Heads of Engineering 

By Karen Herland

Magnifying glass

When the EV Complex went up in 2005, its mission to showcase the combined creativity of art and engineering was a front-and-centre priority for those invested in the project.

“I remember when institutional buildings used to have a lot of art and sculpture. They don’t any more,” mused Concordia supporter Salvatore Guerrera.

Through his generosity, a major work by Jesús Carles de Vilallonga was placed in one of the art history amphitheatres. Now, in the building’s concourse along Guy St., Guerrera and his family donated Heads of Engineering, a surrealistic nod to the underpinnings and practice of the field as seen by conceptual photographer Geraldo Pace.

Pace was commissioned by Guerrera for a book project based on the photographic work he had produced for a local magazine. That project coming to an end, but the basis for collaboration and mutual respect still strong, Guerrera enthusiastically suggested Pace when an art work to represent the engineering mission of the EV Complex was first discussed about a year ago.

“I wanted to do something for the university in the field of photography,” Guerrera said, adding that Pace uses film, not digital, techniques. In recent years Concordia has added a number of major photograph-based pieces to its public art collection by Nicolas Baier and Holly King. In 2009, we will have a work by Geneviève Cadieux for the JMSB.

“The evolution of this commission was quite unusual”, explained Special Projects Director Clarence Epstein. “Beyond the idea of representing engineering, the vision, timeline, budget and mandate for the artwork was realized thanks to a major team effort.”

Those involved in the project, including Associate Dean, Special Projects, Terry Fancott, began to visit public art works in similar contexts. They also toured galleries and considered a number of potential sources of inspiration. “There were many, many conversations,” Guerrera said.

Representatives of the Faculty began to meet with Guerrera and Pace. It became clear that the project should be completed before Dean Nabil Esmail’s term ends this month. Guerrera decided to use proceeds from an auction sale to finance the commission(The Journal, Dec. 6, 2007).

Artist Geraldo Pace poses with a very pleased Dean Nabil Esmail at the unveiling of the Heads of Engineering in the EV Complex. Magnifying glass

Artist Geraldo Pace poses with a very pleased Dean Nabil Esmail at the unveiling of the Heads of Engineering in the EV Complex.

With an artist, funding and timeline in place, it was up to Pace to develop his concept. As his first public art project, he wanted it to be special. Inspired by the compositions of Irving Penn and the Surrealist school of painters, Pace conceived of a series of five heads built with materials, props and symbols linked to the engineering discipline.

The initial proposal was brought to Faculty representatives last summer, and Pace said they were impressed. He continued to refine the concept as time passed.

The central figure of Earth is depicted with Mother Nature’s engineering feats of dams, hives and nests. The other four heads representing the elements of stone, glass, metal and wood cover different aspects of engineering over time and space. The aviation-inspired piece (stone) features a turbine prop, engine cogs and a winged insect. The wired head with CD earrings (wood) gives a nod to today’s plugged-in youth culture.

Pace worked closely with Montreal designers to build each three dimensional maquette, shot them at his atelier in St. Sauveur, and printed them at Edward Burtynsky’s studio in Toronto. The resulting images “surpassed my expectations,” Guerrera said. “Most of all, I’m glad the Dean and his faculty were happy — that’s the crucial audience — and I hope that it will inspire many more students.”

The maquettes themselves will eventually be on display outside the Dean’s offices on the second floor of the EV Complex.


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