Gallery Portage 1: Owen Sound

cutting the strings on the canoe

A painful sting-cutting ceremony.

After months of interaction at THEMUSEUM, the fishing line on the canoe had been under a great deal of stress. This was anticipated — this is art that is meant to be touched, and touching means wear and tear. The canoe is meant to be alive and to take on different shapes as it moves between galleries. Ultimately, this is a portage project in which the canoe undergoes several transformations en route back to Algonquin Park, where it was first christened in 2009 at the outset of the project.

All philosophising aside, it was very painful to take scissors to the strings of the canoe that had been visibly stretched beyond repair. In a matter of seconds I had undone dozens of hours of work, the contributions of several volunteers. Fortunately, it wasn’t necessary to cut all of the strings since some were still in good shape. Robert Alton at the Tom Thomson Gallery in Owen Sound assured me that the canoe could be shipped the 200 kilometres to the gallery without suffering any damage. Indeed, this was the case.

I traveled to Owen Sound with my star canoe-wrapping team, Adam Bradley and Cameron Stott. I shouldn’t call these guys gluttons for punishment — they had already wrapped about 7 or 8 kms of fishing line around the canoe for the first installation. On the other hand, Cameron’s tendency to turn canoe wrapping into an intense body-building exercise is cause for questioning the team’s “artistic intentions.”

To spare the backs, quads, and minds of the wrapping team, I decided to build an apparatus designed specifically for wrapping fishing line around a canoe. It took no more than a piece of threaded rebar, some wingnuts (no jokes please), and piece of metal strapping with holes. The result is pictured below:

Canoe wrapping device.

A fishing-line-canoe-wrapping-mechanism.

The device provides canoe-wrappers with a 100% increase in efficiency while improving the quality of the wrapping. Of course, the wrappers, being well-schooled in Karl Marx, Frederick Taylor, and the industrial revolution were not pleased with my under-ambitious design, and they decided to attempt yet another 100% increase in efficiency. Their efforts succeeded, and we ended up with a 4-spool mechanism that cut down the wrapping time to under 6 hours.

Adam and Cameron with the new, improved canoe wrapping gadget.

Cameron (squatting) and Adam with the new, improved canoe stringing apparatus.

Obviously, these students were trained in the Critical Media Lab. My thanks goes out to them once again, and also to Robert Alton and Virginia Eichhorn at the Tom Thomson Gallery. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Myth of the Steersman in Tom Thomson Gallery

Myth of the Steersman installed in the Tom Thomson Gallery.

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