26 February 2011

this little light of mine...

If you have been to the park lately, you may have noticed some serious construction work going on near the lodge.  Five enormous (now ice-filled) holes have been placed in and around the Gatekeeper's Lodge... and for the first few days of construction, I had no idea what was happening.  I had heard about the historic lamp relocation project, where the five Tower Road lamps were being taken down, restored, and then replaced, but I didn't clue in that the lamps were being placed around the Gatekeeper's Lodge until the small math region of my brain (finally) kicked in...

Detail of refinished Point Pleasant Lamp post - K. Ingram
Above is a beautiful detail of the lamp posts from Tower Road, Kenneth Ingram wrote a great little piece about the history, relocation and refinishing of the lamp stands for the Halifax Commoner.  I encourage you to read the article which outlines the work and informs park goers that the area around the Gatekeeper's Lodge will be designated as a Victorian-era zone.  My favourite quote from the article is by Larry Heighton, groundskeeper with the park for over 20 years:

“They have a discreet presence. Like a big oak tree that’s been here for years.”
To the best of his knowledge, no one visiting the park has ever commented on the lampposts... "Maybe they will get the conversation they deserve near the luxury of the Old Lodge,” Heighton said, refering to the brick building at the park entrance across the street from Young Avenue.

Heighton's comments led me to research the history of the Glasgow Corporation Lighting Department, the technology surrounding public lighting, and the vanished role of the lamplighter.

Glasgow Corporation Electric Lighting Department, 1892

Gas lighting was introduced to Glasgow in 1818, and at the time gas technology was called Inflammable Air, which to me is particularly magical.  The first gas street lamp in Glasgow was lit that same year, on September 5, but previously to gas technology, the only way to light public streets was to have wick lighting, which is the same now as it always has been: the power of the candle or oil lamp!  The Glasgow Corporation Lighting Department eventually changed its name to include 'Electric' at the advent of the invention of electric lights by way of the carbon arc lamp, the fluorescent lamp, and then the incandescent electric lamp in the 1870's.  

Public lamps (both wick and gas) during the 1870's were still lit most often by a Lamplighter, or Lichtie. The Lamplighter served several functions within a city, most obviously illuminating street lamps at dusk with the help of a long wick or pole, and sometimes a ladder.  The lamplighter would return at dawn to extinguish the lamps, replacing fuel, wicks or making repairs as needed.  Some cultures also regarded the Lamplighter as a watchman of sorts, keeping eye on the city when it was coming to rest, or rising for the day.

While electric lighting was a great deal safer for the general public in their homes, many areas of Europe continued the use of gas street lamps well into the 20th century.  The symbolic power of the lamplighter (as a carrier of light) has been employed in various religions and used as a character and metaphor in fiction and poetry.  In 1854, a novel called 'The Lamplighter' was written by Maria Susanna Cummins, and since then, the Lamplighter has appeared in writing from John le Carré's mysteries to Chapter 14 of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's 'The Little Prince', where the prince meets a lamplighter:

The fifth planet was very strange. It was the smallest of all. There was just enough room on it for a street lamp and a lamplighter. The little prince was not able to reach any explanation of the use of a street lamp and a lamplighter, somewhere in the heavens, on a planet which had no people, and not one house. But he said to himself, nevertheless:
"It may well be that this man is absurd. But he is not so absurd as the king, the conceited man, the businessman, and the tippler. For at least his work has some meaning. When he lights his street lamp, it is as if he brought one more star to life, or one flower. When he puts out his lamp, he sends the flower, or the star, to sleep. That is a beautiful occupation. And since it is beautiful, it is truly useful."

Lamplighting in Glasgow, 1955

Stay tuned to find out how this post will relate to my next planned performance in the Park during the month of March.  In the meantime, light a little candle in commemoration for the profession of the lamplighter.

19 February 2011

something old, something new

The old school-yard adage goes, "If you love something that much, why don't you marry it?"  Well, I love this park... and while I'm not preparing for any human-to-park nuptials, I did think it would be interesting to perform a something old, something new walk using an old map of the park, a new map of the park, and a series of photographs taken by the British Royal Engineers between 1870 and 1885 for inspiration.  I've been walking the park a lot this week, and it amazes me how much change is happening ALL the time.

Quarry Pond, 1875 and now
The quarry pond is said to have been excavated originally to mine the rock used in both the early Batteries and the Prince of Whales Tower.  Historically, the remaining dug-out site has been used for skating and a pond hockey rink, leaving only one question - why don't we still skate on Quarry Pond?

Prince of Whales Tower, early 1900's and now
Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, for which the Prince of Whales Tower was named, must have had a penchant for round structures, he is responsible for not only for the clock-tower at the base of citadel hill, but also the round building on the Basin side of the Bedford Highway, called the Round House Prince's Lodge, which is rumoured to have been constructed as a cottage for his French lover, Julie St. Laurent... salacious!

Guardhouse at Prince of Whales Tower, 1880
The Guardhouse was also known as the Gunners' Quarters, and when the Tower was armed, it was manned by the Royal Artillery.  In this particular photo on the left, a corporal from the Artillery stands in front of the house.  The stick construction to the left of the Quarters is said to have been used to farm and keep poultry.  The current site, pictured on the right, is still cleared and holds the sense of a once-purposed site.

Cambridge Battery, 1878 and now
Currently, Parks Canada is doing restorative work on the Cambridge Battery site, I can't wait to see the site in spring!  The Batteries were not only an armament site where guns were placed, and later canons, but they were guarded sites where ammunition was kept.  Both photos above show the Cambridge magazines (store area for arms, munitions, provisions and explosives in military operations).

4-colour lithographic botanical illustration, tree on Ogilvie Road in Point Pleasant (current)
I couldn't resist including an image of this amazing tree growing in the park and supporting lovely specimens of tree fungi.  Around the same time when the park was first landed by the British, Charles Darwin was in the process of publishing his first scientific papers.  Botanical studies were performed on grand levels, such as Darwin's travels, but also on a more modest level in Victorian homes as a means of displaying governance over wild nature!  As spring progresses, I will be exploring a project that involves terrariums and Victorian notions of mastery through collection, food procurement, and how that relates to survival theory.  I have started a collection of vessels at the Gatekeeper's Lodge which will become these self-sustaining environments.

Postcard, 1910 and now
We end our something old, something new tour-de-force back at the Gatekeeper's Lodge, which out of all the sites, I find this structure has remained the most unchanged by far over the last century.  The span of time stretching between this before and after photo is officially 101 years - and that is something to celebrate.

14 February 2011

everything is illuminated

  Video still of Gatekeeper's Lodge Illumination, Gothic-Revival Walk

A big thank-you to everyone who made their way to the Khyber ICA last night!  It was a great evening, and while I performed the Gothic-Revival walk on my own, an intimate crowd was gathered at the Khyber Building once the walk was finished.

To describe the process of this performance, I began at the Gatekeeper's Lodge in Point Pleasant Park, dressed in a MUSTANG survival suit outfitted with a 2-way radio (the MUSTANG suit is lined from head to toe with a thick foam layer, making it buoyant - and also explaining why I look like an orange snowman).  The start of the walk was marked at 7:00 pm with an emergency strobe in the lodge window, which you can see in the video  still above.  This strobe was eventually synched with another strobe in the turret window at the Khyber Building, eventually marking the end of the walk.

Gothic-Revival Walk at Inglis Street and McLean Street junction

As the walk progressed, marine flares were lit in front of buildings along the route that were also constructed in the Gothic-Revival architectural style (as both the Gatekeeper's Lodge and Khyber Building are), illuminating that building and my movement through the city.  The light from the flares created a roving beacon that attendees could monitor visually through binoculars placed inside the turret.  While I walked the route from Young Street, via Inglis Street, and finally to Barrington Street, viewers at the Khyber were able to keep track of my performance by listening to my radio communiques of current locations, from a receiver installed beside the third floor turret (orange box in photo of installation below) at the Khyber.

With flare in front of Khyber Building, 7:45 pm

Final Installation view, interior Khyber Building, 1588 Barrington Street

The final gesture of the performance was to synch the emergency strobe in the Khyber building with the strobe at the Gatekeeper's Lodge, after which I turned off the radios and shut the lights to the room.  The light from the strobe reflected against the silver solar blanket and bounced out from the turret window, making the flashes of light visible from  Barrington Street below.  The strobe was kept running into the night until the batteries ran out.

Emergency strobe visible in third floor turret
The use of survival strategies while exploring the history of Point Pleasant Park and the city of Halifax has let me bring a contemporary context to my archival research.  The aesthetics of survival gear provides reference to catastrophes that have occurred in the park and city's history, while simultaneously discussing themes of apocalypse theory, end-of-times movements, and social malaise as we approach the year 2012.  

11 February 2011

gothic revival walk

Gatekeeper's Lodge in summer, 1940's

In one of my first posts, I mentioned the Gatekeeper's Lodge was a fine example of Victorian-Gothic architecture - she's a beauty, but not alone in the city of Halifax.   This city holds gorgeous buildings that echo Victorian-Gothic (or Gothic Revival) style!  Wandering along Barrington Street, you may notice the defining features of Gothic Revival style; arched windows, ornate moldings and decorative trims, strong peaks, roof dormers and - low and behold...  TRACERY abounds!  What is tracery, you ask?  (at least I hope you do, because I had to).  Tracery is ornamental stone pattern-work, typically found in the upper part of a Gothic window.  But I digress...   The other Victorian-Gothic of particular interest this week is the Khyber Building, where tracery seems to be almost as plentiful as above the windows as at the Lodge.

Originally the Church of England Institute, this building was designed by Henry Busch, an architect who also planned the Public Library at Province House, the Halifax Academy, the Bandstand in the Public Gardens, and many other Halifax edifices. The Church of England Institute was a building that hosted religious lectures and sermons, as well as the Morton & Co. Provincial Bookstore, which also seems to be particularly focused on religious literature.  Hey, it was a revival!

Below are two examples for notices from the Church of England Institute and the Provincial Bookstore, printed in 1891.

Alberta Microfiche Archives

With an aim to engage and connect these two rich historical buildings, I will be performing an illuminated walk in Halifax, on Sunday evening, February 13, as a part of a performance series organized by Noah Logan and the Khyber Institute for Contemporary Art.  The walk will begin at the Gatekeeper’s Lodge in Point Pleasant Park at 7:00 pm and will progress through the city along Barrington Street to the Khyber.  

I will be using contemporary survival strategies during the performance walk so as to link the two buildings and acknowledge their enduring presence and role as founding structures in Halifax’s Gothic Revival period.  If you would like to view the walk from a cozy interior, you can monitor my progress remotely by visiting the third floor turret of the Khyber on Sunday evening between 7:00 pm and 9:00pm.  If you are more of a participator, I would love for you to join me in front of the Gatekeeper's Lodge at 7:00 pm - sharp! - and we'll illuminate the city together (see route map below).  If you prefer a historical context for the performance walk, I hope you visit this gorgeous interactive map of Halifax in 1879, which features Point Pleasant Park prominently.

Before I say farewell for this post, a special thanks! goes out to Sue Carter Flinn, editor at Quill & Quire, for her mention of The Gatekeeper's Lodge blog on her Akimbo Hit List.  Documentation of the performance on Sunday will be posted asap!

06 February 2011

throwing down the gauntlet

Historically speaking, there are few things that can rival a good, old fashioned gun duel, and Point Pleasant Park has one such duel in its own history.  While reading the book, Historic South End Halifax, by Peter McGuigan, I thought the author would lend a general description of the Prince of Whales Tower, or Martello Tower as it is commonly referred to, when it launched into an extraordinary tale of two men dueling for their honour on site at the tower.

NSARM no. 1983-310 number 1592

It was March 14, 1840 (almost 171 years ago) when the duel took place, and John Haliburton, a lawyer, had taken offense to remarks Joseph Howe made in a legislative public address about Haliburton's father, a chief Justice in Halifax.  Rather than fight words with words, John challenged Howe to a gun duel of pistols at dawn.  According to McGuigan's account:

"The two met outside the tower.  Standing back to back, they walked fifty paces, counted by their seconds, and turned.  At the drop of a handkerchief, they fired.  Haliburton got his shot off first, trying to kill Howe, but missed.  Howe, however, fired in the air, showing himself to be the better person.  He said, "I will not deprive an ageing father of his son."  Haliburton was lucky not to have been charged with attempted murder, jailed, and disbarred."

Haliburton (left) and Howe (right)

Despite my prairie roots, I have little at-hand knowledge of the proper rules of a duel, but since Haliburton and Howe's duel seemed so well orchestrated, I thought I should brush up on proper duel protocol.  Historically, a duel would begin when an individual made notice of their displeasure with an unforgivably rude gesture, such as dropping their glove on the ground before them (hence the phrase - throwing down the gauntlet) and demanding satisfaction from the offending party.  

Duels, when fought with swords, could be pursued to several points: first blood, severe wound, or to-the-death.  Sword duels at dawn were so poorly lit that many men brought lanterns with them so as to see their opponent.  This tactic proved so popular that fencing positions were developed to accommodate a lantern held in the left hand of the fencer.  In a pistol duel, such as the one Haliburton and Howe entertained, no lantern is reported to have been held, but their objectives were none the less clear, "each party would fire one shot. If neither man was hit and if the challenger stated that he was satisfied, the duel would be declared over. A pistol duel could continue until one man was wounded or killed, but to have more than three exchanges of fire was considered barbaric and, if no hits were achieved, somewhat ridiculous."  Indeed!

While Haliburton remains a popular namesake in the province, Halifax seems to have recognized Howe's composure and restraint in the face of the Martello Tower Duel for posterity with a statue located outside the legislative grounds of Province House in downtown Halifax in 1904, the centennial anniversary of his birth.