On the first of our many walks on Elbow Island, we were bursting with thoughts, observations, and ideas. We looked for somewhere on the island to sit down and discuss, but we soon recognized that (aside the foliage or the dusty bank) there isn’t really anywhere convenient to sit, to rest and talk, or watch the river.
Observing nature requires a momentary pause to observe, listen, and feel a place. As part of The Wandering Island, we began considering ways to create “together spaces” by combining the functionality of seating with the thoughtfulness of art.
With this in mind, we proposed benches as artworks on the island, to be designed and built by artist teams. We selected three sites along the North side of the island, at intervals on the trail where wanderers might want or need to rest.
Benches are for many things – for resting, daydreaming, conversing, escaping, watching, and much more. While a person can use a bench alone, they’re intended to accommodate more than one person, sitting together.
Because designing and building a bench is a specialized skill-set, we directly approached three teams of artists with carpentry + fabrication skills, inviting them to create seating that stretches the parameters of what a bench can be – provided that it can still be used for sitting on. Bench artists include:
Each team is a duo of artists with an intimate relationship: a father/daughter team, a longtime friendship, and former partners. We asked artists to create a sitting space along the Elbow River that is their ideal “together” place – whatever that looks like.
Below are the benches each team proposed, in their own words. You can read more about the artists here.
Bridging Whirlds | Laura + Michael Hosaluk | Site 1
A Creator’s core desire is to create things of enduring value not only in form but in formlessness. A bench acts as the vehicle for one or more to gather; an opening to belong in the interconnectedness of life. A place to sit in the experience of inner expressions combined with the outer world that surrounds. How can the viewer influence the space? How does the space influence the viewer? How often do the two exist at once?
This installation represents imaginative environments that bridge the conditions to invent creative possibility found in viewing our Earth as truly ‘ours’ rather than “mine”.
Late Lunch | Jeremy Pavka + Sean Procyk | Site 2
Late Lunch is a monument to the mundane. The work depicts an ad hoc break area abandoned by two laborers performing work in a secluded section of The Wandering Island. The remaining still-life captures the condition of necessity; utilitarian tools transformed into objects for leisure. The work aligns with the common experience of encountering the traces of human refuse in and around naturalized areas. The placement of the wheelbarrows within the island trail system offers park users an unanticipated site for rest, as well as an intimate place for reflection. The ready-made design is meant to encourage conversation between users, as well as between users and the surrounding ecosystem.
Sun Chairs | Susan Clarahan + Joel Staples | Site 3
Located at the southwestern point of Elbow Island Park, the final bench was designed and built for the sunniest locale on the island. The Sun Chairs invite rest and relaxation, recalling beach loungers next to swimming pools or the ocean. They are meant to support a moment of gathered attention, with soft focus upon the river, the sun, the stars in motion. With the back of the chairs angled towards the sky, our perspective can shift to what is above and beyond.
As these benches move from concept into reality, artists are accommodating for pragmatic, spatial, and environmental considerations, working in collaboration with the site planners, the City’s ecologist, engineers (where necessary), and the general contractor to install footings on Elbow Island Park. It’s not straight ahead – there are unexpected challenges – but, at the end of the process, at least there will finally be somewhere to sit. Together.
Above: Artists presenting their benches to each other. Photos by Diane + Mike Photography