Deep Time In The Valley
25 ft x 25 ft x 15 ft area – metal, plexi-glass, copper
Evergreen Brick Works, building 6,7
“Ghosts whisper in the wind of what went on beneath the asphalt and concrete of our Toronto streets and sidewalks, and within the bricks and mortar of our houses, inside the concrete, steel and glass of our skyscrapers.”
Paul Gifford – writer, teacher and education manager
In the early years of the last century, U of T geologist A.P. Coleman studied fossils in the quarry of the Don Valley Brick Works. In doing so he discovered more recent fossils higher up the North Slope. There he found the bits and pieces of various mollusks, pollen from trees and – most famously – the tooth of a beaver that was the size of a black bear. The giant beaver was a creature from another time, but the mollusks and the trees are all species that live on today, except they live about 500 km south of Toronto, in a climate more suitable to them. And this is the big discovery; these fossils are evidence of an “interglacial” period that occurred 125,000 years ago – a climate that was two degrees warmer than today, and very much like the climate we are heading towards. So in the middle of downtown Toronto, climate change is writ large, on a 200 feet high slope.
This installation speaks to the evidence found in the North Slope. The work is installed on the area of the industrial pad where shale and rock entered the brick works factory for over 100 years. When facing the installation, the backdrop is the North Slope.
At the base of the work sits frosted panels that represent the Georgian Bay Formation. Dating back some 450 million years, this formation is the bedrock of Toronto. Fossils commonly found in the shale from this time period are carved into the panels. Above these panels are metal sheets that depict interglacial life once present at the site. These silhouettes are informed by the more recent fossils found in the North Slope. Some of the characters to be discerned are the bison, osage tree, catfish and the infamous giant beaver. Above this and hovering outward above one’s head are metaphorical ice sheets – solemn homilies to the 100,000 years of glacial silence that separates the our current warming period from the prior interglacial period. Carved into one of the ice sheets is a quote from Micheal Ondaajte’s The Skin of a Lion; “As if everything in the world is the history of ice.” The upper most part of the installation suspends copper silhouettes of salmon that “swim” free from the ice sheets. This release expresses the retreating of the Laurentian glacier that occurred some 12,000 year ago. The meltwaters from this glacial retreat carved out Toronto’s ravine system and formed today’s watershed.
This loose fit installation embraces addition and growth. The work anticipates new stories and connections that will be made between the past, present and future of the site as the project evolves in the years to come.
artist/project manager FERRUCCIO SARDELLA fabricator COBALT FABRICATION structural engineer BLACKWELL BOWICK education consultant PAUL GIFFORD geological consultant ED FREEMAN