Often when I am in the Grove I am struck by the tension between the rigidity of the urban spaces we inhabit, and the fluidity of the imaginative spaces that are reconstituting them.
I felt this tension last week at the Surrey Art Gallery at an exhibit titled: “The Grove: A Spatial Narrative.” The exhibit is a loop of sound recordings taken in The Grove during the month of August 2015 by artists Carmen Papalia, Andrew Lee and Phinder Dulai.
The exhibit is in the Tech Room, a plain room with a single bench facing in towards one of the corners. There are eight speakers attached at chest level across the two walls. The borders of the room are rigid and well defined, like the concrete buildings that frame The Grove.
Each of the eight speakers plays a separate channel of sound. The first sounds are earthy: the crows, the wind, the crunch of gravel. Buses can be heard pulling in and out of the Newton Transit Exchange. Snippets of conversations arise in the distance, just out of earshot.
Occasionally, a rhythmic “click, click, click” sound emerges. I realize that this is the sound of Carmen Papalia tapping his cane along the various surfaces in The Grove as he traverses across the space.
Carmen is an internationally renowned visually-impaired artist who explores the non-visual and “felt” elements of urban space through the use of sound and performance art.
Another set of sounds flows in and around the recordings taken from The Grove. It is a track of string instruments with gentle and, at times, haunting electronic effects. The sound washes in, advancing and receding from different locations in the room.
At times, the sound overpowers the conversation. I was frustrated by this at first, but soon realized that I could get up off the bench and stand beside the speaker where the conversation was taking place.
By moving around the room, I was able to eavesdrop on the sounds that make up my community: Borg playing the piano, Katie reciting poetry, Isabella talking about her book, stories of events and ideas that have emerged from The Grove.
The tide of electronic music continues to ebb and flow around the room. When one conversation fades away or becomes overpowered by other sounds, a new one beckons from another corner of the room.
The Grove is filled with incredible conversations. People in The Grove are dreaming beyond the assumptions and narratives that sometimes box us in.
There is, however, a fluidity to these conversation that may be lost to the passive observer. You do have to get up off of the metaphorical bench to “get” what is happening in The Grove.
Once we know that these conversations are happening and how important they are, we can choose to be a part of them.
I am grateful for Carmen, Andrew and Phinder for conceptualizing this artwork, and I am grateful for everyone else that played a role in the creation and construction of the exhibit.
The exhibit is on until December 13, 2015. I encourage everyone to drop by and immerse yourself in the exhibit. Give yourself a full hour if you want to experience the whole sound track.
Once you have experienced it, I invite you to leave your comments here. What did you think? Was there anything that surprised you? Are there conversations and gatherings happening in your neighbourhood that you would like to share?
Submitted by David Dalley