University of Manitoba (Shannon)



Jan '11 - Jan '12

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    Week Nine

    Shannon Wiebe
    Oct 17, '11 11:34 PM EST

    My hiatus has been a lot longer than I expected it to be! Final thesis reviews were in April, and we went back to the house for another month in May to bring the project to as much of a final resolution as we could given the time available. There is still more standing out at the site than we would like, but in a few weeks a big bonfire should take care of everything that's left. We're hoping for some pretty amazing final photographs when the studs that are still standing start to catch. If we make a video, is it too cheesy to use 'Burning Down the House' as the soundtrack?

    In the meantime, we made the final book, took an amazing trip through the Netherlands, Germany, and Scandinavia, and in July I went back to work full time. It's been hard to bring myself back here to finish what I started, but it would be a shame not to see it through to an end, considering the writing is already done. So here it is, Week Nine, written way back in March when there was still a foot of snow on the ground and it felt like the winter would never end.


    Steps forward, steps back. The structure is not the right decision, making permanent something that we have always been able to capture through movement of material in the dark. Time is limited, and although the construction has a certain appeal, the projections alone seem to provide enough fodder for engagement. Rather than adding on to the process we have already set in motion, it seems more important to evaluate and annotate the drawing that already exists and continue making new iterations.

    The structure comes apart more quickly than it went together. With the room empty, we sweep the paper clean and prepare to begin again. Although we started work in the house focusing on one room at a time, the hardwood flooring is connected throughout the entire second floor. To remove it properly means to take out all of the trim and doors first. We occupy ourselves with finish removal and de-nailing for the rest of the afternoon, recognising that the entire main floor has yet to be touched.


    Removing trim from the fourth bedroom, I unearth a black and white photograph from a pile of plaster rubble strewn across the closet floor. In the image, a woman holds her baby to her chest against a barren, rolling landscape. A wooden shed and a log fence in the background suggest that perhaps she is standing on the hill where her house will soon rest.

    On the back of the photograph, the following words are written: To Augusta. Alice 4 mo’s old. Sincerely, Nat.

    The picture has not been taken here, rather it was sent from elsewhere, traveling the long rail line east or west to the small farm town of Glenella. Two women exchanging letters and photographs across a vast expanse, an insurmountable distance.

    When we leave in the early evening, a cloud of thick black smoke billowing to the north draws us away from our normal route home. A few miles down the road to Alonsa, two men stand in their farmyard, twenty feet from a ball of flames. Their tractor is ablaze but they seem calm, foregoing any efforts to put out the fire or wave us down. On the drive back, we pass the local volunteer fire truck speeding down the gravel road.


    The extension cord snakes in a long line from the generator on the back of the truck through the front door and up the staircase.  With the days edging closer to spring, we decide to remove all of the doors on the second floor to prevent further water damage to their finish. Taking out the jambs also provides access to the hardwood flooring trapped underneath. Although we agreed early on to rely on basic hand tools to complete the work, the best way to take out the door jambs is by cutting through the nails fixing them in place with a reciprocating saw. A small nail hammered through the jamb into the bottom of the door keeps the frame square and stable once removed.

    As soon as Jordy puts the blade through one of the shims, the smell of cedar fills the air, a scent I will forever associate with the sauna I went in with my family when I was young.

    Although we planned on preparing the new drawing today, we realize that the ductwork between the bedroom and the bathroom is connected to one line. Smoking one room will invariably smoke the other, so we gut the bathroom of fixtures and cabinetry in preparation for a secondary projection.

    We return at night to throw plastic sheets over the cut-out doors lined up like coffins in the loft, worried that water might find its way through the ceiling again while we are away. We have only been in the house once before at this hour, in the previous semester when we first stood in the dark with a lighter and a camera, attempting to draw out fragments of domesticity.


    Southwest Bedroom Unworking Drawings

    The first drawing traces the smoke pattern that emerged on the building paper in the southwest bedroom. The second drawings offers a close up of one sheet, the third a snapshot of one moment from strip of paper.



    • 1 Comment

    • totally use 'Burning Down the House' 

      Oct 30, 11 11:37 am  · 

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About this Blog

Sited within an abandoned Eaton’s Catalogue Home on a farmstead in rural Manitoba, the thesis dwells in the duality of domestic space as symbolic image and constructed interior. As the final occupants of a building that must be demolished, our work strives to inhabit the instant between waking and dreaming, “the moment where the subject is not sure of the distinction between a representation and a spatial condition” [Charles Rice, The Emergence of the Interior].

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