After a few months of collecting, the Invisible City Survey is now officially closed. We’ve glimpsed, in passing phrases, short insights into a blur of people moving through this city (and beyond). Whether speaking with people on the riverwalk, or receiving anonymous messages from our online survey, each response drew a different corner of someone’s everyday experience into sharp relief. Now begins the next phase of our yet-unnamed public artwork: installation onsite.
Above: photos by M2M Machining, the Calgary-based company turning monuments for this yet-unnamed project.
Responses were beautiful and intimate, like whispered secrets, like small gifts, like poems, like jokes, like unfinished stories, like crumpled notes, passed between strangers. From the surveys collected, we interpreted responses into short increments of text:
TO THROW STONES AT PASSING TRAINS
VOICES IN MY EARS AND CLAY SCULPTURES
81 DAYS INTO THE FUTURE
TO RUIN; I CAN’T ESCAPE
IN THE CLUTCHES OF GLASS AND STEEL RECTANGLES
END OF THE LINE
OUVRIR LES PORTE
MY MIND CLEAR, MY SANITY BACK
ANYWHERE BUT HERE
DUST ON THE RIVER FLOORS
ECHO FAR INTO THE DISTANT COSMOS
… and so on.
Not all will be used, but we read each submission – sometimes waking up at 2 am to a buzz as my phone notified me of another entry. The experience was both humbling and satisfying, planting seeds of curiosity that may never be sated (what’s happening 81 days from now?)
After all was said and done, just under 450 people participated in the Invisible City Survey – 212 wrote submissions in person at our survey booth on the Bow River Pathway, and another 235 surveys were submitted online. In all likelihood, many of these submissions came from people we don’t know – expanding the community of this artwork into the public psyche.
As it was compiled, selected texts were inscribed into 12,000 brass monuments. We loaded our car to the gills with boxes of monuments (750 kg at a time) and occupied the basement of the Calgary Public Art offices, beginning the process of sorting text with a small gang of volunteers. Because of limitations of the process, there will be some repetition between monuments. By sorting the monuments, our hope is to create mixes of text that randomize reading for viewers seeing the final installation.
When we think about these monuments, we’re struck by how different each increment of text is: evidence of desire lines drawn by each contributor, individually. Some are hopeful, others are tragic, escapist, nostalgic, and funny – but all are mysterious.
We wonder how the monuments will feel together. Will increments of text create an esoteric poem set into the concrete next to the Peace Bridge? Will people visit their favourite fragments? Will certain phrases speak to different people at different moments, striking them at their moment of need (like reading a horoscope or opening a fortune cookie)? Or will text wear away almost immediately, rubbed by feet and eroded by nature?
We’re still in the middle of this process. The final ‘effect’ of this artwork is still invisible to us, still just out of reach. We look forward to everything that’s ahead.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the Invisible City Survey, and thank you to our volunteers thus far ❤