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Jackson Couse: Cultural Engineering, Interview 01: Sara Mailhot

In this series of interview excerpts, artist and volunteer Sara Mailhot describes Arts Court and its place in Ottawa’s downtown, our built heritage, and the arts community.

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Jackson Couse: ‘Scuse

Air compressor, recorded inside Arts Court in the hallway at the bottom of the bottom of the stairs near the jail cells on September 6th, 2015.

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Meredith Snider: The Green Space

The Green Space reflects on the history of one particular plot of land that will change over the course of the Arts Court Redevelopment Project with an objective to give weight to its prior ‘unofficial uses’.

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Timothy I. Smith: Truck Route 95 Southbound, August 7th, 2015

This bird’s eye view along Nicolas Street reveals the initial excavation stage of the Arts Court redevelopment site and the everyday traffic running adjacent to it.

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Issue 3

REVERSE ENGINEERING

The OAG Expansion and Arts Court Redevelopment project is now well underway, and it would be hard for anyone passing by the corner of Daly Avenue and Waller Street to be unaware of it. The sound of jackhammering and heavy machinery thunders from behind the hoarding, branded by the key stakeholders, that surrounds the construction site. A helpful sign informs passersby about the whistle code for blasting that would alert them to any imminent ground-shaking explosions. 30 seconds after 12 fast whistles, and boom, dynamite. Just inside the doors of Arts Court’s main entrance, a whiteboard displays the construction schedule for any given week, currently listing items such as rock removal, soil removal, jackhammering, and line drilling, as well as a blasting schedule. While the construction workers blast into the ground to establish the foundation for the OAG Expansion, the Cultural Engineering artists are extracting discrete elements of the redevelopment project, as if participating in a process of reverse engineering.

The artworks in this issue return to similar terrain in order to deepen their impact on it. Timothy Smith’s contribution, a video entitled Truck Route 95 Southbound, August 7th, 2015 offers a great view of the initial stages of the construction, but it also makes a pointed comment about the heavy traffic that is intractable to the area. Meredith Snider’s video, The Green Space, traverses a space that has now disappeared, which will also be the fate of the corridor she documented in her last installment. Though both videos reflect change, they also reveal perennial issues that face larger cities.

The guest artist for this issue, the photographer and filmmaker Jackson Couse, interviews artist, volunteer and fixture on the Ottawa arts scene, Sara Mailhot, in order to provide a kind of social portrait of the Arts Court. Couse also presents ‘Scuse, a preliminary field recording of the environment at Arts Court. Couse has taken an informal and conversational approach to the project, which he hopes will inspire further, more inclusive dialogue.

Reverse engineering is the process of taking an object apart in order to see how it was made and then perhaps to discover ways to improve it. The intention of the Cultural Engineering project is not only to document this historic change to Ottawa’s cultural landscape from the ground up, but also to involve the community and their voices in the process of its transformation. Share your thoughts @sawvideo

Text by Michael Davidge