Michael Ashley

Visual Arts etc.

Souvenir 1 - Slope - 2007

A wooden sculpture based on a woodworking tool called a profile gauge or contour gauge. The sculpture requires assembly at each site where it is installed. The assembly process amounts to a group performance.

Details

Wood with metal fittings, Approximately six feet long by five feet high.

Artist's Statement

This object is a memory machine. Inspired by the work of Robert Smithson, it has been designed to ‘remember’ a shape from the site of its installation, or from a moment in time, so that the shape can be reproduced in the exhibition space.

The photographs document the sculpture’s installation on a hill in Macdonald Gardens Park in Ottawa on November 17, 2007. Our happy crew set up the sculpture four times around the top of the hill, once at each point of the compass. What is being ‘remembered’ is the contour of the slope at each point. The installation  in Gallery 115, at the University of Ottawa, is the memory of the slope facing South.

Unlike Smithson’s large scale site specific works like Spiral Jetty that radically alter a site, Souvenir 1 – Slope merely conforms to what is there. Thus the sculpture is both site specific, or at least what it ‘remembers’ is, and nomadic. It can be moved from place to place with (relatively) little effort and a new ‘snapshot’ or ‘memory’ can be recorded. These records become souvenirs of the installation or event, like tourist photographs and trinkets from vacation trips. These records also constitute what Smithson called Nonsites, indoor displays of fragments from somewhere else. To paraphrase Lawrence Alloway, the Nonsite is the signifier and the Site is that which is signified.

Souvenir 1 – Slope is part of my ongoing exploration of memory. The mechanical nature of this work hints at our habitual desire to immortalize the fleeting through the creation of souvenirs. Hopefully it will inspire musing about the nature of memory, what and how we remember, and what we choose to memorialize.