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Windsor, Ontario has been hit hard by the recession, with extremely high unemployment and vacancy rates. It is a struggling city that needs new ideas. Local arts collective Broken City Lab brought artists from across the country to take up residency in three vacant storefronts. This is what happened.

The series is now complete! The video embed above will play back all of the films, in order.

Recent Updates

In Store: Coda

This is the final film in the series and posting it makes me feel all sadhappy.

Sad because I have enjoyed doing this project and now its over and feels like saying goodbye to a lot of people I like who I was kind of creepily hanging out with without them being actually there (ok that sounded horrible but editors probably know what I mean). Happy because this has been a truckload of work, and it’s been really hard finding the time to do it, and now after two years I feel a great weight coming off my shoulders. Also, I’m really happy with how these turned out.

I want to thank all the artists who allowed me to film them and their work and make these films. It’s hugely appreciated. I shot many who didn’t appear in the final product, mainly because of time constraints. But I am very thankful of the experience with everyone involved.

Lastly I have to thank Broken City Lab. Without their time, interest, effort, openness and enthusiasm there is no way this would have been possible. I am honoured to have been involved with such a top-notch group of people. Here’s hoping we have poutines at Phog again before too long.

There, and I didn’t even thank my agent or the academy.

This site won’t see too many more updates, although if anything related to the films comes up I will post it here. To be safe, you can check in on my main blog or follow me on Twitter.

UPDATE: there was a problem with the sound on this, but should be fixed now.

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Aug 21, 2012.

In Store: Dear Indian Road

This segment of In Store profiles Leesa Bringas’ installation Dear Indian Road:

I was quite impressed by Leesa’s project. The visual impact, the collective participation, the subtlety of its activism – it all came together beautifully.

When it came to the issue of representing Indian Road on film, I couldn’t get it out of my head that the ideal technique was a single tracking shot. The road is patrolled by private security hired by the bridge company, so I wasn’t about to go lay down track or get a steadicam rig and walk the length of it. The answer was a surreptitious car mount. I found a cheap suction mount and stuck it on there. This was about a year after the residencies. My lady friend and I rented a car and drove up to Windsor to get this and a few other shots (there was some car mount footage in this one too), but unfortunately the car rental place I used didn’t let you specify what model you wanted, so we wound up trying to sneak up Indian Road in a bright orange jeep with a camera mounted on it. Like the ninja! But somehow we stayed out of trouble, and I’m very happy with how the footage looks.

This is the semi-final film. Next will be a brief coda wrapping up the series. I still have tons of great stuff dealing more specifically with Broken City Lab themselves, but I’m not promising that any time soon.

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Jul 25, 2012.

In Store: Non-Place

The first thing I cut for this project was a piece about Andrea Carvalho- back in the summer of 2010, while SRSI was still ongoing. It covered three different projects. When I decided to format these films as a series, I knew I would be including Andrea’s work in there somewhere, I just wasn’t sure how. I thought I might just swap out the graphics on the old one and call it a day.

I settled on more of a cutdown. I think it reflects some of the things I have learned over the course of this project: show less, and don’t explain too much. Let the images speak.

There is some interesting back story, though.


We also saw this neighbourhood in The Border – the new-looking houses that Lee’s group explores, right on the edge of the wilderness, are right down the street from the Chappas houses that Simon (of DoUC fame) and Andrea find flowers in.

The area is vacant because the government bought up all the property. (Here is an example document given to landowners) The whole region lies in the path of the Detroit River International Crossing, the government’s new bridge to Detroit, just approved by PM Harper in June. Part of the project is to extend the 401 right to the bridge, so a huge swath of Windsor around Huron Church has been vacant for some time.

The first time I drove into Windsor I drove through this area and the visual impact was powerful. Only later did I hear about the DRIC, and the impact was dulled somewhat: just as on Indian Road (film coming soon!), the houses and stores were sold by the owners for good money, not abandoned due to economic hardship.

Upon further reflection though, there is a different kind of hardship at play. These giant transportation projects, cutting as they do through great swaths of the city, indicate that Windsor is valued more as a place to pass through than a place to live. “Canada’s busiest border crossing” is too powerful a thing; the gardens of Chappas, as they are in its way, cannot hope to stand.


Andrea talked about this concept a lot. To quote:

Marc Augé coined the term non-lieux [non-places] to describe specific kinds of spaces, chiefly architectural and technological, designed to be passed through or consumed rather than appropriated, and retaining little or no trace of our engagement with them. These spaces, principally associated with transit and communication, are for Augé the defining characteristics of the contemporary period he calls ‘supermodernity,’ the product and agent of a contemporary crisis in social relations and consequently in the construction of individual identities through such relations.

The parking lot we see at the beginning of this film is a non-place. The vacant lot in which Andrea and Simon placed the flowers was a non-place, but by their action, dropped the non-. Maybe many more actions like that could cumulatively do the same for Windsor as a whole.

Here’s the original Andrea video from SRSI, for what it’s worth: SRSI – Andrea Carvalho.

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Jul 11, 2012.

In Store: The Border

Ed. note: Hey, it’s been a while! I did a lot of overtime and also a freelance job and had to prioritize all that cash money work over this project, but I’ve managed to get one more done. This one is about Lee Rodney and her project the Border Bookmobile. There will be two more films after this: one is a mild recut of an earlier short I did, about Andrea Carvalho. The other concerns Leesa Bringas’ Postcards To Indian Road. I have another film coming, about Broken City Lab itself, but it has ballooned in scope and length to encompass events outside of the SRSI residency, so I don’t know if it belongs as part of this series of films. Besides, who knows how long it will take me to finish!

Lee Rodney’s reputation preceded her. She’s a professor at the University of Windsor, and some of the residents of SRSI and Broken City Lab members had been her students, and spoke very highly of her. Sure enough, there were many fascinating things to document during her stay: the bookmobile itself, the tour of Windsor’s forgotten neighbourhoods, and many fascinating conversations, including the one with Justin that forms the backbone of this film.

There are a number of borders crossing through this film. One is the border between Detroit and Windsor, that divides what in many ways should be considered one city. Another is the border between city and suburb. Also there is the border you see in the final shot. Nature borders the city, but not only at the outside edge. It has a way of creeping back in.

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Jun 18, 2012.

Norman Miscategorized

I just realized that I put the Norman film in the wrong category, so it showed up on the Angry Robot front page but not in the In Store section or feed. This is just a courtesy post for those who may have missed it because I am taxonomy-challenged. So here’s Norman again and/or for the first time, depending on where you’re reading this!

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May 12, 2012.

In Store: The Department

Man are we overdue for a new film or what? Here’s one for you, “The Department”, about The Department of Unusual Certainties:

I basically shared an area with these guys. Like Sara French and of course the Broken City Lab crew, we were all there over the whole month. (I wasn’t actually there the whole time, but came down for the first couple weekends.)

I had to decide in the editing how much of their footage to include – I had quite a lot, because of their long stay and also because of the sheer scale of their ambitions. I had a cut that only concentrated on the speed dating event, but I thought there was a lot of interest that got excluded so I made it what you see now, perhaps sacrificing cohesiveness for scope and … awesomeliness, hopefully.

Here’s a downloadable PDF of the Tip Sheet from the DoUC site.

Vacancy. It’s one of the big challenges for Windsor, as it is for any shrinking city. The downtown has been hit much harder – Windsor is a classic North American “donut city” where suburban expansion and downtown decline go hand in hand. (More on this in an upcoming film.) There are no easy responses, and I hope that my use of end titles will not seem like I’m trying to argue that the Department’s activities in Windsor led directly to a decrease in the vacancy rate. But their recognition that there was a lack of communication amongst store owners, and their tapping into some of the energy that resulted from opening the lines of communication, seemed to be heading in the right direction, at least.

Nothing’s set in stone, but I have probably three more films to go, maybe 4. There’s some really great stuff coming up, so stay tuned!

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May 10, 2012.

In Store: Norman

One word: NORMAN

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Apr 11, 2012.

Another Week...

… but no new film-chunky thing-part of In Store?

Sadly, it is true. We’ve officially hit that point where the production falls behind, where we go over budget, where the producer blows a gasket into his cell phone, where the star’s pill problem flares up and he goes missing for a few days…

Well, it’s not that bad. But no film this week – the next few are going to come out on more of a bi-weekly schedule. Which I’m hoping means “every two weeks” because that’s what I mean. We have some real epics coming down the pipe for ya, and they are taking their sweet time.

So see you in a week!

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Apr 03, 2012.

In Store: Unto Caesar

Downtown Windsor is framed by two landmarks: the Ambassador Bridge in the West, and the casino in the east. They are sights to behold, especially at night. Last week we looked at the bridge (and in fact we will return to it by way of Indian Road in a later film). So it’s only right that we now turn to the casino.

This week we follow Robin Fitzsimons as she trains to become the ultimate gambler, and then faces off against the mighty Caesars Windsor, icon of Windsor’s tourist industry:

In Store: Unto Caesar from Daragh Sankey on Vimeo.

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Mar 26, 2012.

In Store: Over the Bridge

More In Store! This week, we follow Thea Jones over the Ambassador Bridge to Detroit.

Thea had recently done a research paper about Detroit. I’m pretty sure she was drawn to the Windsor residency for the opportunity it presented to visit what has become the poster child of broken post-industrial cities. I also was fascinated by Detroit; I’m sure many of us are. Toronto, where I’m from, is sort of the opposite: a thriving, very expensive downtown, where successful information & service industries have replaced industry.

This was in contrast to Windsor residents who of course, being right across the river, are pretty used to Detroit. Its ruins are much less exotic to them. So don’t roll your eyes at the ruin porn, Windsor pals! The film doesn’t really stay there; the field trip to Heidelberg is a trip to a whole other side of Detroit-the-symbol.

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Mar 19, 2012.