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Excavation/Installation

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Introduction to the exhibition in the Fringe Gallery, 1994, Edmonton

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Excavation.

This unique exhibition came about in1994 when our newly purchased (1992) building on Whyte Avenue  needed some major plumbing repairs in the basement due to clogged sewer lines from many years of operation as a restaurant.

Artist Robert Von Eschen was our maintenance man at the time and,  with the help of our son Paul Bradley, started the excavation. They jack-hammered through layers of cement and hard packed dirt across the whole gallery floor to reveal the troubled drain lines. The dirt had to be dug out by hand and piled up on the floor alongside the trench. We removed the existing wooden floor panels and most of the old broken cast iron sewer lines. The two existing wash rooms on the east wall were demolished. When the last wall came down, it revealed a smoky, tanned -   coloured cinder block wall which is still there today. It was at this point I saw the opportunity for a major exhibition.

Installation.

The plumbers had by now finished installing new lines. With the new concept of an exhibition in mind, the work took on another meaning. The pace became slower and more contemplative. In the trench by the east wall, I left some of the old cast iron pipes in place parallel with the new plastic plumbing for comparison between the old and the new. The heaps of dirt on the floor were raked into organized mounds. We filled the open trench with fresh sand around the new lines and then raked the sand, inspired by Japanese garden concepts. Every found object became interesting. I turned over the old floorboards and found interesting patterns from years of dirt and moisture. They were installed on the walls around the fake window on the south-west corner of the gallery.  Bits of cast iron plumbing were saved. Some of them were smeared with old grease and covered with rust which we scraped off and saved and later put out for display on petri dishes. I included old transparencies of the human figure from posters I had made up earlier. Suspended from the ceiling by the smoky wall and the east wall amidst disconnected plumbing parts and an intravenous installation, they gave a reflection of the human presence  The walls were painted pure white in stark contrast to the dark mounted floor boards. The floor was swept clean and old light fixtures installed to cast shadows and subdued lighting. For audio effect we recorded sounds of toilets being flushed and running water gurgling through water pipes. To finish it off, a bridge was installed across the open trench so that visitors could enter into the whole space. Cushions were placed on the floor along the west wall for viewers to sit and contemplate.

 

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