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Embedded History

Studio Kimiis - Steven Beites & Christian Joakim
2m high x 15m wide (6.5'h x 47’w)
Glass fibre reinforced concrete
2011
Prince Arthur's Landing - Water feature wall beside Baggage Building Arts Centre

Wall1  Embedded History Wall  

The sculptural panels by Toronto-based Studio Kimiis are part of a water-feature wall connected to the Baggage Building Arts Centre. Its location is of cultural and geographic significance as the gateway through which traders, voyageurs, and settlers came to Western Canada. Embedded History inteprets the theme ‘Red River Road: Pathway to the West/To the World’ and was influenced by a literary selection by author Marilyn Dumont entitled 'Red Sky Métis'.

The artwork navigates three thematic currents: history and culture, materiality, and discovery. Fabrication of the concrete panels began with a digital image of calm and turbulent water overlaid onto each other. The pattern was superimposed onto the surfaces of two species of wood - pine and red cedar – which were deliberately chosen to represent both foreign and local species and can be seen to represent the historical blending of the aboriginal and French voyageur cultures. The wood panels were CNC milled, from which a series of rubber moulds were cast, each then used to cast concrete panels.

The resulting artwork is concrete that appears to flow like water, yet retains the wood grain texture of two distinct species. The waterfall is seasonal, operating from Spring to Fall, creating a sheet water flow over a 5m portion of the wall. 

The artwork is viewed not as a culmination of a series of steps but as one instance, representative of a process. Broadly stated, the focus of the artist's proposal was centered on ‘embedded materiality’: material and material process as applied to generative design and fabrication techniques. 

The artwork displays an acute awareness of the historical heritage of the Red Sky Métis, especially the complex relationship of the First Nations people and French European fur traders as they came to live and prosper on the same land with one another. Water is important to the design inasmuch as it represents the livelihood of the fur trade and the coureurs de bois. The rivers of the fur trade were the link between these first European explorers and the Aboriginal peoples of the Great Lakes region. The rivers were the link to the Northwest Passage of the New World, and these same rivers eventually came to sustain the new nation of the Métis. In many ways water is a generative force of the artwork, expressed by the material registration of overlaid surfaces consisting of smooth, rippled flow and more turbulent conditions. These surfaces represent the blending of two cultures and a material dialogue which hopes to represent the emergence of the Métis as a unique nation. 

- Steven Beites & Christian Joakim (Studio Kimiis)

Wall Detail
Detail of panel surface