Calgary Scroll is a public artwork integrated into the 8th Street SW Underpass located between 8th Avenue and 10th Avenue SW. This artwork is part of the 8th Street SW Underpass Enhancement Project. The 8th Street underpass is one of four underpasses that connect the Downtown and Beltline Communities and is part of the Centre City Underpass Enhancement Program to provide greater safety and comfort for users of underpass pedestrian walkways.
The scope of work of the entire enhancement project included new sidewalks, concrete surfaces, LED lighting, public art, and repairs and maintenance of upper and lower retaining walls.
The budget for the 8th Street SW Underpass Enhancement Project was $8.8 million and substantial completion of the enhancements was December 2016. The public art piece completed in 2017 with a budget of $800,000.
As pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists pass under the 9th Ave bridges, the artwork comes into sight. The dramatic s-curve crosses from above one sidewalk to the other in a manner referencing the curve of railway rails crossing from track to track. It draws the eye of pedestrians across to the other sidewalk and establishes the entire below grade section between the underpasses as its own coherent social space.
LED panels run along both sides of the curve of the artwork. Across these panels, texts scroll along the curves. The texts are snippets and fragments of Calgary’s past; bits of old advertising, classified ads from 100 years ago, personal reminiscences on details of daily life, bits of reportage. The delivery medium is familiarly contemporary, and the content is intended to gently surprise and confuse, then enlighten: to remind passers-by that other people living other lives in other conditions have passed this way before us…
The scrolling of the text overhead along the gentle curve is strongly reminiscent of the passage of a train over a bridge over head. This and the tell-tale curve of the structure reflect on the role of the railway in the establishment and growth of early Calgary. Some of the archival material will be specifically railway-related. The underpass area exists because of the railway, the railway lands remain as a scar across the city, and a scar is a kind of physical memory. People descend into the underpass and into the past. Check out the video.
The phrases scrolling along this curve are glimpses of Calgary's past. Toss a word or two into this pool of memory and see what comes up. Text to (587) 355-2422 or visit calgaryscroll.ca.
David Rokeby is an award-winning, multi-media artist based in Toronto, Canada. Considered a pioneer in his field, Rokeby has been creating and exhibiting since 1982. For the first part of his career he focused on interactive pieces that directly engage the human body, or that involve artificial perception systems. In the last decade, his practice has expanded to included video, kinetic and static sculpture. His work has been performed / exhibited in shows across Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia.