellin describes in Newfoundland Modern: Architecture in the Smallwood Years: “The houses and outbuildings of Newfoundland’s numerous coastal settlements had a temporary, fragile, and even nomadic character in form, construction, materials, and use, requiring frequent maintenance, rebuilding, and relocation. Many of these buildings appeared to perch tentatively on the land without changing it, leaving no traces when they were moved or abandoned.”

A House By The Water

A City By The Sea and Remarkable Views of Bridges in Various Provinces (after Hokusai).

A House By The Water

The single photograph in the exhibition, Remarkable Views of Bridges in Various Provinces (after Hokusai), acts as a bridge between this new work and my previous practice of walking, writing and making photographs. I often work with computers and code, but my thinking patterns are discursive, drawn from wandering and finding things.

Field Notes
photos and poems · 2014

from Field Notes

Field Notes is a book of photos and poems about writing outdoors, and explores the symmetries between human relationships and the connections we develop with landscape and place. It’s a self-published artist’s book.

I printed a series of postcards of this work – there’s a selection available at Monastiraki in Montreal, and a postcard was included in each copy of the Spring 2015 issue of Riddle Fence.

I received a Professional Project Grant from the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council to work on this project, which has been essential in allowing me to make time to think, write, and make these photographs. I’m very grateful for the NLAC’s support.

Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council

from Field Notes

do you see what i mean, from Field Notes

The brief passages of Field Notes suggest distance and longing. They are about relationships, in an ambiguous way: a distant friend, a long-lost lover, a cherished place. They share an anonymity with messages scrawled on highwayside stones, declarations of love carved in treebark, or postcards found in a curiosity shop.

A video of do you see what I mean was screened as part of Eastern Edge Gallery’s Wade In video series.

from Field Notes

i don’t know how to say this, from Field Notes

This project originated with some earlier experiments. A few years ago, walking in Point Pleasant Park, I found a seagull feather. I dipped it in seawater and wrote with it on a rock, the first phrase that came to mind: i miss you more on cloudy days. I photographed the words as they evaporated.

from Field Notes

yes yes yes, from Field Notes

Later I made another of these, spelling out with fragments of seaweed: why am i not surprised. I left the words for the wind to disassemble. I called these gestures Field Notes, and wrote a poem to accompany each.

from Field Notes

some kind of understanding, from Field Notes

Small Landmarks
a book of photography and field notes · 2013

from Small Landmarks

Small Landmarks is a synthesis of photography and notebook writings, a visual journal of walking and thinking. The work is about finding things, making connections, stringing small moments together into something more. I’ve recently published it as an ebook in Apple iBooks.

Excerpts from Small Landmarks were published in the Spring 2015 issue of Riddle Fence, along with an essay by Craig Francis Power which touches on the work.

from Small Landmarks

The pages contain photographic diptychs paired with handwriting from my notebooks. The book itself is loosely structured around places I’ve lived over the past few years: western Newfoundland, Halifax and Montreal.

from Small Landmarks

Small Landmarks is assembled from an archive of eight years of photos and field notes. The book is 114 pages, with 228 separate photos and just over 6000 words. You can read it in about an hour.

from Small Landmarks

As I worked on the project I wrote about the process on my blog.

from Small Landmarks

Small Landmarks is available in iBooks, and is designed for iPad. You can also read it on Mac OS using iBooks. It’s $1.99. If you'd like to see an excerpt before purchasing, click the "Get Sample" link in the iBooks / iTunes.

Indexical
photoblog · 2009–2012

Indexical: trails

trails · april 23, 2011

A photoblog is a photographic notebook, a tool I use to record and develop visual ideas over time. It is also a good excuse to wander around with a camera. With Indexical, I am particularly interested in notions of psychogeography, the city as palimpsest, and how easily the photographic subject slips into symbolism.

This project is no longer online. Some of the diptychs from indexical ended up in Small Landmarks.

Indexical: garrison grounds

garrison grounds · october 24, 2009

Indexical: overworld

overworld · july 24, 2011

Indexical: daydream

daydream · october 15, 2009

Indexical: wonder why you haven't before

wonder why you haven’t before · august 14, 2009

Interchange
installation, Anna Leonowens Gallery, Halifax, NS · 2008

Interchange

Interchange was my MFA thesis exhibition at NSCAD University.

In Interchange, my research into walking as a cultural activity and creative act merged with my fascination with interstitial public space. My previous photographic and poetic work has often explored a sense of place and relationship with landscape, and in developing this site-specific installation I also became interested in the history of the public space immediately surrounding Anna Leonowens Gallery.

Interchange

The Cogswell Interchange, located just northwest of the Gallery, has long been a source of controversy and consternation for Halifax pedestrians. Constructed in the early 1970s, it was designed to integrate with an elevated six-lane freeway which was never built, in part due to pressure from citizens concerned about the loss of heritage properties and waterfront access. Today, the interchange is considered a notorious example of misguided urban planning.

Part of the infrastructure surrounding the Cogswell Interchange can be seen from the window of Anna Leonowens Gallery 3, including an elevated pedestrian walkway. Interchange examines the changing nature of the public space immediately surrounding the gallery, contrasting “supermodern” approaches to navigating the city (the Cogswell Interchange and the elevated walkway) with the wandering, tangential language of an historical walking tour.

Interchange

My installation’s title, Interchange, refers to a specific type of traffic junction. At an interchange, two or more roads cross over one another without directly intersecting, allowing traffic to pass through or change direction without slowing down. In lieu of the traditional intersection, at an interchange there is no need for a driver to wait for lights to change, or to negotiate with other motorists and pedestrians. In Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, anthropologist Marc Augé characterizes the individualized, uninterrupted interchange as a replacement for the slower, more social space of a crossroads. Like Augé’s other examples of non-places, including highways and airports, interchanges are “surrendered to solitary individuality, to the temporary and ephemeral.” They are sterile, dehumanized spaces, emphasizing streamlined individual itinerary at the expense of any opportunity for socialization, exchange with others, or chance experience.

Upon entering Anna Leonowens Gallery 3, you would usually find yourself in a small white-walled room. I built a long corridor of scaffolding and plywood leading to the window on the opposite wall. I intentionally used materials which suggested a state of flux, and the metaphor of a construction site. In my thesis, this is discussed in the context of poet Lisa Robertson’s “soft architecture,” Michel de Certeau’s concept of the city as palimpsest, and Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project. The gallery lights were left off for the duration of the show; the only light comes from the window.

Interchange

My thesis document was located on a clipboard hung on the wall by the window.

The view from the window onto Hollis Street is an important component of the installation, as it contains several examples of the interstitial pedestrian landscape. Both the elevated pedestrian walkway and the nearby traffic meridian can be thought of as architectural reactions to the Cogswell Interchange.

The contrast between pedestrian-scale and car-scale infrastructure is especially notable in this part of the downtown. Anna Leonowens Gallery is bounded on one side by Granville Mall, with its cobblestones and historic buildings, and on the other by Hollis Street, often bottlenecked at this point with heavy trucks exiting the Cogswell Interchange. In 1970, Edward Lindgren of the former Nova Scotia Technical College described this inherent contrast in the local landscape. The Granville buildings, he writes, are designed around “a ratio based on pedestrian and slow horse traffic; it is not the street width of 1970 created by demand of four moving vehicle lanes [...] Let us appreciate the larger implications as seen in contrast with the auto route and its companion highrise structures: that this is what a street is like when people, not machines, are meant to inhabit it.”

Interchange

There is a small hole in the plywood wall. Actually there are two, this one and one nearer the entrance. Visitors are invited to peer into the otherwise inaccessible interior space.

Interchange

Inside, there is a large digital projection on the far wall. The projection shows an elevated pedestrian walkway, recognizable as a site just outside the gallery entrance. The image is a live webcam feed, and flickers every few seconds, updating itself. Superimposed white text fades in and out, constantly changing. The text in this photo reads, “Intentionally, or by accident.”

Other passages include: “This area was largely destroyed by fire.” “Elsewhere, changes came more slowly.” “Take your time.” “You can smell the salt water from here.” Pedestrians occasionally appear and disappear in the background image, brief silhouettes flitting through the elevated walkway.

Interchange

The texts shown in the projection are derived from In Halifax Town, a walking tour of Halifax written in 1975 by Louis W. Collins. Collins was a local historian and avid walker who was instrumental in preserving this particular block of historic buildings, despite encroaching developments such as the Cogswell Interchange. His book is a walking tour of the original town boundaries, and he intersperses commentary about places of historical interest with personal anecdotes and childhood memories.

I chose passages from the book that evoked walking, suggestions of the local landscape, and the passage of time. I removed any references to specific locations, except for places which no longer exist. The texts provide a sense of how Halifax has changed over time, especially from a pedestrian’s point of view.

Interchange

This is a screen capture of the webcam image and text being projected. The text was added using Javascript. The webcam captured an image every four seconds for the duration of the exhibition (two weeks). I didn’t record the stream of images except some samples for documentation purposes. The only way to view the webcam was to visit the gallery.

Interchange

The pedestrian walkway is an enclosed, elevated access corridor connecting Barrington Place Shops and Scotia Square to the Purdy’s Wharf office towers. It provides a bridge over Barrington, Hollis, and Lower Water Streets where they converge near the Cogswell Interchange, and is part of a larger system of elevated and underground corridors which connect many of the newer buildings in downtown Halifax. The section of walkway framed in "Interchange" passes directly over the former route of Buckingham Street, one of several avenues erased as a result of the development of Scotia Square Mall.

Interchange

A view of the installation from Hollis Street. The entrance to the Gallery is on the other side of this block of buildings, on Granville. From Hollis, passers-by can peer in at the projection through an aperture in the window. Although open in this photo, this door is only used as a fire exit.

Interchange

While planning the show, I created a detailed model of the installation using Google SketchUp. The hallway at the upper right is the entrance to the gallery.

Interchange was at Anna Leonowens Gallery from March 25 – April 5, 2008. There was an opening reception on March 25, and I gave a talk about the installation on March 28.

I have found it useful to keep in mind a statement by Marc Augé from Non-Places: “The world of supermodernity does not exactly match the one in which we believe we live, for we live in a world that we have not yet learned to look at. We have to relearn to think about space.”

Island
inkjet print · 2008

Island

This photograph was included in Broken Telephone at Anna Leonowens Gallery, the 2008 group show of work by NSCAD University MFA students. It also appears in the NSCAD University 2008 Graduation Catalogue.

Index of First Lines (32 Months)
inkjet print · 2007

Index of First Lines (32 Months) at Reese Bullen Gallery

Index of First Lines (32 Months) contains the first row of pixels from every image created with my first digital camera, from April 2003 to November 2005. The lines of pixels are stratified in chronological order, with the earliest photo at the top. The resulting image contains 2048 × 5197 pixels – 2048 pixels being the width of the photos my digital camera took (3.2 megapixels), times 5197 photos.

This work was included in the 2012 Art Faculty and Staff Exhibition at Humboldt State University at Reese Bullen Gallery.

index of first lines (32 months)

A detail from Index of First Lines (32 Months).

non*glossy
photoblog · 2003–2006

non*glossy (installation after 6 and a half months) non*glossy: lost mitten, november 2005 non*glossy: acorn bowl, october 2005 non*glossy: nobody, october 2003 non*glossy: brighton, july 2004 non*glossy: orange peel pirouette, june 2004 non*glossy: helicopter ride, october 2005

non*glossy was my first photoblog, and was maintained for about three years, during which time I moved from Newfoundland to Montreal. I posted photos daily for a year and a half, then slightly less frequently for the remainder. It was featured on CBC Radio 3 as part of Point, Shoot and Post, a story about photoblogs in Canada. This project is no longer online. Some of the photos ended up in Small Landmarks.

Above: An installation of the project after 6½ months, and six photos from non*glossy.

The 8-Bit Art Book
artist’s book · 2005

The 8-Bit Art Book

The 8-Bit Art Book

The 8-Bit Art Book

The 8-Bit Art Book

The 8-Bit Art Book

The 8-Bit Art Book

Answers
artist’s book · 2004

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No Such Address
artist’s book · 2003

No Such Address
No Such Address
No Such Address
No Such Address
No Such Address
No Such Address
Created by Matthew Hollett.