food culture

Photographic Punk: Another Look at the Urban Okanagan

Yesterday, I shared a vision for my city, Vernon, in the North Okanagan, based around the notion of steampunk, an art form usually praised for funky flea market jewelry made from recycled watches, and novels with computers, dragons, and zeppelins all flying around together having great, low-tech adventures. I see this exciting new way of considering urban space to have the capacity to unite communities into common vision (because it is already universal) and to provide as well clear terms for creating healthy interfaces with the earth, using terms rooted in young, popular culture, where any future will be created. While I work out some more detailed principles, I’d like to leave you with a thought. It’s about photography. These are all images of humans. What you will see as you scroll down are (bear with me here) four humans. Have a look at the beautiful creatures…

zone Human #1

A steampunk creation of brick, asphalt, a power pole, paper for recycling, a glass window,  a magnificent art work of natural gas piping, and some handsome sturdy posts, as part of the human-automobile war. This human lives in an alley between the Vernon Art Gallery & Civic Parkade and a discount clearance outlet selling anything and everything in no particular order.

We’re working on the primary sculptural principle that sculptures are representations of the space of a human body in time, but those are big words for something that photography has made simple. Here’s our second human:

planter2Human #2

Empty flower planter and dry fountain at the Vernon Museum & Archives. Budgets are tight. Flowers and water appear to be the first thing to go. Even though dry, though, the human still appears to be doing well.

It is one of the principles of photography that everything it captures takes on significance. It is an industrial, machine process so perfectly pitched to human consciousness that it fools us every time. It is, in other words, a form of sculpture. More on that in a second, but first, human #3…

lter Human #3

Recycling waste cowering for shelter around a sturdy pole, becomes, when meshed with a muralized wall, a human, bravely facing the future, although with a certain amount of unease.

It was Mary Shelley who first created the steampunk world, right when photography was invented. Her creation, Frankenstein, was a novel cobbled together out of experiences, ghost stories, and folk tales. It’s star, Frankenstein’s monster, was cobbled together out of dead body parts, reignited by a spark of electricity, and wanting a life of its own: pure steam punk! Also, pure photography. Here’s Human #4.


Human #4

A particularly bright-eyed specimen, with very intriguing body alterations and decorations. A splendid example of steampunk. Backside of the Royal Canadian Legion.

Now, one might wish to call these humans “robots”, but I’d prefer that we called them images of contemporary Vernon citizens. I think they’re beautiful, and can be brought together with the other, fleshier humans, who live amongst them, to create a new language.  I am intrigued by how photography, which in a way (through its industrial nature) led society down the path towards being divorced from the earth, can now lead us back by helping us to see where its effects sit within our cities. I think these photographs are sculptures. I think Vernon itself is one giant spiritual photograph, one that is dynamically alive, as here in the one functioning civic fountain …

splish Notice the Clock!

Photography traditionally achieved its effects of aestheticizing the world through the addition of time: a photograph of anything 100 years old is automatically art. It’s a fascinating effect. Now, though, we have the Vernon Post Office …womantreeclose

A Woman’s Tree Fear

… the effects are immediate, and time has saturated all aspects of the urban environment. See how I got to steampunk? All those lockets and earrings made from old watch gears, and all those thousands of people streaming around to garage sales on Saturday, are all playing an interesting aesthetic game with time. The tree above is not, and that’s what’s interesting. This difference means that there is great latent power within this aesthetic, and I’d like to accept the challenge of trying to find words for it and to bring it to healthy life. I’ll leave you with one more thought, while I think further on this. Here’s the local farmer’s market …

sweetandsavoury Tents, Cars and People in a Parking Lot

One part of future economic health. 

And here’s another…

acupofteaA Pot of Tea (or, a Farm of the Future, or Human #5)

Back Alley in Vernon, with muffler, pineapple weed, and a used coffee cup. In the steampunk world, which adds articles together to create temples of time, nature is trying to get into the picture. The steampunk image is currently looking to the past, and to a very dirty industrial one, too. The plants are pushing the image into, what… life punk?

Let’s follow it!

Next: I hope to have some clear terms for this form of art and future making.

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