Saturday, November 12, 2016

Brandon Poole - The Principle of Original Horizontality - 2016

exhibit-v asked Brandon some questions about the installation
that he showed at the gallery Fifty Fifty Arts Collective in October 2016 .

Exhibit-v: Why The Principle of Original Horizontality and 
What it is the Principle of Original Horizontality ?

Brandon: The title of the show, The Principle of Original Horizontality, is a geological principle originally proposed by the 17th century Danish geologist Nicholas Steno. The principle states that layers of sediment are originally deposited horizontally under the action of gravity. It is a relative dating technique that helps us to understand folded and tilted strata. If the original orientation of the strata are horizontal, and we encounter instead tilted strata, then something has happened geologically over time for the strata to have shifted their orientation. The exhibition centers around a Streamline Modern house that was in the process of being built in 1946—the same year as the largest earthquake to hit Vancouver Island. The house, which is currently under renovation, is being seismically upgraded. I was interested in the intersection between the earthquake’s disruption of a physical representation of time, its effect on the strata, and the disruptive and reconfigurative act of historical research itself. I also find it fascinating that the house, while in its formative stages, experienced an earthquake—that its foundation had already encountered trauma and that, in an opportunity opened through drastic change, it is being structurally modified to withstand further (and greater) trauma.

E: Do you think a house made of wood is an organic entity that perhaps is able to somehow record such traumas as an earthquake or a mild fire ?

B: Yes and no. One way to think of the house might be as a place-holder—it holds a place, both physically on a site, but also conceptually. That the earthquake coincided with the house’s construction is an opportunity to develop that place-event relationship and draw out its metaphoric potential. Does the house record the trauma? Yes, physically it would record the trauma, though in this case I did not look for any cracked foundations or charred framing. But if you mean does the house hold the trauma in some way like we do, psychologically, then no, I don’t think so. The trauma of the earthquake on the foundation of the house is a quality that we read into the house; we posit the trauma, we maintain it as part of our idea of the house if it is meaningful for us, if it allows us to ask other interesting questions. I think that it is important to point out that no single element is necessarily privileged. I am not interested in foregrounding the relationship between the earthquake and the house exclusively. The title, for example, is only one way in, but there are most definitely other ways in. The work is held together by coincidences, and as such, each dominant quality can act as an entry into the work, because ultimately the backstory of the show is only one element in a constellation of coincidences, which also work themselves out materially, and which are experienced with the viewer’s body in the installation. 

E: Why the installation is covered with red paper ?

B: The red crepe paper was originally used in the manufacture of Christmas crackers. The original designer, builder, and owner of the Streamline Moderne house was also the owner of the Canadian Christmas Cracker Company. In the installation I have used the red crepe paper to “board” the 15ft high wall that formally mimics the façade of the house. I find the paper disgusting but also quite beautiful. It is extremely sensitive to moisture. When the paper was put onto the structure it was pulled taught and when I arrived the next day it had completely sagged. As it became more and more saturated it got heavier and in some instances became too heavy for the staples holding it to the studs —it seems to have settled now though, it has reached a maximum retention level. It has lost its sensitivity.

E: The wood you used for the installation has something to do with the type of wood used to build the house ?

B: The wood was bought from the Langford Home Depot. It was the only place open on Thanksgiving that stocked 16ft 2x4s. It has no direct relation to the house.

E: Why that house in particular ?

B: Last summer I was working on another project that brought me into the neighbourhood. At the time I was unfamiliar with the “Denison Cluster” of Art Moderne houses, so the style took me by surprise. I would read later, in a fantastic piece of research that catalogues all of the Art Moderne houses in Victoria, that this house is rated at five stars: “an excellent design; superb siting. Excellent condition.” This was in the mid 80’s, so the condition has deteriorated significantly over the 30 years since it was catalogued. Added to that, the house was empty when I originally filmed it. You could see right through the living room to the trees behind. So its decaying state combined with its vacancy seemed to contrast nicely with the optimism implicit in the style of architecture, which grew out of, among other influences, industrial design in the 1930’s. The style was closely linked to technology—airplanes, automobiles, and trains. It was a style of motion and speed, a precursor to our current accelerated situation.

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