Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow (2018) by Lane Shordee, Caitlind r.c. Brown & Wayne Garrett. Hourglasses, brass, steel, electronics, sandstone, sand. Commissioned by cSPACE King Edward as part of the collection of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow is a site-specific art installation visualizing the complex passage of time as it relates to the historic sandstone King Edward School in our home city of Calgary, Canada. We made a project-specific blog that you can visit here. Below is an attempt to condense our process into one concise article.

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow takes the form of 105 hourglasses suspended overhead – one for each year from the King Edward School’s construction in 1912 until it reopened as cSPACE King Edward in 2017. The building is currently home to dozens of artists, arts organizations, a theatre, and a weekly farmer’s market. Over the years, King Edward School has changed form many times – from school, to cadet academy, to school again, to abandoned space, to current multi-use facility.

Time has become a thematic of the building. Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow speaks to the difference between time as a pragmatic measurement (Chronos) and time as an experience (Kairos), half the hourglasses measure universal time like a clock, and half measure personal increments of time collected through a public Time Gathering.

Ranging from the time it takes to “call mom” to the time it takes to “realize it was just a dream and you are no longer lying next to me,” you can read the brass tags attached to various hourglasses to understand the increment of time being measured in sand.

The hourglasses are filled with sand crushed from sandstone bricks collected during cSPACE’s renovations. Lane Shordee crushed the sands by hammer and bespoke device, refining the material into smaller and smaller particles. Because of the geological time it takes to form sandstone in the earth, we thought of this process as releasing time from the rock.

Smashed, ground, sifted, mixed, and measured into each hand-blown hourglass, the sand tracks 0 seconds to 4 hours in hourglasses measuring 5 inches to 2 feet in height.

Above photos by Elyse Bouvier

The process of filling hourglasses was long and arduous, as the handmade nature of each aperture made it difficult to measure sand by weight. Instead, we timed the flow of each hourglass, correcting the quantity of sand as necessary and re-timing, correcting and re-timing, correcting and re-timing.

Downpipes were constructed from raw brass and machined by our artist team (Wayne Garrett used to work as a Machinist).

Above photos by Elyse Bouvier

We built the metal armatures holding each hourglass (with help from local welder Rob Reuser), constructing the forks with steel and brass-plating the final components. Brass was used as a reference to traditional time-keeping devices, matching the era of the sandstone building with its brass handrails and other detailing.

We initially thought we could fasten the installation directly into the ceiling, but the heritage nature of the building meant that the ceiling was not structurally solid enough to hold the artwork. Instead, we built an engineered grid system to hang hourglasses – which ended up being a convenient compositional tool and device for masking electrical wires.

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow is a kinetic artwork. Every few seconds, different hourglasses flip mathematically, controlled by motors, sensors, and microcomputers. An internal clock uses GPS to ensure the hourglasses flip on schedule, regardless of power outages or electrical issues. At noon and midnight every day, all hourglasses flip in a wave passing through the entrance. Our programmer was Paul Jarvey.

Viewers who frequent the space will eventually learn to read these movements as the ticking of an intricate clock, mapping universal time in relation to abstract, personal measurements of time.

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow uses the hourglass as a symbol of non-linear time, drawing a relationship between the sandstone school’s past, transitional present, and the uncertain future yet to come.

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow is included in the permanent collection of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. We were one of three finalist teams winning an open call to Alberta artists. The commission was awarded by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts in partnership with the cSPACE Projects through the City of Calgary 1% Public Art Policy for long-term display in the historic entrance of cSPACE King Edward in Calgary, Canada.

Two other public art commissions were awarded, one to daniel j. kirk & Katie Green, and the other to Lane Shordee, Caitlind r.c. Brown & Wayne Garrett (via an independent jury) for long-term display at cSPACE King Edward.


Special Thanks to the cSPACE Team (Deeter Schurig, Karilynn Thompson, Reid Henry, Francois Ouellet), Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Elyse Bouvier, Dane Ulsifer, Lewis Liski, Gillian McKercher, Guillaume Carlier, Paul Jarvey, Mike Corbiell, Alia Shahab, Joanne MacDonald, Ivan Ostapenko, Rob Reuser, and all the cSPACE tenants, community members, friends, and artists who contributed intervals of time to this artwork.  Thank you!

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