An Expedition

In collaboration with Fraser McCallum.

An Expedition is drawn from traditions of anthropology, exploration and field study, to re-evaluate the urban landscape in the spirit of a 19th century expedition. The work is set at the Leslie Street Spit, a dumping ground for construction and demolition waste on the edge of Lake Ontario, where the ruins of Toronto are made manifest in a bleak and dangerous setting, which offers a possible endpoint to a chain of colonial thinking. In An Expedition Cotter and McCallum cast themselves as 19th century explorers setting foot in this strange landscape, and analyzing it through scientific experiments and field studies.

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Excerpts from the printed journal accompanying the work:

11th of August

Awoke to the sound of thunder: lightning strikes illuminating the tent and startling eyes, flashes more brilliant than daylight illuminating the expansive darkness. Yet, good to return to solid ground after a day of aquatic tests. Rolling waves seep into my dreams, though they do not rock me to a tender slumber. Dreams of sunken ships, friends lost to watery graves. — FM

12th of April 

It seems spring has returned. But what is renewed? The ruined earth around us remains a steadfast gray. Though nothing is green and the call of songbirds seem a distant memory, the howling eastern winds have subsided and  the golden sunshine makes our day’s toil more pleasant. — SC


21st of June

The workings of this alien landscape continue to beguile us; it shifts and reconfigures itself each time we turn our backs. No sooner have we catalogued and charted a region than its landforms shift; hills and valleys seem to exchange places and only faint traces of our camps remain. Strange forces are at work here. — SC

4th of May

Our minds must work as one to stave off the madness that our surroundings inspire. They are balances on a scale of reason, striving to maintain our moral and intellectual fortitude. We are martyrs at the altar of human discovery. — FM


Installation views from “Sam Cotter and Fraser McCallum — An Expedition” at Xpace Cultural Centre, winter 2014, presented with the support of the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario:

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Denise Ryner wrote this thoughtful text to accompany the exhibition.