Wayfinding is a term that is used to designate various architectural features or design elements within a building or a built environment that help people to navigate their way through a space. Such items, including signs that lead you to the washrooms or to an information kiosk or map, are especially important in large complicated environments like the Arts Court. In the second issue, Rachel Kalpana James humorously invoked through a series of guided meditations the labyrinthine nature of the Arts Court building and the myriad organizations it houses. The redevelopment will give everyone involved another crack at designing a wayfinding system.
Meredith Snider’s video for this issue, “Hard to let go: I put my blindfold back on,” documents a performance by Lily Koltun that functions metaphorically as a guided tour of the Arts Court in the midst of its renovation. As Koltun passes through the building she sheds layer after layer of a comically burdensome outfit. Although you could interpret the dropped articles of clothing as markers that will help her to find her way back through the maze of the Arts Court, by the end you know that she has deliberately left them behind. Referencing the accrued layers of history in the building, the performance makes the Arts Court into a chrysalis whose final transformation is yet to be seen. The phrase “I put my blindfold back on” comes from a snippet of off-camera conversation and its use in the title suggests the artists’ preference for venturing into the unknown.
Tim Smith’s video “SAW Video January 2017” provides a portrait of the physical space of SAW Video as it currently exists. From his footage, historians could recreate the floorplan of the organization. The space will soon be completely gutted and turned into a redesigned and expanded Club SAW as SAW Video moves into its new location in the Arts Court building. Here you can see, before they are stripped away, all the layers of the space that have been built up since the organization moved into Arts Court in the ‘80s. SAW Video Director Penny McCann remains nonchalant in the face of such change; as she says in the video, “Give us a footprint and we’ll make from it what we can.” The new location is a new stage in SAW Video’s history as the organization continues to change and adapt to its new realities.
The guest artist for the eighth issue, Awar Obab makes a connection between successful artists and housecats in the video “Self-Serving and Apathetic.” The implication is that the more artists find success, the more “self-serving and apathetic” they become and the more complicit they are with the status quo. Obab is a member of the Babely Shades, a collective of people of colour from the Ottawa arts and music scene who seek to increase the visibility and awareness of local artists of colour and the issues of marginalized groups. Like SAW Video, the Babely Shades collective aims to create a space and find their way in the cultural ecosystem of Ottawa. Obab’s video is an important reminder that with success artists can lose sight of their original intentions and ultimately lose their way. It also serves as a caveat that arts organizations can lose their way too, as they grow into institutions and become less flexible and less responsive to the immediate needs of their communities.
Text by Michael Davidge