Friday, May 15, 2009

eyelevel unplugged: back to 1974

i have been time-travelling again, but will refrain from posting another photograph of marty mcfly. instead, will erving, treasurer of the eyelevel art gallery in halifax. to celebrate its 35th anniversary, eyelevel unplugged is going retro: out are all the computers, cellphones and ipods; in are rotary phones, typewriters and vintage mr. peanut heads. i just heard about this last night, and stopped by today for my culture corner column.

**spoiler alert**

the column is below.

Thirty-five years ago, I would have hacked this column out on a typewriter, unspooled my camera’s film and had it developed, and carted the whole lot up to Bayer’s Lake to file it with my Weekly News editor before the presses started rolling. Eyelevel Gallery on Gottingen Street is reviving those cigarette-stained days to celebrate its 1974 opening.
I’m only finding out about this now, many days into the time warp, because the press release was typed up and handed out, but not to me. There is no Facebook group, no e-mail updates: just a man sitting quietly in the gallery. That man is Will Erving and he missed the original 1974.
“They’ve attempted to recreate the space so that it looks like the archival photos,” the Eyelevel treasurer explains, noting the gallery was physically elsewhere three-and-a-half decades ago. Although things take more time, he feels he has more time. Fewer things are ringing and beeping, occupying the silence and invading his solitude.
Behind him is a fake wall: behind the wall is the future, a reverse time capsule containing the gallery’s computers, cordless phones and digital cameras.
The office furniture – desk, filing cabinets, manual camera, scissors, stapler, Love Ukulele record, Mr. Peanut – it’s all from the early 70s, selected thoughtfully from government surplus piles or donated by those who were there. All communication is via the handsome rotary phone, physical mail, or in person.
“This typewriter?” Erving says, indicating the sleek modern machine in front of him. “This is the first time that I actually got to play with a typewriter. It was really enjoyable, because you get that tangible product at the end. It satisfies that Protestant work ethic.”
He says Eyelevel Unplugged makes him think more about communicating. With e-mail, you can fire off a thousand copies of a message, and you won’t even tire your finger. When you have to personally lick every stamp, you give some thought to whether what you have to say needs to be shared.
He also says it is the purist of coincidences that his wardrobe has a 1970s style.
The rest of the space has been handed over to creative types for 35 days of “non-organized art.” They’ve had drumming and chanting, living novels and fighting robotic condo buildings mimicking the architectural battle in the streets outside. The day I visited, the exhibit had fallen down. All that remained was a step-ladder, stones and a rod. The artist left it there, pondering the lessons of failure. Soon, it will be gone, replaced by another two-day exhibit.
Eyelevel’s website has been taken down. The e-mail account has not been opened. When 2009 resumes, the new gallery director will have the task of sorting through 35 days of e-mail.
Until then, the gallery is open from noon to seven, all seven days of the week, until May 27. Visit, before the past passes again.
Jon Tattrie told a lie. He was minus three in 1974, and therefore not filing any copy. He’s also going hitch-hiking around Nova Scotia for a while: you can come with him via


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. duly noted! i hope the cottage is not in bedford.