by Katharina Schulz
I first saw the piece of scaffolding that is now “Spacious Ladder” down in the big old warehouse studio at Victoria and Triumph that I had been sharing with Sarah and Rachel Seburn. They had been looking for a piece of scaffolding, and this one was just the right hue of construction blue. It experienced a brief stint as a bungee-cord-suspended DJ table on a tropical, late night Evening Music Event this Spring. Now we are loitering, catching up, and shooting the shit under “Spacious Ladder’s” newly found function as Access Gallery’s awning. The Seburns—sisters and artistic collaborators—tell me how the work became a joint effort with the boys over at “The Flats,” the condo development that is going up directly across the street.
On a sunny afternoon in this bustling Chinatown neighborhood, the girls came to install Access’ new awning and discovered that they brought the wrong drill for the job; so of course, they crossed the street in search of an impact driver to borrow. The workers at first were wary, questioning Sarah and Rachel’s motives and reluctant, perhaps, of their ability to use the power tools. But soon enough, Steve and Shorty, the skeptics, were convinced and the rest of the condo construction crew hung 40 feet high across the street cheering them on, whooping and shouting encouragement. “Shorty bolted that shit down” says Sarah, and you can just picture this guy getting up there with them, the sisters trying to ram these bolts into the tough old building, and everyone having a go at the drill like some sort of High-striker mallet and light-up-tower carnival attraction.
This spontaneous relationship between the installation and the work can be consistently found in the sisters’ thread of sculpture work that communicates the struggle between materials, process, and collaboration. Through the engagement with the environment and the medium—Steve, Shorty, et al became “Spacious Ladder’s” newfound collaborators. Sarah and Rachel are investigating the site specificity of this particular interaction through the notions of finished/unfinished architectural structures and how our culture, our home, and this city appears to be on the cusp of rejecting and abandoning what it means to succeed. In a city that jostles together condo developers, corner store grocers, investors, bike enthusiasts, Maserati drivers, students, homeless, artists, mailmen/women, and 5 person families trying to fit themselves into 300 sqft apartments and still attempting to live the Canadian dream: we’re all just trying to make it. But amidst the hustle and bustle, the prevalent construction awnings dripping dirty rainwater down our collars, and the noise of those impact drivers at 7am, how are we connecting, engaging, and understanding that ceaselessly unfinished space? For Sarah and Rachel Seburn “[our] unfinished state of being is as molecularly charged and active as our ideologically engrained idea of what a finished state should be” and their work insists that we ponder that reconciliation within our own lived environments, interactions, failings, and success. “Spacious Ladder” is part of Break the Legs of What I Want to Happen, put on by Emily Carr University’s 401 curatorial projects class and Access Gallery and will be on exhibit until June 21 at 222 e Georgia St.
Photography by Ali Yaqubian