Phantom Wing – Creating Sustainable Art

By Max Maxwell | Uncategorized

Found objects provide much societal commentary on themes of their works piece, while allowing for the piece to speak for itself. It also adds a touch of authenticity to the installation. Photo by Alia Shahab.

The wrecking ball seems to be an ever-present sight on the prairies these days. With land use being limited in Calgary, in an effort to stave off urban sprawl, more and more buildings are being demolished to make way for the new. The owners of one such building, the defunct King Edward School, had an idea of how to use this situation to help local artists. With one full wing of the aging building staged for demolition, the organization known as cSPACE approached local artists about using the space to create temporary installations. The artists would be able to use any of the pieces of the building to create art that you could walk around in.



This exhibit uses multiple sources of recycled material including window blinds for the wings. The background depicts the burning of Warsaw during WWII and is constructed chiefly out of photos and artifacts from that era and region. Photo by Alia Shahab.

The artists jumped at the chance to do what they had been doing for a long time; using discarded material to make art. According to curator Caitlind Brown, this is definitely not a new phenomenon for local artists. “I think it begins as a practicality thing and then it usually evolves because found materials are very loaded. They have an intrinsic sense of history. They have a lot more depth than other materials that you would just buy new. I think a lot of artists start because it’s free and then they fall in love with the history of the items. Whether or not it starts as an idea that has to do with sustainability, it evolves into an interest in potentials that eventually become sustainable ideas.”

Sustainable art is quickly becoming embraced by many artists. For the talented folks involved with Phantom Wing, we can see how ordinary discarded materials like ceiling tiles and window blinds can be turned seamlessly into art. While the materials are hard to identify as used, they add a sort of authenticity to the piece. Local artist Melinda Topilko says that her collective is “also both interested in the history of those objects” and loves that the projects can be a great excuse to collect and use found objects from everywhere thrift stores and attics alike. One thing can be sure, with benefits of cost and sustainability, use of found objects in art can only become more widespread from here.

The Phantom Wing Exhibit was open to the public from September 24-29. The King Edward School building is now undergoing redevelopment.

Feature Image: The sign for Phantom Wing constructed out of 100% recycled materials including numerous neon tubes. Photo by Alia Shahab.

About The Author

Max Maxwell
Max Maxwell is a 28 year old journalist, artist, and rock musician from Calgary, Alberta. He is a regular contributor to FREQ. Magazine and Beatroute Magazine in both Alberta and British Columbia. When he’s not writing about arts and culture, he can usually be found frolicking along river banks or terrifying the neighbours with his band The Shear Ups. Photo Credit: Mala Moulik