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Entries in tarps (12)


Alison Watt

Alison Watt. Sabine, 2004. ©The National Gallery, London


Ann Hamilton: the event of a thread

at Park Avenue Armoury, New York, December 5 - January 6



Hans Hildenbrand. German trenches, Alsace, 1915.

It was often said that when a German trench was captured the British were struck by how well they were constructed.  Hans Hildenbrand was a photographer from Stuttgart who had been experimenting with colour film since 1911, and had been sent to record the progress at the front, mostly in Alsace and Champagne.  We don't often see the other side, but there is a new book out, Endzeit Europa, colour photographs of WWI, and a selection of images is on der Spiegel online.

Just in this small cross section of one trench there is order and hierarchy, massive protection compared to the sandbags at Vimy: enough infrastructure to remove the sense of being caught in a hole dug in the ground.  One of the Airborne Regiment, after it had disbanded, told me how much time he had spent in Somalia, lying in a very shallow depression in the dust beside the highway leading to Belet Uen, covered only by his tarp.

How much 'building' does it take to protect, without giving a false sense of protection.  These German troops seem very confident, but these are posed photographs, not taken in the heat of battle.  They too left their trenches for that darkling plain that was the no-man's land. 


Victoria, Empress

Queen Victoria, 1893

Queen Victoria in 1893.  As she never left Britain, this oriental tent/pavilion was probably in the gardens at Osborne.  She is working on her dispatch boxes. Victoria seems to have been a woman of great passions: she loved her husband to distraction, her groom, her personal muslim servant who taught her Urdu, her Prime Ministers, especially Disraeli and his expansionist policies which led to the second Anglo-Afghan war.  She 'rescued' India from the ruling British East India Company after the Indian Rebellion of 1857, believed in religious freedom for India and other protectorates, saw the empire as civilising and protective.  However, the empire was conducted by governments and ministers who were not always so benign, and the influence of monarchy is constitutionally marginal.

This lovely painting of Victoria at four: a hat in proportions Marc Jacobs has just resurrected.

Stephen Poyntz Denning 1795-1864 Princess Victoria aged four, 1823. Dulwich Picture Gallery, London


General Roberts' tent

General Roberts in his tent, with his 2 Gurkha, 2 Sikh and 2 Pathan orderlies standing watch outside. 4th Punjab Infantry

General Roberts during the invasion of Afghanistan in 1879: his tent actually has furniture in it.  
The Second Afghan War was the result of the overturn of a diplomatic treaty between Russia and India by Lord Lytton who wanted regime change in Afghanistan deposing Sher Ali, the Amir and studiously neutral, friends with both Russia under Tsar Alexander II and Britain under Queen Victoria, then Yacub Khan who drew a pension from both the Russians and the British, for Abdur Rahman, a steadier friend of the British.  Well, it is all much more complex than this; Persia, now Iran was involved, it had started with the First Anglo-Afghan War in 1838, and continued on to the Third Anglo-Afghan War of 1919.  Isn't it interesting how some things never change.  

Soldiers such as the Highlanders and the Liverpool Regiment found the terrain impossible, the summer weather unbearable, the winter weather bitter, the enemy invisible, allies such as the 29th Punjabis, divided in their loyalties – they were probably saved by the 5th Gurkhas and an implacable sense of historical right.

Nineteenth-century Russia was as imperialistic as Britain.  Russia wanted access through the Straights of Constantinople, and so wanted Turkey. Turkey had been allowed independence by Britain whose navy was able to blockade the Dardenelles and thus the Black Sea and all the Russian ports.  If they did that, Russia threatened to cross Afghanistan and take India.  But India was the jewel in the crown of the British Empire: it wasn't going to happen.  The Great Game, it continues.


Zander Olsen, Tree/Line

Zander Olson. Untitled (Cader), 2008


destination earth

Tidy segregated piles of construction waste placed in between piles of blasted granite.  They take on a kind of beauty as they subside into the landscape.  The gently sagging drywall might simply be fill, but given that one of the remedial actions on an acidified terrain is to spray it with lime, perhaps gypsum has the same effect. 

Drywall. Sudbury building site, September 2011

Brick. Sudbury building site, Sepember 2011

Concrete. Sudbury building site, September 2011

Aha! The ubiquitous blue tarp. Sudbury building site, September 2011

Tire mat, used to blanket a rock explosion. Sudbury buidling site, 2011



Venus of the hydrants

Nanaimo, 2011

Never let it be said that city utilities workers don't have a finely honed sense of humour 
Mme Vionnet 
the erotic.


tarp archaeology

This might be the end of my disquisition on tarps for now.  It stopped raining, got some more pictures, found some more conditions, shall think about them for a bit.  They have so many applications, from storm walls to weed killers.  Most are blue, some are silver and really beautiful.  They are the foreground to many glorious touristy views, the background to the back yard.  They appear where unnecessary, they are slowly buried when forgotten.

With weather comes architectural adaptation.  We have been taught the traditional responses to weather: the tight roofs on the Nova Scotia shore where any roof with an overhang would be ripped off by horizontal Atlantic winds, the deep eaves on the west coast which protect the walls and the foundation from quietly endless vertical rain.  The steep metal roofs of Revelstoke shed great snowfalls into the sideyards; the prairie two-storey frame house, an almost perfect cube, has an extremely low surface to volume ratio, minimising heat loss.  These are the broad strokes, none of which prepared me for the finer grain of tarp culture.   



I'm beginning to think that tarps also indicate ownership, that the pile of leaves on the boulevard covered in a tarp indicates that you have intentions for these leaves, they are yours, they aren't abandoned leaves. 
These pipes in the yacht club parking lot ought to be fine in the rain; no one is worried that water will run in the ends, no, the tarp appears to tidy them up.  The sight of a bright blue tarp is preferable to a pile of pipe lengths.  I find this a bit curious, but clearly I don't quite get the nuances of tarpdom yet. 

I grew up here and can't ever remember tarps everywhere.  Dark mildewed canvas, yes, and tarpaper, lots and lots of tarpaper.  There was a small house on the way to school that was only tarpapered.  It is now stuccoed, but for twenty years the tarpaper did its job.  Now it would be neatly faced with bright blue plastic.  


Tarps R Us

Midland Liquidators, immortalised in Bob Bossin's Nanaimo, and the heart of Island tarp culture.

Tarps are everywhere here, as water is exceedingly thin and can get into the tiniest of hairline cracks in gaskets, flashing, window frames, putty, sealed joints. Woodpiles are tarped, there are tarps on cars, tarps on boats, this morning saw a pile of rocks covered in a tarp, something completely inexplicable.  And because it rains so much, all organic matter is leached from the garden leaving it a gravel bed, you see a lot of piles of manure and topsoil covered by tarps. Deck furniture is tarped, lawn mowers have tiny tarps, roofs have huge tarps.  The mad lady who walks on the path by the yacht club beach wears a tarp. 

Midland Liquidators used to actually be a liquidator, full of tools and work clothes mainly, and once, unforgettably a stand of high-end eyeglasses of which I bought many.  Dad and I used to go down and look at stuff – screwdrivers that worked at right angles, clever pliers and such.  One of my earliest memories when I would have maybe been five, was going with him to Capital Iron in Victoria, a gaunt old warehouse of tools, hardware and navy surplus, oiled wood floors and dim light bulbs up in the rafters.  Neither my father or I were particularly handy with complicated building.  He was a librarian and I generally smash things together with lots of nails and glue, but we found such places endlessly fascinating.   It is quite tough at Midland now, a serious contractor's tool store, but, the tarps, the tarps.


small things: tarps

My new, very small garage.  Is this inventive?  Absolutely not, it is cultural.  This is the west coast where it rains interminably and tarps are a way of life.  The large thing would be to have a two- or three-car garage.  The small thing is to protect a leaking window seal.