A Blog From Nanaimo
From the exhibition "Fielding Road" at the Nanaimo Art Gallery
With Marisa Kriangwiwat Holmes, CROTCH, Peter Culley, Megan Hepburn, Will Holder, Sky Hopinka, Willie Thrasher + Linda Saddleback.
Curated by Jesse Birch and Elisa Ferrari
Exhibition text (excerpts)
Jesse Birch and Elisa Ferrari
Fielding Road is an exhibition and event series that responds to the work of Nanaimo poet, art critic, and artist PETER CULLEY, whose daily practice of walking, writing, and photographing, brought him to closely observe spaces between rural and urban experience in and around Nanaimo.
This project takes its name from a stretch of roadway in Nanaimo that was cut off from its original use when a new highway was built in the 1990’s; it is a site to which Culley often returned to with his dog Shasta and occasionally with friends. In his essay “Walking in Nanaimo” he wrote: “By the time I rediscovered it, it had become a picturesque ruin—the roadway thick with moss and accumulated leaves and needles, the yellow dividers cracked and obscured under the canopy of conifers, alder, maple and arbutus. Another colony of ravens noisily dominates the stretch along landfill, scattering shards of packaging and bone, draping long strips of plastic from the trees.”
Until his passing in 2015, Culley kept a blog called Mosses from an Old Manse, named after a book of allegorical short stories published by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Mosses was a generative site for Culley to gather and share ideas, inspirations, and source materials from near and far, that informed both his writing, and his experience in Nanaimo. Later, his work with photography began to eclipse the written notes or web links. Culley’s pictures were predominantly observations from his everyday walks in South Nanaimo with his dog Shasta. An old hammer sunk into older earth, a new highway sliced across an ancient hillside; in Culley’s images, histories collide. When set in the context of his blog, the landscape of Nanaimo became imbued with the global literary and cultural references that already informed his reading of this place. Seven years after Culley’s passing, the site is no longer actively maintained and is susceptible to link rot, but we can still trace the author’s daily walks by following his images, taken on the frayed edge-lands between the country and the city.
For Fielding Road, MAYA BEAUDRY and MARISA KRIANGWIWAT HOLMES took the images Culley posted online, and the Mosses blog itself, as sources of inspiration and points of departure. Through their work, Culley’s images are extracted from the flow of digital media and transformed into sculptural objects, where they are brought to the fore and set in new relationships.
Among Culley’s photographs of suburban signage, dogs and debris, are gigantic triangular and circular structures of concrete and iron left behind by the mining industry that once extracted and distributed coal, dominating and decimating this landscape. Now rendered useless by economies and time, these leftover landmarks have become symbolic: images as much as objects. Responding to Culley’s work in Mosses, Maya Beaudry looks to the very structure of the blog itself as also a kind of outmoded support, but for the presentation and distribution of images. In Beaudry’s work for Fielding Road, a sculptural scaffold inspired by the angular forms of Nanaimo’s post-industrial architecture is shrouded in images sourced from Culley’s blog and printed on fabric. Culley’s images, when reconfigured through Beaudry’s installation, set structures from the past in a material conversation with everyday cast-offs and the modern effects of urban development. Through her process, Beaudry gives Culley’s images volume and stitches together different seasons, weathers, and paths. She stretches and folds photographic surfaces around the edges of the scaffold, forging alternate scales, patterns and perspectives. Beaudry speaks of fabric as “a membrane between body and architecture.” For Fielding Road, she sets the severe and disciplinary qualities of industrial architecture in relation to the comfort and softness associated with a material we trust to enshroud our bodies and furnish our homes. In Hammertown, the fictional place where the climax forest of Vancouver Island meets cosmopolitan France, Culley combines and weaves similar juxtapositions, interrogating materials and traces of activities in their sonic, tactile and olfactory manifestations.
a natural couch though no one sits—
back there ants would be a problem.
& the skunk cabbage fell in love with the daffodil.
—Peter Culley, “A Midsummer Cushion,” Parkway (2013)