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New art installation at cSpace pays tribute to historic Calgary school

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Suspended above the steps in a cloud of sand and glass, a new art installation is weeks away from transforming the grand entrance of the cSpace King Edward into an elaborate timepiece.

The kinetic installation is made up of 105 hourglasses filled with sand crushed from the leftover sandstone bricks from when the historic Calgary building was renovated. Meticulously filled to measure different passages of time, the motor-powered hourglasses will flip periodically until they synch up every day at noon and midnight to simultaneously restart.

Calling the piece “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow,” artists Lane Shordee, Caitlind Brown and Wayne Garrett started the permanent art installation one year ago, just before the century-old King Edward School re-opened as the cSpace King Edward.

“The building was still empty when we started working on this,” said Brown. “There was so much still left over – like shoes from Grade One students. The building had been vacant for 16 years at that point, so it was crazy to think that the kids who wore these shoes had graduated already.”

Artist and machinist Wayne Garrett works on the hanging hourglass fixtures, which are powered by arduinos and motors to keep the hourglasses spinning on time. JENNIFER FRIESEN / For LiveWire Calgary

When the King Edward School was finished in 1912, it was still surrounded by farmland and roaming horses. The iconic Marda Loop mammoth continued running as a school until it was closed in 2001 by the Calgary Board of Education, but it was purchased by cSpace in 2012 so it could become an arts incubator for artists and community members.

Determined to maintain the history of the architecture, cSpace preserved as much of the original structure as possible, while adding glass additions to blend both old and new.

Shordee, Brown and Garrett said that their artwork was inspired by this merging of these two centuries – specifically using sand and glass as a reflection of the site and an homage to its past, present and future.

“Having the contrast of an old sandstone school and the new glass wing seemed to tie together,” said Garrett. “And this is about time. An hourglass is the only time-keeping device that uses both those materials.”

The 105 hourglasses were chosen specifically in honour of the 105 years the King Edward School stood before re-opening as cSpace in 2017, and these hourglasses hold an array of times. The largest hourglass sits under the archway and measures six hours.

But some of the others measure irrational time.

The artists sent a request out into the community, asking Calgarians for more personal time measurements. In return, they received answers that were both poetic and comical.

They have hourglasses that measure the time it takes “to wake up and realize I’m not lying next to you,” the time it takes “for a partial hip replacement,” the time it takes “to have an orgasm,” and the time it takes “to read my morning memes on the toilet.”

“They’re all different times, and they’re all different stories,” said Shordee. “It’s like watching time in another way.”

Each of the hourglasses will be tied to a brass chain, telling passers-by what each hourglass commemorates and the exact second-count.

A rendering of what the final art installation will look like once it’s complete in a few weeks time. CONTRIBUTED

The art installation is set to be finalized within a few weeks, and the artists said they hope the piece connects people to the space and the idea of time, while sharing the experience of watching every hourglasses turn together at noon.

“We’re hoping a visual connection resonates with the glass and the sandstone and the time,” said Brown. “It’s the passing of time, and personal increments of time. I really hope it becomes one of those pieces that brings people together.”