In Progress: Spinal Column
This is one of ten public art projects commissioned by the Region of Waterloo for stops along the ION Iight rail transit route.
Two Smiths proposed to forge a section of the actual track the LRT runs on. The track, turned upside down, physically transforms from rail line to spinal column – a transition that is achieved by physically pinching it, slicing it and forging it.
Blacksmithing: manipulating hot steel using a hammer, served as the foundation to all other trades. Blacksmiths forged stone carving and wood working tools as well as agricultural implements, A contemporary sculpture made using very old technology identifies the piece as a work that conjures up all of the many trades that have flourished in the Region over the past 180 years. Much of the work done in factories today is performed by robots. This is a reminder of what can be done by hand by blacksmiths.
One might interpret the design to suggest that the spinal column serves as a metaphor for the LRT. On a deeper level, though, it also guides the collective imagination to observe that manufacturing was the backbone of the economy that facilitated growth in this area.
Backbone as a noun, also refers to strength of character. Grit, determination, fortitude are all qualities that people exhibit who are struggling to overcome challenges or rising to the opportunity. One might perceive as a metaphor for the community at large.
As blacksmiths, we regularly participate in public forging demonstrations.
On October 20th, we’ll be organising a public event that will provide and opportunity for people to watch how the track is heated in the forge and then pinched and stretched. For those who wish to get physically involved, we will provide sledge hammers, safety equipment and will invite people to participate by helping to hammering hot steel into bone shapes.
I believe this will provide the community with a very real chance to take ownership of this piece. They’ll be able to visit the finished piece and say, “I helped to make this sculpture”. Everybody knows what train tracks look like and having a chance to re-shape it, I think, could very well transforms a person’s idea of what it means to make things.
To read more about the ION project participants, click here.