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My Residency in Banff, Alberta, Canada

By: Veronique Chance

I have just arrived in Banff to take part in 5 week co-production residency programme ‘Liminal Screen’ at the New Media Institute, part of the Banff Centre. I will be developing a project that uses mobile camera technologies to record long distance runs, looking at possibilities of live broadcast/streaming from both eye-views as I run. This blog will reflect upon and document my time here.

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Veronique Chance, 'From 'Re-Tracing the Winter Trails'', Photograph printed using archival inkjet inks and paper, March 2009.

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Veronique Chance, 'From 'Re-Tracing the Winter Trails'', Photograph printed using archival inkjet inks and paper, March 2009.

Veronique Chance, 'From 'Re-Tracing the Winter Trails' (a last look at the Vermillion Lakes)', Digital Photograph, March 2009.

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Veronique Chance, 'From 'Re-Tracing the Winter Trails' (a last look at the Vermillion Lakes)', Digital Photograph, March 2009.

'A last look at the view from my studio window', Digital Photograph, March 2009. Photo: Veronique Chance.

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'A last look at the view from my studio window', Digital Photograph, March 2009. Photo: Veronique Chance.

# 26 [16 April 2009]

I’ve been back just over 2 weeks and after getting over acute jet-lag followed by a nasty bronchial cough/cold, I have the job of reviewing what I did in Banff and trying to get it ‘out there’.
I haven’t got anything pre-planned, so it’ll be a case of being pro-active, seeking out /following up opportunities and contacts. I’ve got a few ideas of people/places to approach and I will be putting together a proposal/package I can send out. The difficulty will be in making something coherent from all of this, especially the video work.
I always find this difficult to do, particularly with this work, to convey the best sense of what it is. This work is not conventional linear single screen video work that can easily translate to a few minutes on a single DVD. I always feel I’m compromising the work when I try and ‘package’ it for a proposal or exhibition opportunity and I think that I don’t always make the right choices to really give justice to the work or at least a clear sense of it.
I must get better at doing this.
The other difficulty is that although my work has a clear relationship to performance (after all, this is what I came to Banff to develop), I don’t feel I really fit into the ‘scene’ as my work isn’t ‘presented’ to an audience in the way that most performance works tend to get shown. The same goes with my use of photography.
I’m going to sign up for an Artist Advisory Session at ArtsAdmin to see if I can get some sound advice.
I’m also going to see if I can in the short-term see what’s possible through UAL (University of the Arts London), from whom I received some research funding for my travel to Banff. To honour this I have to give some form of public address. It would be good to give a talk/lecture in the first instance, but I’m also going to see if I can get some of this work shown in one or more of the exhibition spaces- afterall this work is research for their benefit too.

It’s been very odd to be back, not least because I’m currently in studio limboland after having had 5 very full weeks in a studio with 24hr access. Unfortunately the studio I was due to move into in Camberwell as soon as I got back has been delayed by a month- very frustrating as it makes it difficult to unpack this work both literally and metaphorically.
I’m missing seeing the mountain views and breathing in mountain air every day- London seems very grubby by comparison and overpopulated. It’s taking a while to re-adjust, but it’s also great to be back! I’m ending this with a last view taken form my studio in Banff before I left. I’ll be adding dates of related lectures/exhibitions once they are confirmed.

Veronique Chance, 'Live Run (notice on studio door)', March 2009.

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Veronique Chance, 'Live Run (notice on studio door)', March 2009.

Veronique Chance, 'Live Run (setting off)', Durational Run Performance with live internet video stream, March 2009.

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Veronique Chance, 'Live Run (setting off)', Durational Run Performance with live internet video stream, March 2009.

Veronique Chance, 'Live Run (Dominik next to receiving computer with walkie-talkie )', Durational Run Performance with live internet video stream, March 2009.

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Veronique Chance, 'Live Run (Dominik next to receiving computer with walkie-talkie )', Durational Run Performance with live internet video stream, March 2009.

Veronique Chance, 'Live Run (streamed video still)', Durational Run Performance with live internet video stream, March 2009.

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Veronique Chance, 'Live Run (streamed video still)', Durational Run Performance with live internet video stream, March 2009.

# 25 [2 April 2009]

"I will be out running between 3 & 4. Check computer screen to see live feed. V."

A receiving computer was set up in my studio at the end of the morning for the live stream. Previously I been using Dominik’s computer for tests, so we had to install/configure everything again to make it work.
I would be relaying the live video feed from my camera through the recording PDR unit via the USB AV component to the small transmitting computer, all of which I would be wearing! Both computers had streaming software installed to do this and Dominik worked out that to get the best quality image on the receiving computer, we would have to build in a delay in the live stream of 1 minute.
I was unsure of what the implications of this would mean for the piece (I had intended an imperceptible delay -what I see, you see, at the same time), but I didn’t have a choice. It was either this and get an acceptable/good image, or have less delay and a very poor quality image. I figured the former would be a better compromise and that something quite interesting and unpredictable might happen in the event. Suddenly I felt this was finally going to work!
Dominik went through how I would need to set up each computer immediately prior to the event. I also wanted the receiving computer to be able to save the transmitting stream as a document. I was nervous of doing this on my own as I also knew that I would be nervous enough preparing to run. I also wanted to be able to try and do this independently so that I would have the confidence to continue post Banff. As a safe measure I asked Dominik if he could be around at the start in case I had any problems. It was lucky that I did, as in the heat of the moment I had forgotten a few things.
People started turning up to the studio as I was getting ready to go. Suddenly, this was really happening. I was off and then a minute later I was off on-screen. This added a strange/funny temporal dimension and sense of continuous anticipation to the event which was compounded by the live spoken relay I was having with Dominik using ‘walkie talkies’ to determine my presence in and out of ‘zone’. Heard in the room at the time, (“ We’ve lost you, over”/ “ Am I still there, over”) it would also be repeated on screen a minute later.
Apparently there was quite a presence in and out of the studio watching the proceedings. My only regret was not to have been able to experience this for myself.
I managed almost 10k before deciding I was exhausted enough. I returned to a cheering crowd in the home straight of the studio corridor. Thanks Dominik for being there and for making it happen!

 

Veronique Chance, 'Live Run (poster)', 25th March 2009.

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Veronique Chance, 'Live Run (poster)', 25th March 2009.

Veronique Chance, 'Detail of Map Drawing (indicating trails run so far).', Mixed media, March 2009.

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Veronique Chance, 'Detail of Map Drawing (indicating trails run so far).', Mixed media, March 2009.

Veronique Chance, 'From Running  the Winter Trails (to the Vermillion Lakes)', 2 Screen DVD Video Projection, March 2009.

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Veronique Chance, 'From Running the Winter Trails (to the Vermillion Lakes)', 2 Screen DVD Video Projection, March 2009.

# 24 [2 April 2009]

At last. It's already a week ago that we had the Open Studios and the opportunity to open the doors of our studios and other spaces to the public…

I planned to do a live streamed run scheduled to take place in the 1st hour of the Open Studios, between 3 and 4pm. Just to put myself under even more pressure, I put posters up around the building and elsewhere the day before to advertise my live event:

‘ Véronique is out running right now.'

Live-streamed run (a work in progress)
25th March 3-4pm Banff Centre Campus/JPL306 (see 1st image)

At that stage I still didn’t  know whether or not I could pull it off, but I was determined to make it happen one way or another.
It actually wasn’t as stressful as I had thought (although writing my blog entry that night I was pretty despondent).

We ended up getting the equipment we needed delivered to the studios from the AV services at 9pm that night  instead of the following morning. I felt relieved as I thought it would give me a chance to get the studio ready and leave me the morning to focus on final preparations for the live run.
In the event I had the wrong standard of DVD players delivered (despite specifying the need for them to be multi-regional), and I was also given computer speakers that I couldn’t use for the 2 screen recorded projection. There was nothing I could do about it that night as the AV people leave at 10pm, so I decided to prepare everything else and to come back in the morning at 7am, when the AV store would re-open.  
At 7am sharp the following morning I was sitting outside the equipment store waiting for the guy to turn up. I didn’t have to wait too long.

I set to work and had everything ready by about 10am, which meant I missed breakfast, but it was worth it. The studio looked great- a work in progress in itself with all my notes, maps, small drawings and trail information on the wall on the left side of the studio and the facing window blocked off with the adjacent right hand wall forming a corner for the two- screen recorded run projections (see 2nd and 3rd images).

I could now spend the rest of the morning and the first part of the afternoon preparing for the live event. We finally managed to track down Hung, the IT manager, but there was nothing doing. He was surprised that we could do any streaming at all from outside, as the Wi-Fi network is really set up for interior use only and doesn’t extend very far. This didn’t seem too promising but following some further tests with Dominik, we came up with something that we thought would work… (see next entry).

# 23 [2 April 2009]

In the event, as soon as I got on the 'plane I realised how exhausted I was and also that I wouldn't be able to actually 'post anything from the air (duh!). I also ran out of battery power. So instead I watched 'Slumdog Millionaire' and tried to get some sleep.

Next posts will be reflecting back a week ago from now to the end of the residency... 

# 22 [31 March 2009]

It's all over. I'm sitting in the departure lounge at Calgary airport, waiting to board the plane.

I will be spending most of the flight updating you on events since my last post the night before the Open Studios, which took place on Wednesday (25th).

In short, all went very well , much better than expected and I managed to do a live streamed run using the wireless network. It was exciting, exhilarating and exhausting. The days following were spent trying to recover, climbing Sulphur Mountain, taking some photographs and doing another recorded run. Oh and we also had a wrap party on Saturday night. Sunday was spent clearing the studio (slowly). More to follow...

# 21 [25 March 2009]

Just a quick entry for now as I need to sleep. It's the night before the Open Studios (or rather the  morning of by now).

It's been pretty hectic and I still haven't got where I should/wanted to be. Wasn't helped by the mail department holding onto the delivery of that component I was waiting for for 3 days. I finally went yesterday (Monday) with a tracking number, having found out that it had been delivered and signed for on Thursday afternoon. I was seething, especially since I had actually gone up there on Friday and had asked about it. This put me 3 days back, when I could have been testing things and making progress.

In the event, having got the component we did some tests yesterday using the wi-fi network , which worked to an extent but the image was breaking up appallingly and looked pretty terrible. We realised that this is probably due to the fact that the network for whatever reason runs well below capacity. I have noticed how slow the internet is before and yesterday when we were trying to work with this streaming, there were only 2 bars on the wi-fi network. We decided to have a word with one of the senior staff members to ask him if he could have a word with IT to see if they can do anything about it. Tom asked them this morning and typically,we heard nothing and then found that the person we should speak to had gone home for the day. That means there's nothing doing until tomorrow morning and I have the studio to prepare.

I was really disappointed with this at this late stage and because I was quite tired it really got to me. I decided to go for a run on campus in preparation for tomorrow and to clear my head.

 

# 20 [22 March 2009]

There’s been a bit of a gap as things have got even busier in the work up to the Open Studios next Wednesday(25th).
Following the last post there has been some progress, but not in all areas: I still feel really behind with the live run, mainly due to waiting for a component to arrive, which has halted the progress I could have made. The component is an AV digital converter, which would mean that I would be able to connect my own (good quality) bullet cameras via the recording device to the small computer I’ll be carrying when I’m running(!). Using web-cams would be more straightforward and would eliminate the need to carry my recording device as the recording could be made at the receiving end. However, the picture quality so far has been pretty poor. I may still buy some better quality webcams, if I can find any that are the right shape to wear.
I finally did a couple of tests on Wednesday and Thursday to test coverage using the mobile network and using the Banff centre Wi-Fi network. Both work and have their limitations. The mobile network allows me an extended coverage so I can venture further afield, but we are limited with the streaming software we can use. The Wi-Fi network needs an open network and so limits me to devising a run around the Banff Centre site, which has coverage in most buildings on the site. I went around the perimeter route I had run earlier in the week to test where I was getting Wi-Fi coverage and Dominic found a way of making a recording from his end so we could see where I was going out of zone. We also tested whether when I did go out of zone, the streaming would shut down entirely, or whether it would just freeze or go blank and pick up again once back in zone.
The latter happened, which is promising, as I had always envisaged something like that happening, which says something about the failure and limitations of technology. I like that concept.
I finally solved the issue regarding where to show the projection of one of my recorded runs. Following my despondency on Tuesday evening I had a chat with Edwin (one of the technical coordinators). He suggested I show in one of the screening studios and we had a conversation about me making some frame supports that I could cover in paper and suspend from the tracking system just below the ceiling. After thinking about it for a bit, I decided against it. The screening room just didn’t feel right- it’s far too big and I would lose all sense of intimacy and immersion (it would also be at least a day’s work to make the screens). I felt I was trying to make something fit a space it really wasn’t suited to. I looked at the projection in my studio again- it wasn’t as small as I’d thought.

# 19 [18 March 2009]

St. Patrick's day. Feeling pretty despondent. Had a frustrating couple of days. Kenny and now Dominic, who are helping me, are finding it difficult to make progress quickly. Although they seem to have spent some time trying to push on, things are not as straightforward as they seem. I had hoped to move on to the next stage by now, which is to actually start to test the range and signal outside. This will help me determine my route and how far I can go for the live run. I also need to practise the route. To get a feel of it, I went out yesterday (Monday) late afternoon and did 10 laps (14km) around the perimeter of the Banff Centre. It was hard work as it includes a steep climb, but it was great to see 2 deer watching me each time I went round!

Yesterday we also had a brief meeting about the Open Studios next week. I’m getting very nervous about this as I am nowhere near where I would like to be and it’s difficult to plan ahead. As well as the live streaming of the run, if it ever works, I’d like to show one of the recorded runs as a 2-screen projection. It should be straight-forward but I can’t seem to find a space that will accommodate it. My own studio space is too small.
We were told about other spaces that we can use if we need to. The problem with these is that most of them are formal single-screen projection studios. Although they have great systems within them, they are difficult to adapt to more than one screen. Other suggested spaces don’t seem suitable either: ‘The Other Gallery’ is a small ‘L’ shaped gallery, where it's possible to show 2 projections, but only far apart. My screens need to be at right angles to each other to get that sense of the view from each eye and of immersion. Using the corner of a room would be fine as an alternative, but can I find one? The only other space is an empty studio which has large skylights and an open top (unfortunately Greg from our group had to leave abruptly at the weekend for personal and health reasons).
I’ll make a point of speaking with someone 1st thing tomorrow as I’m really concerned and a little stressed. Spent most of the afternoon and evening today trying to make a go of it in my studio and was fairly optimistic at one point. I blacked out my window and its lovely view and covered it with a large sheet of white paper cut to size. It looked great. The adjoining wall has already been covered with paper, so it looks fine on the surface. Unfortunately, I can just get far back enough to project an acceptable image size onto the window screen, but not onto the adjoining side wall, even using a mirror. Feeling low and over-tired. Hope tomorrow's better.

'Banff Hot Springs'. Photo: Veronique Chance.

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'Banff Hot Springs'. Photo: Veronique Chance.

'Mineral Pool'. Photo: Veronique Chance.

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'Mineral Pool'. Photo: Veronique Chance.

'Banff Park Museum'. Photo: Veronique Chance.

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'Banff Park Museum'. Photo: Veronique Chance.

# 18 [17 March 2009]

Was determined to have Sunday off.  Decided I would spend the day visiting 3 of Banff’s main museums.
Set off with Flossie, a Canadian artist  who has lived in Australia for a long time.
We walked to the Cave and Basin Museum (site of the Banff original hot springs), following the trail. It was snowing lightly and the ground was very slippery with the ice underneath.We came to the Museum via the Marsh Broadwalk Trail, where we saw 2 of the smaller hot springs steaming away amongst lush green and white algae. It’s quite unique and beautiful.
The first thing we noticed was the strong smell of the sulphur as we walked into the Museum, coming from the interior pool in the cave. The Basin is a long disused outdoor bathing pavilion, which used to be the largest in Canada. Unfortunately due to persistent structural problems and low attendance, it was forced to close in 1992. There is also an adjoining mineral pool, which is now home to a rare species of snail. Despite the history of this site, I was a little disappointed: the display on the 2nd floor seemed a bit tired and didn’t go into enough detail.
Second stop was Banff Park Museum (Western Canada's oldest natural history museum). Now this was really worth a visit. When you step inside, it’s as if you’ve stepped back in time into a 19th Century eccentric explorer’s collection of stuffed animals, birds and insects. The rooms are wood-panelled and full of glass display cases that house the collection, which spills out onto the top of the cases and onto the walls of the building. It’s amazing. It was developed in 1895 by Norman Sanson, a former soldier and local meteorologist, who became the Museum’s curator and who went out and personally collected many of the specimens. Everything is here- mostly animals from the locality, but also some that have no relation to the area, but came to the Museum through trading networks.
Last stop was the Whyte Museum (of art, culture  and history of the Canadian rockies). This was founded by local artists and philanthropists Peter and Catherine Whyte. Saw quite a stunning exhibition of landscape photographs by Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky. They were obviously shot with a large format camera and showed amazing colour and detail. These documentary photographs focus on humanitity’s impact on the planet, capturing images of the land altered by mankind. Despite this they have a certain ambivalence and it’s difficult to know what the position of the photographer is regarding this.
Spent quite along time in an exhibition about the Luxton Family, local pioneers responsible for putting Banff on the map. It was quite fascinating, not least because of the three generations of women in the family who were very active and the strong ties the family had with the Indians in the region.
Finished the day with another group dinner and a screening of ‘Man on Wire’.

# 17 [17 March 2009]

 Three days behind with the blog so lots of catching up to do. Saturday was a fairly quiet morning. I had it in mind to do another recorded run in the afternoon, so took it fairly easy. It’s a shame that the library here isn’t open on a Saturday, as I would have liked to go there then. Went up to the theatre building to book some tickets for the evening to see ProArteDanza, a Canadian contemporary dance company. It’s great to take advantage of things like this that are on here and as artists we get a discount.
My run in the afternoon retraced the route I’d taken previously to Sundance Canyon, via the Cave & Basin and the Marsh Loop Trails. I didn’t leave until around 3ish as it was a little overcast in the morning and I was waiting for it to clear. Turned out to be quite a nice, mild afternoon. The warmer weather has started to melt some of the ice and snow, so it was quite slushy in parts; in other areas the snow was still quite compacted –easier to run on in some ways, but very bumpy, hard terrain. I’d forgotten that the route there is on a very slight incline so it was a little hard going as I neared the canyon site and downhill most of the way back, which was a lot easier. I even picked up a little speed. I like this route as it’s quite varied through forest pines and the purple/brown/ ochre colours of the marshland plants are particularly beautiful. On this route I was more or less the other side of the Vermillion Lakes, and so the mountains were also very much in view.
I managed to do a complete run without stopping and also got a complete recording on both sides. A successful day. Got back just in time to have a long bath, dinner and get to the theatre. I wore my special ochre velvet slacks for the occasion.
The performance was very mixed and varied- mixing contemporary with classical in both the music and the dance. It was very dynamic in parts, mainly in pieces that had the younger dancers and slow and considered in others, showing great strength and endurance from the older dancers. My favourite pieces were the one using Gavin Bryars’ ‘Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet’ and Handel’s ‘Lascia Ch’io Pianga’. Great, very moving music, which had older members of the company performing in pieces full of slow tension and experience. Very moving.

We finished the evening with a few drinks in the posh dining room bar for Ruth's (another of the artists), birthday. I sampled a highly recommended gin martini- fantastic but very strong! One was enough.

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Veronique Chance

My art-practice includes a range of media that are mainly photography and video based but which also maintain strong links to sculptural and performance art practices. Referring to performative and sculptural strategies that emphasise the physicality and materiality of the body, I use the representation and props of visual technologies and physical exercise as a means through which to overlap concepts of bodily presence with photography, sculpture and video representation.
In recent work I have been developing a series of moving-image/performance works that have used mobile camera technologies to record a series of long-distance runs .