PETER FLEMMING | CANOE
August 3 – September 6, 2006
Artist’s Talk & Opening Reception: Sunday, August 6, 4:30 PM
My art practice involves the use of custom electronics, home brew mechanical devices, machine processes, industrial objects, hardware store purchases, obsolesced or cheap consumer technology, and/or computer code cut-and-pasted together in some combination.
The work ranges from networks of small devices to large-scale installations. I see these as the electro-mechanical equivalents of short stories. Instead of paragraphs, sentences, words and letters I use nuts and bolts, batteries, metal and electronic components to consider themes
such as utility, efficiency, entropy, leisure and nature vs. technology.
I don’t have an engineering background. I attended art school, where I learned basic electronics, and picked up other things through tinkering in the studio. My practice is grounded in empirical observations of experiments with various techniques and technologies, cross-coupled with an interest in natural phenomena and human culture. In constructing automata that make use of repetitive motion I hope to open a small space for contemplation in which the audience can become temporarily absorbed.
SPECIFIC TO DAWSON: RELAXATION OSCILLATOR
The work here in Dawson is like an old vehicle in which I’ve put a new engine. Entitled Canoe, it consists of a 20′ long boat-like trough of water that provides a means for a gunwale tracking mechanism to slowly paddle its way back and forth, endlessly. Visually, it was inspired by all the bridges and boats of Halifax, where it was first constructed in 2001. Conceptually, it grew from an interest in technological obsolescence, and how things (like a canoe) can make shifts from utility-oriented to leisure-oriented and how this depend on place, culture and time.
It has experienced several major rebuilds since 2001. Most of them have been practical, but for Dawson I’ve opted for an experimental configuration that changes the nature, behaviour and context of the work. Normally, Canoe is shown indoors, and runs with a continuous, smooth motion on rechargeable batteries. In Dawson, it is shown outdoors, alongside the Yukon river, showing up in an absurd way the paleness of it’s artificial river. Additionally, the primary source of power is sunlight.
Making use of the long northern day, solar panels receive light, storing energy in cells (super capacitors) while the Canoe remains still. A custom circuit monitors the amount of charge, and when a predetermined trigger point is reached, it is dumped in the Canoe’s electric motor in a burst, allowing it to make a few strokes. The motion is intermittent, entirely dependent on the amount and intensity of sunlight, ranging from standstill to perhaps 1 or 2 strokes every minute in full light. The technical term for this type of circuit is a “Relaxation Oscillator.” I like this term because, if you remove it from its tech context, it points back to ideas about leisure and utility.
I am seeing this whole project as an experiment. The Canoe itself is a rigid, rules-based system of repetitive mechanics, preset circuitry and angular construction. I really like the idea of taking this type of system and placing it somewhere where it is effected and affected by factors that are not predictable or necessarily even known: elements, sunlight, the responses of passerby etc. Dawson somehow seems like the ideal place for this experiment.
Peter Flemming uses bits & pieces of discarded industrial objects, obsolesced consumer technology, machine processes, DIY mechanical devices and custom electronics cut-and-pasted into installation works. He received an AOCA from the Ontario College of Art in 1997, and an MFA (Media Arts) from the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design in 2001. His work has been featured across N. America and in Europe. Flemming has taught at the Alberta College of Art & Design in Calgary and the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design in Halifax. He currently resides in Montreal, where he teaches electronics Concordia University in the Intermedia Cyberarts Program.
Corrine Carlson and Alex Laverick for keeping it safe and cosy on it’s long trip
Byrun Shandler for generosity, tools, assembly and advice
Mike Yuhasz and the KIAC staff
(the former) Nova Scotia Arts Council