Free play needs space – to launch quick and slow movements, for loud and quiet activity, for gathering in groups and for being on one’s own. Within the expansive and multi-level play space at UniverCity’s Childcare Centre, space2place designers and local artists have collaborated on creating an environment in which all these forms of experimentation and performance can co-exist and overlap. The environment they have created invites exuberance and imagination, and through the carefully chosen natural materials of three of its features, expresses a reverence for the forests of the west coast.
Titled after a resonant memory from Brent Comber’s childhood, Nightswimming is encountered at the entrance to the Centre. Three hefty steps are hewn from the middle section of a nineteen-foot Western Red Cedar, while preserving the original girth of the log on either end. Sourced directly from the site, it has been skinned of bark, while preserving
the trail and pathways of beetles beneath. Looking closer, we notice the difference between the meandering traces of bug-logic and the more linear saw blade incisions of human habits. These rudimentary cuts reveal the ringed history of the tree itself, placing all these processes of growth and use into sequence. Whether we rest firmly on the stairs, or perch above them like a log driver, our attention is drawn underfoot. How does material enter memory and remain there? Certainly through language, but also and more viscerally through the imprint of our movements and our senses: how we strive to balance on a surface curved like a planet, or trace with our fingertips an insect’s neighbourhood and recognize our enormity. The scent of resin when soggy and when paper-dry, the solid sound that vibrates from under our landing feet, the sense of how porous matter holds the sun and the water and the saw’s impression: all these embed importantly, to form a memory.
Brent Comber was born and continues to work in North Vancouver, on the slopes of the Coastal Mountain range. His discovery of old wood and its capacity to tell stories in a rich and expressive language has led to an active practice in crafting functional objects, artworks and installations.