From August 13th to August 18th I participated in Felix Kalmenson‘s new art residency project “Water Walk Sky” on Toronto Island. After helping Felix with the floating room project during the New Traditions festival, Felix asked me to be one of the first artists to participate in the residency.
The first week of the residency was spent helping Felix weatherize the cube to withstand rain and cold. We used plastic siding usually found on buildings in the suburbs. It created a funny juxtaposition, as if the cube was liberated from a plastic environment and escaped to the nature of the island. One night while putting up the siding it started to pour rain and we worked all night through a thunder storm to get it finished. Working in a bathing suit in warm summer rain was very exhilarating!
Once the siding was complete I started working inside the cube. I had been given a huge roll of metallic tarp from Laura McCoy and used it to line the walls. I lined the floor with blue tarp… water floor. Then I started working on a sculptural piece on one of the walls to use as a reference for a series of paintings that I would paint while staying in the cube.
The end of the first week of my residency coincided with the ALLCAPS festival. Due to bad weather forecasting, I knew that it would rain all weekend and decided it would be best to build a temporary roof to shelter my installation. I worked with a friend and fellow painter Jonathan Edward Mayhew and built a temporary roof. Jonathan taught me some new skills and showed me different folding and darting techniques that he learned while attending fashion school. We built the roof out of an orange tarp and used a denim darting technique to make the seams waterproof. When lit from inside it created a beautiful orange glow.
On the day of ALLCAPS festival we tried bringing the cube over from the work yard to the water but was met with some trouble. One of the wheels snapped off in the move due to mud from the rain and we had to park it in the main space near the stage. At first what seemed to be a disappointment turned out was a blessing in disguise since the cube was now located right near the camping area and had more accessibility to festival goers to view.
During the ALLCAPS festival people were invited to enter the cube and look at my sculptural installation. The response was interesting as the piece itself was very reflective and would change colour at different times of day, and also reflect the viewers who stood before it. Over all the response was good and people liked to interact with the piece and also get shelter from the rain.
What was extremely exciting was that night, due to being cooped up all day inside because of rain, the weather cleared up and everyone seemed to gravitate towards the cube. Next thing you know, someone starting DJing, James Gardner from VSVSVS hooked up some decent speakers and a sound reactive strobe and we had a full blown dance party on our hands! The cube turned out to be the hottest club on the island that night, and Felix had to play bouncer at the door because of load limitations and could only let so many people in at a time so a line up was created to get in! It was interesting to observe how in such a huge wide open space, everyone seemed gravitate to the smallest room possible for a dance party. I think maybe its because small spaces force you to interact, physically touch others and create more of an intimate social situation. Had an amazing time dancing within my installation.
The second week of the residency was spent working within the cube as a studio and painting from the sculpture as a still life. One night I worked too late and I missed the last ferry and decided to sleep the night in the cube. It was great! I could hear all the beautiful crickets just out side the door. Other than that the island was very quiet and peaceful.
After ALLCAPS, someone had left me a small metallic blue balloon tied to the cube. I brought it in and it effortlessly became part of my sculpture. It would dance and sway in the breeze and keep my company as I worked. It reminded me of being a young girl and one of my first best friends was a heart-shaped helium balloon man I had received as a gift for my birthday. I took this balloon around with me everywhere. I must have been 3-4 years old. The day the balloon deflated, I remember vividly now. I lost a dear friend that day. Its so funny, I hadn’t thought of it for all these years until this blue balloon appeared. Simple objects triggering memories of simpler times.
Another unexpected surprise during the residency was that after the crazy dance party the night of ALLCAPS, the blue tarp that had been lining the floor had been worn down by all the dancing and created an interesting texture to the tarp. The lines in the tarp etched in by the feet of so many people dancing and having a fun time! What an interesting marking process! I was so excited by the textures and lines created that I decided to stretch the tarp material over stretchers and create them into their own piece. Relics of such an amazing night.
At the end of my residency, Felix, Casey Wong and I repaired the wheels and gathered a bunch of people and got the cube into the water. It was a crazy mission but it worked! I set my installation up and got prepared for the opening. I set up the paintings in the room across from the actual sculpture itself. There was a lot of reflexivity going on in that room. Felix came by with a huge bowl of watermelon for the opening.. a reward to those who trekked so far across the lake to make it to the reception. I think Blue Balloon liked its portrait… as I caught it self-reflecting.
Performance artist Kaitlyn Till-Landry was in town from New York and was invited to come and do a performance on the dock close to the cube. She recorded herself posing in a thugged out outfit on a live online web-cam snorting whey protein. She then entered the cube and immediately showed the video afterwards. The immediacy of the video performance was uncanny, and to think it being on a dock, on an island, in a floating cube. The internet is magic!
Overall my experience in the floating cube was amazing, unexpected and refreshing. It felt so exciting to be part of a project unlike anything else. It seemed fitting for me at the time personally because I was also in the process of moving my art studio into a new space, and Water Walk Sky seemed to bridge that gap and make tangible the feelings I was experiencing. Moving onwards, flowing, changing and adapting. Cube of dreams.
Thanks to all who helped with the project and to those who came to show your support.