Together with our frequent collaborator Lane Shordee, we are Guiding Artists for The Wandering Island, a site-responsive project on Elbow Island Park in Calgary/Mohkínstsis. Located on a small island in the Elbow River, the site balances precariously between city + nature, land + river, public + private, camouflaged + forgotten. The Wandering Island has a mandate to create slow art for the audience of birds, bats, beaver, fish, and the occasional curious wanderer.
In September 2021, Elbow Island hosted A Wandering Weekend, our first public event inviting visitors to explore The Wandering Island, learn more about the artworks and habitat, participate in a Blackfoot blessing, and listen to soundscapes in the landscape.
Thank you to our project photographer, Mike Tan, for beautiful documentation.
Late Lunch (wheelbarrow benches) by Jeremy Pavka & Sean Procyk. Ephemeral Perch (stone seat) by Lane Shordee
Things that both a relative and the river could say by Kablusiak
In the morning of A Wandering Weekend, visitors explored the island at their own pace. Guides were placed throughout the park (like docents in a gallery), prepared to speak to different elements of the island – from the artworks, to flood mitigation and fish habitat, to public art in the city of Calgary, and more. Viewers were encouraged to choose-their-own-adventure along the island’s pathways, following their feet through the landscape.
Bridging Whirlds (truss bench) by Laura & Michael Hosaluk
Some of the artists (including Jeremy Pavka and Lane Shordee) joined us onsite to speak directly to the community about their works, sharing their process, concepts, materials, trials and tribulations of developing new work in an active floodway.
Fish Ladder (stairs) by Caitlind r.c. Brown & Wayne Garrett
Visitors crossing the rock ford, with stepping stones by Kablusiak and stone seats by Lane Shordee
In the afternoon, Elder Pablo Russell shared a blessing for the island. He reminded us to listen to the plants and consider the timescale of the land, inviting us to listen to the trees. He shared a song with visitors on the island.
Local musicians Jennifer Crighton, Sarah Houle & Shane Ghostkeeper, and Who Cares? (Laura Reid & Jiajia Li) created Soundscapes in the Landscape, performing improvised musical sets in collaboration with the island itself. Audiences wandered the island as musicians played, moving into and out of phonic soundscapes as they walked.
Jennifer Crighton, playing her harp in the ephemeral side channel
Jennifer Crighton waded through the river, twinkling her harp. At one point, she slid into the soundscape of Who Cares? in a brief, spatial collaboration, before drifting along in the shallows surrounding the island.
Who Cares? playing on ladders in the island foliage
Who Cares? began their experimental classical performance perched on ladders, situated in the foliage just off the pathway on Elbow Island. As the performance unfolded, they began to traverse the landscape while playing – in recognition of the wandering nature of the event.
Closer to the mouth of the island, Sarah Houle & Shane Ghostkeeper used the archway under Mission Bridge to amplify their instruments.
Viewers watched their performance from the banks and island side-channel, peering under the historic 1915 bridge to hear the duos’ improvised soundscape as it resonated against the found architecture of the space.
Portraits of Sarah & Shane, Rio, Pablo, and their baby, and Who Cares? by Mike Tan
A Wandering Weekend ended with a bike-in screening in nearby Roxboro Park, featuring short films by project filmmaker Ramin Eshraghi-Yazdi. The screening highlighted six mini-documentaries about the process of conceiving, designing, and building The Wandering Island – one artwork at a time.
As visitors were settling on their blankets and lawn chairs, a slideshow of photos by our project photographer Mike Tan looped on the screen. Ramin and Mike hosted a Q&A after the screening.
You can watch Ramin’s films online here.
The Wandering Island continues to hold the imagination of all who wander here. As the seasons change on this little island in the Elbow River, it begins to slow down, to transition in preparation for Winter. We watch the leaves fall, and think about the unseen versions of this landscape, hidden in the strata of the earth and the curves of the land. The island is always moving, always growing, always changing – what will happen next?
Thank you to everyone who attended A Wandering Weekend!
The learn more about The Wandering Island, visit the project website.
Special thanks to our Wandering Guides (Jon, Jeremy, Jen, and Jaci), the musicians (Jennifer, Sarah & Shane, Laura & Jiajia), our amazing documentarians (Ramin, Mike, and Kara), the artists (Kablusiak, Susan & Joel, Jeremy & Sean, Laura & Michael), the neighbours (particularly Stephen & Caroline, Bob & Cynthia, Evan, Zev, and the Ward 9 crew), our Elder Pablo & Rio, The Mohkinstsis Guiding Circle and Jessica McMann, and to Brenda, Cayley, and Binder Productions for their guidance and work on the park screening.
This project would not be possible without an amazing crew of folks at Calgary Public Art: Jennifer, Jaci, Heather, Randy, Rowena, Alex, Sophia, and more. Thanks to our City of Calgary colleagues, especially Jon and Penelope. Gratitude to all the fabricators, engineers, and landscapers who have worked on this project to date, especially Year Round Landscaping, Lex3, Matrix Solutions, JAG Industries, and more. For a more complete list of credits, look here.
These lands hold us, and it’s with deep gratitude that we acknowledge the traditional territories of the people of the Treaty 7 region in Southern Alberta. Please read our full Land Acknowledgement.
All photos by Mike Tan.