September 11, 2017: Banff is a town located within Banff National Park in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Alberta. Elevation: 1,383 m. We'll be spending four weeks at The Banff Centre, at the foot of Sleeping Buffalo Mountain (Tunnel Mountain) overlooking the Bow Valley. The programme conceived by Latitudes (Lead Faculty), and with the participation of Irish artist Sean Lynch as Guest Faculty, asked how a geologic lens might affect artistic and curatorial practice. Participants: Justy Phillips & Margaret Woodward (A Published Event) based in Hobart; Semâ Bekirovic, based in Amsterdam; Caitlin Chaisson based in Vancouver; Becky Forsythe, based in Reykjavik; Chloe Hodge, based in London; Shane Krepakevich, based in Toronto; Caroline Loewen, based in Calgary; Penelope Smart, based in St. John's, Newfoundland; and Camila Sposati, based in São Paulo.
Views of the Banff Centre campus from the Vistas dining centre, the trees slowly starting to turn yellow.
Group photo of 'Geologic Time' 10 participants and Lead Faculty – participant Penelope Smart and Guest Faculty artist Sean Lynch are camera shy.
The door to Latitudes' Studio 317 in Glyde Hall.
Stunning views towards the Banff Springs Hotel and Sulphur Mountain from the GH 317 studio.
Campus tour with local legend Jim Olver, Customer Service at Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity, "passionate about river canoeing, geology, ski-touring & curling!"
September 16, 2017: Hike up to Tunnel Mountain, with panoramic views of the town, the Bow and Spray River valleys, and the Banff Springs Hotel site. The Stoney people (indigenous people of Western Canada) had long called the mountain "Sleeping Buffalo", as it resembles a sleeping buffalo when viewed from the north and east. The name Tunnel Mountain was given in 1882 when a proposed route for the Canadian Pacific Railway was to be blasted through. An alternate route costing much less money was put around the mountain, but the name Tunnel Mountain remained.
September 17, 2017: (Above and below) Hoodoos Trail descends to the river and follows it east and north under the cliff face of Tunnel Mountain. We were interrupted by a herd of elk (wapiti) so decided to turn around.
September 19, 2017: Lecture by the legendary Rocky Mountains expert Ben Gadd, 71 (pictured above), one of Canada’s better-known naturalists, geologists, and mountain writers.
Some of the rock specimens brought by Ben Gadd to his lecture – including some very fetching custom cushions sewn by his wife.
Ben Gadd during his Q&A with Geologic Time participants.
Gadd holding a 170-95 million-year-old coast mountains granite.
September 20, 2017: Morning visit to the archive of the Whyte Museum in Banff, a museum that collects, preserves, and exhibits all kinds of materials related to the cultural heritage of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
Bankhead is an abandoned coal mining town in Banff National Park. The mine began in 1903 and ceased operations in 1922 when it was generally understood that mining had not been profitable. In 1926, many of the town's buildings were moved to Banff and Canmore. Bankhead was located at the foot of Cascade Mountain, which contains high-grade anthracite coal deposits. The Bankhead coal mine was operated by the Pacific Coal Company, a subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific Railway, which needed the coal to fuel its steam engines.
Air powered (fireless) locomotive on display at Bankhead, Alberta.
(Above) Rhubarb grows out of jet-black anthracite: high-grade coal formed 100 million years ago. At its peak in 1911, the Bankhead mine that once stood on this site at the base of Cascade Mountain employed 480 men. Its tunnels produced half a million tonnes of coal that year, destined for the furnaces of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Miners came mostly from Poland, Italy, Britain, and Russia, while a group of 90 Chinese men were brought to Canada to sort rock from coal for minimal wages. Unwelcome in the town, they set up on the far side of the slag heaps, where they made a shanty town from scrap wood. They also created a kitchen garden, where they cultivated, among other plants, the hardy rhubarb that still thrives today. Apart from it being forbidden to remove plants from what has been a part of Banff National Park since its designation in 1930, the whole site is contaminated with dioxins from waste oil. So no crumble today.
A Jeff Wall-esque shot of the group by Lake Minnewanka.
September 21, 2017: (Above and below) Geology tour around campus with Jim Olver (Director of Customer Service, Banff Centre) "reading" the campus, its formations and fossils. Olver has worked at the Banff Centre for 35 years.
(Above) A well rounded composite rock and (below) finding rocks around campus.
September 23, 2017: (below and following six) Stunning Bow Lake hike with independent curator and BICI resident, Heidi Rabben.
September 24, 2017: (Below) Visual Arts + Digital department excursion to Lake Louise, named 'Lake of the Little Fishes' by the Stoney Nakota First Nations people.
Lake Louise's impressive emerald colour of the water is due to the silt-like rock flour continually being carried into the lake by melt-water from the surrounding glaciers. The tiny and uniform particles become suspended in the water, refracting blue and green wavelengths of light.
September 25, 2017: (Below) Monday weekly meeting and afternoon group seminar led by Caroline Loewen, Shane Krepakevich and Semâ Bekirovic around Don McKay's essay “Ediacaran & Anthropocene: poetry as a reader of deep time” inducing imaginative speculation through geopoetry. Guest Faculty Sean Lynch arrives from Ireland.
September 26, 2017: (Below) Afternoon lecture by "Geologic Time" Guest Faculty Sean Lynch on the value of conversations, Bardic traditions, stone-carvers James and John O'Shea, and fried chicken.
September 27, 2017: (Below) 1:1 sessions with Sean Lynch and a bit of time to dig into the library and read the beautifully written book "The Writing of Stones" by Roger Caillois (1970) with an introduction by Marguerite Yourcenar: "Those fusions, pressures, ruptures, imprints of matter in matter have left traces inside and out which sometimes almost exactly resemble writing and which actually do transcribe events from millions of years ago."
September 28, 2017: Evening seminar in the Banff Upper Hot Springs, elevated at 1,585 meters it's the highest hot water bathing in Canada.
September 29, 2017: (Below) "Geologic Time" hike to the Stanley Glacier in the Kootenay National Park in British Columbia, led by guides Rona Schneberger and Jane Whitney. At the base of Mount Stanley, we turned over some rocks and found 505-million-year-old Burgess Shale trilobites, soft-body fossils from the Eldon formation.
September 30, 2017: Second screening night led by Sean Lynch.
October 2, 2017: (Below) Final week of the programme. Last Monday's weekly meeting, this time under the snow. Third and final afternoon workshop led by 'Geologic timers' Becky Forsythe, Caitlin Chaisson and Chloe Hodge around Hito Steyerl's text "In Free Fall: A Thought Experiment on vertical perspective" (e-flux journal #24, April 2011).
October 3 and 4, 2017: Final 1:1 conversations with participants, and open studios by the Independent artists. October 5, 2017, 5—7pm: (photos below) The Open event ofGeologic Time in the library, followed by a visit to Illuminations, "a participative artwork experience by Sarah Fuller, Moment Factory and Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity".
The closing event of Geologic Time was conceived as a two-hour infiltration into the pages, shelves, and display possibilities of The Banff Centre library. Featuring storytelling, documentation, annotation, sculpture, video, conversation and other live situations, the event presented some sediments of the ten participants’ ongoing research and lithic collaborations. PDF of the event programme here.
Caitlin Chaisson has been researching a former experimental farm station in Agassiz, British Columbia, and a forgotten centennial time capsule buried under a granite marker there. Caitlin also presented a cut-and-paste station on the table next to the photocopier, and a display for the tall vitrine just behind it. If you plan on attending the Agassiz Fall Fair and Corn Festival around September 14, 2018, Caitlin will be there, lending an extra hand in the rocky relay that is the shape of time. Pickles may be involved.
Also on the main floor, Chloe Hodge made an arrangement of book spreads and purloined texts on a large desk on the side of the library that faces Sulphur Mountain. From 1956 to 1981 the latter peak was the site of a high-altitude geophysical laboratory, a Cosmic Ray Station. Chloe’s presentation filters the macro-perspective enabled by this buoyant micro-history into a speculative research workshop around freefall, the loss of perspective, and groundlessness.
Becky Forsythe has been making plans for a future exhibition inspired by the artist and naturalist known as Petra, who spent decades collecting stones and minerals from the mountains in Stöðvarfjörður, Iceland. Camila Sposati has been reflecting on the various “extractions” of a residency and exhibition that took place in the Amazon in 2004, gradually turning them into a script for a play. Becky and Camila are collaborating for this event on a procedural work using the library photocopier on the main floor (Receding Agate and Rhodochrosite). On the upper floor, they present two further collaborations via the media of “chairs and view” – Looking at the mountains and The mountain at my back – that recontextualize the interior space with respect to vistas of Mt Bourgeau, the Massive Range, Pilot Mountain, and so on.
Chloe is also one of eight 'Geologic Time' narrators whose readings can be heard through speakers on the main floor. What we are hearing are excerpts from Lost Rocks (2017–21), a growing library of short fiction books commissioned by Justy Phillips & Margaret Woodward (A Published Event). Described by the Hobart-based duo as “an accumulative event of mineralogical, metaphysical and metallurgical telling”, the books that have come into the world to date have been incorporated into the library’s holdings alongside a glossary and can be found in the geology section upstairs.
Caroline Loewen has put together documentation at the top of the stairs, along the narrow “bar”. Caroline delves deep into the story of sandstone in Alberta, a rock that gained widespread favour for building and decorative use following Calgary’s Great Fire of 1886. The black-and-brown Rundle Rock that was once quarried at the base of Banff-Centre-neighbour Mount Rundle and was used extensively in creating the Banff Springs Hotel also joins a conversation that anticipates an exhibition scheduled for next summer at Lougheed House in Calgary. (The same Lougheed dynasty lends its name to the Jeanne and Peter Lougheed Building (JPL), the Banff Centre’s media headquarters.)
For these two hours in the library, Semâ Bekirovic employed a number of external hard drives to act as pedestals for small stones. How many terabytes can a hunk of rock hold? What fragments of data detritus, chunks and grains of documents, broken-off images, or weathered files, might be read and written, stored or retrieved? We might ponder this as we stand by the “bar” looking towards Sulphur Mountain.
An audio narration drafted by Penelope Smart was also heard on the upper floor via a Bluetooth speaker in the stacks, near “memoirs and narrative”. Here, an image of the exquisite marble bust by Giovanni Strazza animated Penny’s writing during the last weeks. It came to St.John’s, Newfoundland, in 1856. Ring the bell to the right of the main door of the Presentation Convent adjoining the Basilica in St.John’s and maybe one of the sisters will let you see it.
Shane Krepakevich has been prototyping an exhibition display system, or running a 1:1 scale artist-run research institute, in his studio overlooking Mike MacDonald’s butterfly garden. Shane has been thinking about design impulses, transparency, support structures, and the refraction of light through glass, sometimes during the hours he has spent sanding and polishing a series of bronze paperweights, or prospecting the library for textual gems. For the library presentation, Shane made 8.5"×11" arrangements of found sentences, printed them, and then squirrelled them away inside selected library books, alongside images he had photocopied for his display system project.
A number of commemorative posters by Latitudes are presented in the meeting room upstairs. These mark some of the excursions and talks that have formed a part of the last weeks through the motif of the human hand as a geologic scale device.
Finally, if we ever need reminding about the mystery and power of geological formations, 'Picnic at Hanging Rock', the 1975 Australian film directed by Peter Weir, was screened on a monitor on the upper floor.
Special thanks to Mark Black, Brandy Dahrouge, Peta Rake, and Angela Schenstead. October 6, 2017: Exit interviews, pack up, and departures.
'Geologic Time' participants: Justy Phillips & Margaret Woodward (A Published Event), based in Hobart; Semâ Bekirovic, based in Amsterdam; Caitlin Chaisson based in Vancouver; Becky Forsythe, based in Reykjavik; Chloe Hodge, based in London; Shane Krepakevich, based in Toronto; Caroline Loewen, based in Calgary; Penelope Smart, based in St. John’s, Newfoundland; and Camila Sposati, based in Sao Paulo.