I’m a writer, photographer and walker
exploring landscape, perception and memory.

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Writing   ·   Design

Recent Projects

Between Seasons on the North Head Trail



Recent Publications

Best Kind: New Writing Made in Newfoundland
Islandness

Selected Projects

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. 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 does the history of a place change how we see it?

A digital projection shows lavish suburban homes tumbling into the ocean, one after another. These kinds of houses have sprung up all over the island, occupying hillsides, jostling for the best view. They often seem comically oversized, almost surreal, as if they’re meant to be somewhere else. Dream homes.

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.

I came across the word dwall in Wayne Johnston’s The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, where Smallwood says “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.

I began to realize that my project wasn’t about houses, but the space between the houses, their relationship to each other and the surrounding land. It was about communities, sustainability, potential futures. It’s about how building patterns and desires reflect larger societal changes. It’s about small moments, like light glinting off waves, and larger concerns, like rising ocean levels.

In the video 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 described by Robert Mellin 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 single photograph, Remarkable Views of Bridges in Various Provinces (after Hokusai), bridges this installation work with my 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. A House By The Water was at The Rooms from Oct. 2015 – Jan. 2016, and the projections were shown in the 2017 Bonavista Biennale.

Interchange

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 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.

The Cogswell Interchange, located just northwest of the gallery, was long considered a notorious example of misguided urban planning. Constructed in the 1970s, it was designed to integrate with an elevated six-lane freeway which was never built. Interchange contrasted “supermodern” architectural reactions to the interchange (such as a nearby elevated walkway) with the wandering, tangential language of an historical walking tour.

I built a long corridor of scaffolding and plywood, using materials which suggested a construction site. In my thesis, this was discussed in the context of Marc Augé’s Non-Places, poet Lisa Robertson’s “soft architecture,” de Certeau’s concept of the city as palimpsest, and Benjamin’s Arcades Project.

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

There was a small hole in the plywood wall (and another one nearer the entrance). Visitors were invited to peer into the otherwise inaccessible interior space.

Inside, there was a large digital projection showing an elevated pedestrian walkway, recognizable as a site just outside the gallery entrance. The image was a live webcam feed. Superimposed white text faded in and out, constantly changing. The text here reads, “Intentionally, or by accident.” Other passages included: “This area was largely destroyed by fire.” “Elsewhere, changes came more slowly.” “You can smell the salt water from here.”

The texts 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 intersperses commentary about places of interest with personal anecdotes and childhood memories.

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, and was broadcast only in the gallery.

The pedestrian walkway is an enclosed, elevated access corridor connecting Barrington Place Shops and Scotia Square to nearby office towers. It provides a bridge over Barrington, Hollis, and Lower Water Streets where they converge near the Cogswell Interchange. The section of walkway framed in Interchange passes directly over the former route of Buckingham Street, one of several avenues erased by the development of the mall.

A view of the installation from Hollis Street, where passers-by can peer in at the projection through an aperture in the window.

I created a detailed model of the installation using SketchUp. The hallway at the upper right is the gallery entrance. Interchange was at Anna Leonowens Gallery from March 25 – April 5, 2008. “The world of supermodernity does not exactly match the one in which we believe we live,” writes Marc Augé in Non-Places, “for we live in a world that we have not yet learned to look at. We have to relearn to think about space.”

Collaborations

The Garbage Poems
Topiary