191 meters

Christine Nobel and Brian Barth - 191 Meters

fieldwork 2015, christine nobel, brian barth, 191 meters
Fieldwork 2015, Christine Nobel, Brian Barth, 191 Meters

Christine Nobel and Brian Barth's eye-catching 191 Meters, and some of their preparatory images showing the site overview, and a cross-section of the elevation gain in the field.

They write:


191 Metres expresses the relationship of water to the landscape, making visible forces of nature that may not be apparent through casual observation.. For example, after the glaciers left their mark on this region, much of what is now southern and eastern Ontario was covered with water as the climate warmed and the ice melted. Later, as the glacial lakes receded, the landforms that we see today were revealed. Since then, the interactions of rainstorms, surface flow, soil type and vegetation patterns has continued to sculpt and refine the contours of the landscape. It is this millennial dynamic between water and earth that we sought to capture. The title is a reference to the elevation of the Fieldwork site above sea level.

The installation is a marriage of our professional backgrounds in landscape design and visual arts. The installation contrasts the smooth surface of a lake with the dynamic movement of flowing water and the exuberant growth of riparian vegetation. A meandering line of blue and green posts travel along the low point of the field as if the last of glacial meltwater was draining away, leaving lush growth in its wake. The top of all the posts are perfectly level, as if forming the surface of a still lake, meaning they increase in length from the shallow to deep water as the slope travels toward the east side of the field. Early in the process of developing a plan for 191 Metres we surveyed the field with an A-frame level - a primitive surveying tool consisting of three pieces of wood formed together in a triangle that was used by the Egyptians and other ancient civilizations to lay out aqueducts, agricultural terraces and other works of civil engineering. We also used a laser level to determine the elevation change from one side of the field to the other.

Once the concept was established, we set about figuring out how to build it. We sourced about three hundred-fifty 8-foot wooden posts, purchased a battery-powered circular saw, a post pounder, 7 colours of blue and green acrylic paint and various other tools. Construction took place during a narrow four-week period between when the ground thawed in early April and the Fieldwork opening in May. On our first day of work there was still a layer of frozen earth about 4inches below the surface!

We began by setting up a string line along the elevation of our conceptual ‘lake’ which served as a reference point for figuring out the length to cut each post and how far to pound them in so they would all end up at the same level. The shortest posts are about 4 inches aboveground and extend to almost 4 feet tall at the ‘deepest’ part of the installation. The posts are spaced 2 feet apart and have been pounded deep enough into the ground to ensure stability through the seasons.

Once each post was in the earth, the paint was applied. The selection of the blues and greens went from a light moss green to a medium, reflective blue to a deep grass green—all meant to identify the depth of the water and its relative closeness to the grass or the ground. At the very end of the project we placed the stakes on angles to give the illusion of them falling towards the ground as if the water was spilling out of them. The placement of the stakes and intentional colour relationships make this an animated space that invites people to experience it in a playful way.

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