Story and photos by Elle McLean
Imagine a building sitting alone, empty, desolate. Its purpose has been served… Or so it seems. In swoop a variety of artists and performers to transform the space into something creative and magical for all to enjoy. The event is called Wreck City, and it allows artists free range to bring to life any art, performance and multimedia pieces they can possibly imagine. Once completed, thousands of interested citizens and tourists can come by and view the creations.
Calgary has featured this art installation event four times over the past five years. The first piece was introduced in April 2013, named An Epilogue for 809, and it covered a whole neighbourhood of buildings that were going to be demolished in the community of Sunnyside. The next project that Wreck City curated was a wing at King Edward School that was set to be destroyed. This installation was named Phantom Wing, and it took place in September 2013. The third Wreck City piece was Demo Tape, at the old Penguin Car Wash in the neighbourhood of Ramsay, in June 2015. Demo Tape was done in collaboration with Sled Island, a weeklong music, film, art and performance festival that takes place in the city each year.
Wreck City: Residency is the project’s newest installation, this time taking place in four different spaces and running from July 27 until August 12, 2018. This is Wreck City’s first artist-in-residence program and it has allowed local, national and international artists to create in these spaces for five weeks prior to the public viewing. Residency was funded through the Canada Council for the Arts’ New Chapter program, which was created to help fund the arts in communities across Canada as part of the country’s 150th anniversary in 2017.
Wreck City aims to foster a sense of community and new understanding in the areas where the art installations and performances happen. Their goal is to create connections and conversations between a wide demographic of people and to utilize unique art spaces and forgotten places throughout Calgary as a means to generate a new sense of our particular time and place. The Residency installation has been broken down into four “cities” – Office City, Old City, Radio City, and House City, each with its own unique theme and characteristics.
706 7th Avenue SW
Office City is home to a mash-up of displays, all of them working together to create an eerie feel. Pseudo Café tries to bring back to life an old coffee shop by building an imitation of a happy life, while The Boy Who Keeps Ghosts tells the story of a boy who can speak to ghosts and travel to other realms. Office City also features the video display of footage taped at one of the other Cities, along with large abstract art.
908 17th Avenue SW
Old City takes place in the historic Devenish building and features tribute to the way things used to be. It hosts art displays representing childhood, as well as ideas built upon the demolition of the Deutsch Canadier Block, which was recently used as a parking lot for the Calgary Stampede. There is also a nod to the industrial kitchen that used to be in the basement of the Devenish, by means of the Electric Kitchen exhibit.
812A 16th Avenue SW
Radio City has curated several surreal experiences – a safe way to access the Dark Web, as well as surrendering your social media data to create a personalized virtual reality experience, and a “sales centre” that markets condos suited to your ideal lifestyle. The space also incorporates a tribute to Charlie Chaplin, and features an aesthetically pleasing exhibit called Pink Champagne, in which figures have been carved out of pink soap.
2240 33rd Avenue SW
House City is located in the neighbourhood of Marda Loop and spans the area of two residential houses and yards. Featuring colourfully painted homes and driveways, a performance garden restoration, a basketball court, and a mirror on top of the garage that broadcasts footage over to Office City, House City can be taken in with a single glance, but it is highly recommended that you get lost in all the little details.
The magic and surrealism of Wreck City is something that cannot be described, and must be experienced for yourself! Head down to one or all four of these locations to view the Cities. Wreck City: Residency runs until August 12 and is free to the public. Visit their website for operating hours, performance times, and exhibit details.