Lens / Lends

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Svea Ferguson, lens popping volunteer

Collectively, 33 Calgary-based friends, family members, and volunteers helped pop, clean, drill, count, and package 15,000 lenses for sea/see/saw. This was a deconstructive process, bordering between brute force and guilty pleasure. Anyone with glasses knows how tenderly you treat these objects – they’re expensive, precious, and essential for sight. Purposefully breaking them was satisfying, and trying them on first was also enjoyable – a masquerade of sorts.

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Martha Zed, lens popping volunteer
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Marina Skulsky, lens popping volunteer / my Mom

In many ways, this was a hugely enjoyable process (thanks mostly to our friends, a few brews, and some sunshiney afternoons!) However, there was some urgency to the process, based on the lenses’ final destination.

Turkish Customs is renowned for their strict regulations. Because the ultimate fate of sea/see/saw (post-exhibition) remains to be determined, the lenses were imported on a permanent basis – a tenuous process for the museum staff. Apparently, Turkish Customs would want to hand-inspect each object being shipped, for a total of 15,000 objects! While we weren’t sure whether Pera Museum would be able to successfully import our Canadian lenses into Turkey, we decided to continue popping lenses on faith, hoping that hundreds of hours invested by our friends wouldn’t be in vain.

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Daniel Kirk, lens popping volunteer
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Kelsey Tovell, lens popping volunteer

Because Turkish Customs are so problematic, we tried contacting the Canadian Embassy in Ankara to assist with shipping logistics – but to no avail. Similarly, the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa couldn’t help us. After many telephone calls, we managed to track down the person at Canadian Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development in charge of Non-Classified Shipping – essentially, the woman with the power to wield the diplomatic bag. For larger art exhibitions (like the Andy Warhol show) Pera Museum has successfully requested use of the American diplomatic bag to temporarily import artworks into Turkey. Unfortunately, after a few additional e-mails, our contact informed us that the Canadian diplomatic bag can only be used to import documents. And so we were back to square one.

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Luckily, throughout this process we were also contacting shipping companies in Turkey, and we managed to find one that was optimistic about the possibility of getting our lenses through Customs. It would be expensive, but it was possible. The Museum approved the shipment, and we had a week to finish prepping everything for shipping.

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Daniel MacCormack, lens popping volunteer
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Ryan Scott, lens popping volunteer

While challenging, we regard this process as a cultural exchange of sorts – from Calgary to Istanbul. Many thanks to our friends, (many of whom are tremendous artists, musicians, writers, and talented people in their own right), for all their help: Alex Mitchell, Alia Shahab, Andrew Cook, Ben Clayton, Brendan Kane, Cayley Hanrahan, Clare Duckett, Daniel Kirk, Daniel McCormack, Desiree Nault, Elaine Weryshko, Eric Heitmann, Jamie Maxwell, Jessica Wittman, Joanne & Jonathan MacDonald, Kaili Jensen, Katie Green, Kelsey Tovell, Kora Morris, Lane Shordee, Marina Skulsky (my Mom!!!), Martha Zed, Melanie Boisvert, Melissa McWilliams, Michael Tan, Mike Corbiell, Nan Nassef, Nikki Martens, Rachael Brown (my lil sister!!!), Rory Allen, Ryan Scott, and Svea Ferguson.

In case you’re wondering, all the broken glasses frames are going back to the Calgary Lions Eyeglass Recycling Centre and sent to California for recycling (with a credit of $1/lb going back to CLERC’s vision program). The Lions Club sends used eyeglasses to vision impaired people in over 75 countries around the world! Keep them in mind next time you change styles…

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