Leighton Art Centre
Helios, a solar-powered, interactive, kinetic sculptural installation consisting of eight large scale repurposed vintage mechanical horses activated by motion sensors.
In 2013 I purchased a herd of broken down coin-operated horses as the core components of a giant sculptural installation. These are the mechanical horses that stood outside Woodwards, Woolworths, Kresge’s, and so on, in Calgary and small towns in Southern Alberta from the 1950s through the 1980s. I believe these horses are a touchstone of that era, holding a place of local historical value in our collective cultural imagination, and that compelled me to reimagine and reactivate them in a contemporary context.
I have been presenting the horses in different configurations and environments, and emphasizing distinct elements as the project unfolds. The first iteration consisted of dynamic mechanical multiples in the 150’ public art spectacle, Spacepony for Beakerhead, 2014. The horses emerged from a UFO and invaded Fort Calgary in a historical reenactment of questionable veracity.
I then collaborated with Decidedly Jazz Danceworks on a multidisciplinary performance emphasizing movement, rhythm, and desire; Year of the Horse, at Theatre Junction Grand. For this production eight horses were further altered to battery power and remote activation, with heavy duty swivel casters and clear plexiglass base panels to reveal the mechanical workings.
The current installation at Leighton Art Centre references the herds of free-roaming horses called "Wildies" in Alberta. This stage of transformation consisted of installing solar panels, application of silver leaf (to reflect the sky and surroundings), and changing the activation to motion sensors. The reflective surfaces have a confounding effect in this prairie landscape environment, making the extremely substantial installation somewhat illusory or ephemeral.
This would not have been possible without assistance from The Alberta Foundation for the Arts.