Demolition and Incandescence

KH |

mC:t    2015.06.19    #mct #yycart #wreckcityyyc

…an interview with artists Caitlind RC Brown and Wayne Garrett.


makeCalgary TALK, Wayne Garrett, Caitlind Brown, CLOUD, Wreck City, Calgary, Public Art, ACAD
Left: Wayne Garrett and Caitlind RC Brown (photos by Diane + Mike Photography). Right: CLOUD, a light installation that repurposed over 5,000 incandescent light bulbs (Photo by Caitlind RC Brown). 


Caitlind Brown and Wayne Garrett are artists based out of Calgary, whose current focus is on large-scale public light-works. You may remember them from Nuit Blanche 2012, where they exhibited their light installation CLOUD. Since then, CLOUD has spent two years travelling, lighting up festivals across Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Perhaps the most compelling feature of CLOUD is its ability to completely transform a public or vestigial space. The piece works as a social condenser, bringing together friends and strangers to collectively engage in the work.

In addition to the couple’s personal art practice, Caitlind is one of eight curators of WRECK CITY, which kicks off TODAY at the Penguin Car Wash in Ramsay.




Wreck City, Demo Tape, Calgary, Public Art, Demolition, Art, Jayda Karsten, Ben Nixon, Kelsey Fraser
Left: illustration by Kelsey Fraser. Top Right: Jayda Karsten works on The Cave. Bottom Right: Ben Nixon assembles Perhaps This Sound (photos by Wreck City).


What is Wreck City?

C: WRECK CITY is an experimental arts collective, that organizes site-specific exhibitions in pre-demolition and alternative spaces. The spaces that we have organized shows in – so far, there were nine houses, three garages and a greenhouse in Sunnyside that we basically took over. It was essentially one side of a whole city block.

The second project that we did was in an abandoned wing of an old school. C-Space was renovating an old sandstone school into an arts incubator. There was a wing in that school before they started developing it that was from the 60s so it was flood damaged, full of asbestos, and super run-down. They were like, “Here Wreck City, You will enjoy this!” And that’s all we need, giant spaces that we can put artists into. That project was called Phantom Wing.

Our next project is called Demo Tape, and it’s at the old Penguin Car Wash in Ramsay. It’s a sweet, gorgeous lot in downtown Calgary, but it’s right on the tracks.


Why specifically the interest in pre-demolition buildings?

C: It’s funny, because Wreck City is not officially looking for pre-demolition buildings. But that seems to be what’s handed to us most readily. Those are spaces that we can interrupt the architecture, we can cut holes in walls, ceilings and floors, provided there are no hazards. So that’s point one, the freedom is ginormous so we’re drawn to them. No else is using them, so why not us? And then there’s nothing really to lose aside from the person who owns them. But we would just as easily use a sweet field with interesting features, if it were given to us.


What does your intervention hope to achieve?

C: I like to say that it’s a road-hitting amount of institutional critique, talking about art spaces and what happens when you free yourself from a gallery context, or a museum context, or an organized, predetermined context, and allow your artists free reign over a space that is completely flexible. And then part of it is civic critique, talking about cities and what happens to our forgotten and lost spaces. Another part of it is complete reckless abandonment, so there is this arm-in-arm intense opportunism, but it’s balanced with resourcefulness.



Tell me about your own collaboration.

W: Lately, we make a lot of light-based installation work mostly in the public arena to some extent. Lots of light festivals, and that sort of thing. Our piece CLOUD launched us so that’s what’s moved us forward, and that’s 600 light bulbs, multiples being a symbol of individuals coming together and the potential of large groups –

C: – collective action, the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

W: We’ve made a great number of installations, mostly dealing with light or multiples, like repurposed found objects. Once you cross this threshold of a critical mass – a hundred glasses is one thing, but when you have thousands all of a sudden it becomes something else, it has a presence and a different identity, so we’re exploring that a bit.


Pera Scope, Wayne Garrett, Caitlind Brown, Calgary, Public Art, Art, Canada, Alberta, Light, Installation, Istanbul
Earlier this month SEA, SEE, SAW was installed on the facade of the Pera Museum in Istanbul. The installation included 14,000 lenses that were salvaged from used eye glasses. Photos by Caitlind RC Brown and Wayne Garrett.


Speaking of the glasses, tell me about the project you just completed.

W: It’s for a museum in Istanbul, and they kept the façade of the building that used to be there and basically rebuilt the entire building behind it into this museum. And museum culture is something that is relatively new in Istanbul. This is an older museum and it’s their 10th year anniversary. They have a historic, hotel façade which is by North American standards somewhat ornate, although people don’t find it especially exceptional there because there’s lots of architecture like that there. We were asked to make an installation using the façade, or that was the space we had to work with. And we didn’t want to cover the façade with something opaque, because it seemed like something that is already nice to look at and it has some interesting elements. We wanted to explore covering it with something that is transparent, but changes the way you look at it, the perspective.

C: It makes it more dynamic, since it’s such a solid and geometric building.

W: The installation is a giant aluminum ring that’s filled in the middle with 14,000 hanging used eyeglass lenses.

C: The museum was on board with the idea that you bring an object that has existed prior to the project, and it comes with its history and poses that history a little bit. It makes more sense conceptually to have all of these viewpoints – quite literally viewpoints – come together and amass on your building for this ten-year anniversary. Especially right during the time of the elections in Turkey.


What is the concept behind the piece?

W: The piece is titled SEA, SEE, SAW.

C: We were making a sea, an ocean on the surface of the building.

W: The pieces are free to move in the wind, and the building gets a ton of sunlight because there’s nothing across the street from it. So as the individual pieces move in the wind, you can sort of see the patterns of the wind and it looks a lot like the surface of the water which reacts in a very similar way.

C: It overlooks the Golden Horn, which is the inlet on the Bosphorus.

W: So the sea was one of the first elements, and the collective vision coming together with multiples, and the power of collective action where it becomes more than just this many objects but has some of their effect.

C: And on that note too, because all the glasses have different prescriptions, and you get all of these bifocals, when you look through the piece you actually do see the world in a completely different way depending on the lens that you’re looking through.



Caitlind RC Brown, Wayne Garrett, Solar Flare, Calgary, Art, Public Art, Stephen Avenue, Light, Installation
Left: SOLAR FLARE, a light-works by Caitlind RC Brown and Wayne Garrett (photo by Marina Skulsky). Right: SOLAR FLARE suspended over Stephen Avenue in Calgary (photo by Tom Fitz).

 SOLAR FLARE was a point of departure from CLOUD. Downtown Calgary asked us to make some art for Stephen Avenue, so we tried to pick the quietest spot along that strip.

C: We wanted to talk a little bit about the space specifically. What do you miss in downtown Calgary in the winter time the most? It was up for over a month in between December and January, so it was arguably a really cold and dark time in Calgary. Really what you miss the most is the sun.

So we made this sunwork with the idea of bringing that most lovely light of the sun, the golden hour glow, into a winter space downtown Calgary, basically during the winter solstice.


What were you aiming to create in this public space?

C: It’s hard to get a real gauge of what people think. Your art is in a public space and you put it up with the understanding of that space and the people in that space, and it’s so much easier when you live in that city to have a more legitimate or depth-full understanding of that spot. But then you leave it in and it has a life of its own because it’s in public space. So people can refer to it however they want, or think about it in so many different ways. And that’s why we like public space, but it also makes it hard to get a really clear understanding of what you made.
C: A lot of the baseline of what we do is ‘how do you re-see what is familiar? And that is the question that is being asked: Can you re-see something that you’ve seen for so long? Or, a space that you walk through everyday?

W: –See it in a different perspective, or transform a familiar public space.

C: And that’s obviously WRECK CITY. That’s a huge part of WRECK CITY: How do you re-see abandoned buildings, even the idea of abandoned space? With CLOUD – how do you re-see the objects that are in your life that are considered waste, burnt out light bulbs? With eye glasses, it’s literally how do you re-see by seeing how somebody else sees?



This weekend we will be posting lots of photos live from WRECK CITY: Demo Tape, so follow makeCalgaryTALK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!

Or just come visit WRECK CITY: Demo Tape at Penguin Car Wash, 1001 8th Street SE in Ramsay. The hours are:

Friday, June 19, 4 pm – 10 pm
Saturday, June 20, Noon – 11 pm (10 pm screening of WRECK CITY: an epilogue for 809, a doc film by Ramin Eshraghi-Yazdi)
Sunday, June 21, Noon – 9 pm
Mon – Thurs, June 22 – 25, 5 pm – 9 pm
Friday, June 26, 4 pm – 10 pm
Saturday, June 27, Noon – 10 pm
Sunday, June 28, Noon – 6 pm

For a full list of events, bands, performances and panel discussions, please check



Next: Creating the Void: Producing spaces to produce culture
Previous: Progress vs. Preservation: What takes precedence, preserving history or increasing density?



[1] Brown, Caitlind and Wayne Garrett. (2015, June 11). Personal interview.
[2] All original copyrights remain with the authors of the photographs, art and illustrations.


makeCalgary:talk provokes conversation among Calgarians about the design of our city. Catch up with us on Twitter (@makecalgarytalk), Instagram (makecalgarytalk), or Facebook.