When the word heritage is tied to a given structure, it carries the notion that its architectural elements are infused with a unique character and a rich history. The sheer number of years for which a structure lives defines its rare cultural value. But even architectural marvels reach an age past which they can no longer stand. In turn, they succumb to demolition in order to make way for new developments and gentrification. And while some leave nothing but dust behind them, others are preserved through the dedication of artists such as recent OCAD graduate Cassie Paine.
Paine’s desire for preservation is represented by a humble, yet fundamental, building material: the brick. Although it is ubiquitous and often overlooked, each one still houses the narrative of the structure it was a part of. To therefore ensure that history doesn’t entirely dissolve, Paine retrieves blocks strewn in the rubble of demolished heritage buildings and turns them into the Brick Archive — a collection of bricks rescued from significant Canadian sites and repurposed for the sake of preservation.
The first to enter the archive was a red brick Paine rescued from the demolition site of Windsor’s historic St. George’s Church (1955) and Church Hall (1921) two years ago. The brick was then duplicated via 3D printing and its reproduction was used to create a series of 60 prints that now acts as a façade titled 1949 Devonshire Crt. Each reiteration of the brick was crafted using photo-intaglio techniques and was printed on fine tissue paper, generating an installation so delicate that it flutters at the movement of the viewer and thus symbolizes the fragility of heritage buildings.
I wanted to take a concrete object, but show it in an ephemeral state, says Paine. Because there is a risk that the narrative of the place might be lost.
The Brick Archive installation presented at the 2019 edition of Fresh Paint/New Construction builds on 1949 Devonshire Crt. by adding an entirely new façade produced using bricks primarily recovered from sites in Windsor and Toronto. In addition to photo-intaglio and screen-printed bricks, the installation is supplemented with 3D versions so that viewers can witness how the object shifted from physical, to digital, to print.
Investigating urban landscapes is at the core of Cassie Paine’s work. As a sculptor, printmaker and installation artist, she delves into urban planning strategies, into the systems that regulate both pedestrians and vehicles, and into the contrast between private and public spaces in order to highlight the authoritative nature of these tools and to reflect on the rigidity of the human environment.
In a similar vein, Paine hopes that those who experience the Brick Archive become aware of the significance of preservation. Despite safeguarding part of the history through printed documentation, her installation shows that the history of heritage structures eventually falls into the hands of cranes and bulldozers.
The Brick Archive therefore acts as a reminder of the past and hints at the importance of ensuring that historical information makes its way into the future.
Cassie Paine was a participant in the 2018 edition of Fresh Paint and New Construction. We are honored to dedicate a solo exhibition to her, to deploy the extent of her research, surrounded by the new student proposals of the 2019 edition.