pixelgrain: over 2000 submissions!

The beginning of the new year marked the 2000th submission to the web project, pixelgrain. Currently there are 145 contributors who have submitted over 2000 images and videos, and the number is growing each day!

pixelgrain is a collaborative online repository of documents connected to the iconic Canadian prairie grain elevator. By systematically documenting and mapping these disappearing structures – and interviewing people associated with them – the artists portray a parallel rural community in the midst of transition. pixelgrain also functions as a web portal that utilises Geographic Information Systems and online social networks to create a participatory collaborative document that grows over time.

Since the launch of pixelgrain in 2007, many of the elevators Leah Lazariuk and I documented have disappeared from the prairie landscape. In the case of the elevator in Cupar, Saskatchewan the structure was demolished not long after we shot it. In his photo essay Death of an Elevator, Mike Stobbs documents the demolition of the 70 year old elevator and explains how the debris was buried in a farm yard that already had four elevators beneath the soil.

In February of 2010, the oldest grain elevator in Canada in Fleming, Saskatchewan burned to the ground. When Leah and I visited and documented the site in 2006 we heard the community was raising funds to restore the elevator as a heritage/museum site – tragically the elevator was close to restoration when it was destroyed by fire.

A rarity in the Canadian prairies are the twin tower elevators. We were saddened to discover ‘the twins’ we documented in Chin, Alberta were demolished – especially since they were both very unique and structurally sound.

Although many of the vintage wooden grain elevators are hastily demolished, one creative solution to a non functioning historic elevator was to transport the structure to the Sukanen Ship Pioneer Village and Museum near Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Chris Attrell’s wonderful video documents an elevator in motion, navigating along the flat prairie landscape to the surprised reaction of the local cows!

The transported elevator is now situated nearby Tom Sukanen’s landlocked ship. Tom Sukanen was an eccentric Finnish homesteader who settled near Birsay, Saskatchewan and hoped to travel home again on his ship he assembled near the South Saskatchewan River. A National Film Board of Canada film recreates the true story of Sukanen who spent ten years building and moving overland a huge iron ship that was to carry him back to his native Finland. The ship never reached water.

pixelgrain was recently exhibited as part of Dig Up My Heart: Artistic Practice in the Field at the Confederation Gallery.