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2007 03 14
Angle of Incident #45: Seminar 7, Surveillance, Part 5
After the Q-discussion, Laura Knap pushed on into a consideration of a second of the seminar’s letters: “O”.

This took the rather plangent form of what Knap considered a corrective to the freewheeling visionary utopianism of the language in which the seminar often clothes its discussions of The City. She looked closer to home, applying O-for-Obsolescence to the community if Galt, in which the School of Architeture is situated:

O is for Obsolescence

As a once-prolific textile production town striving for a new purpose and identity in the age of strip malls and suburban wonderlands, Galt's downtown seems to make most of its business trading in obsolescence. A heathy half of the storefronts on Main Street are vacant, or are purveyors of previously-loved goods. A sampling of signs over two downtown blocks reads as follows:

Tradeaway Appliances
Main Street Pawnbrokers
High Tech Pawnbrokers (now defunct)
Vaccuums- new and used
Treasure Cove (quality used furniture and more)
(the vacant) Main Street Mall and Business Centre
(the vacant) (one-time) Shoppers Drug Mart
The Goodwill Thrift Store
A Step in Time (antiques)

(the recently vacated) Sparx, (the store that thought it possible to survive by selling teddy bears, and lost the gamble.) (the vacant) Cambridge Used Books, and the empty plate glass window that I have started to refer to as the "Century 21" building, because it's "Century 21-- For Lease" sign is its main distinguishing feature.

A stone's throw down the cross streets, there are two recently emptied large furniture shops -- the Portugeuse Sequiera and the local bastion of Mannions have both disappeared in the last year. The old owner of Russell Diamonds gave up after a frightening if amateurish daylight robbery earlier this year.

There are two second-hand bookstores. One remains a bit of an enigma, as I have seen it open only a handful of times. The other, on first glance, carries a selection of some respectable authors; on closer inspection, it seems to stock each author's second-most-famous-book. There is Southworks - the football-stadium sized consignment antique shop, and two other small antique shops which trade mostly in teacups and slightly damaged, dark furniture; there is the second hand store that went out of business before it got a sign; the Bible Thrift Store; the Recovery Room, and the Thrift Store that has had the same antique spinning wheel and radial arm saw in the window for the past year.

The story of failing downtown economies is all too familiar; but here, alongside the old built fabric of the town, the endless collections of antiques seem to carry on the myth of an unforgotten, booming history. Perhaps, optimistically, there is the possibility of building a future directly with the materials of the past.


The Seminar ended—I cannot remember why, just at the moment--with a brief consideration, led by Jody Patterson Finch, of the works of the late painter Jean-Paul Riopelle: I think it as the beauty of his statement (below) that brought him to us:

"Nature is still a mystery: you never see it whole. It's like me, always slipping away."
- Jean-Paul Riopelle, 1993

[email this story] Posted by Gary Michael Dault on 03/14 at 12:00 PM

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