The Arbour Lake Sghool serves both as a suburban non-sequitur and as an archive of art, critical thought, junk and reasoned dissent. TRENCH WAR! Anatomy of WWI pays service to those idioms by passing an event concretized in cultural memory through the demented prism of the Suburbs. The event: World War One. The result: a childish, colourful and poorly yet skilfully rendered mock-war staged in the suburbs of Calgary, reflecting the superficiality and gross physical malapropisms of said communities.

Especially recent suburbs often strive to embody given memes, portraying themselves as complete packages that offer to the discerning suburbanite a specific way of life in a specifically themed locale at a specific price point. We’ve all seen iterations of the Golf Community for Empty-Nesters, and Calgary itself has a Scottish-style Community for Established Families, among other ridiculous examples. Inevitably these communities fail to evoke anything remotely close to the representation intended in the same way that Disney’s California Adventure Park fails to represent the State (and state) of California. TRENCH WAR! is a performative extension of these failed Suburbs, a plasticised and bowdlerised enactment of a real and horrible event. Rubber water balloons replace guns and bombs, dry ice mimics deadly mustard gas, hoses replace machine gun turrets, the war lasts a convenient 24 hours and flopping around in the muck stands in for genuine death. A defining, massive and incomprehensible episode in history is reduced to a harmless packet of information small enough to be processed and understood by its players and its observers.

TRENCH WAR! is a true multi-media event, incorporating performance, video, photography, sculpture and drawing. The performance took place in the Arbour Lake Sghool yard in June of 2004, and the resulting video was displayed at the Art Gallery of Calgary in September of 2004. All attendant costumes, tools and materials have been retained for archiving and display. New and original works were shown at the Toronto Free Gallery’s show The Centre Cannot Hold: Prospects for Suburbia in April, May and June of 2006


"Far-out ideas for rebooting the ‘burbs" (Toronto Star, April 23, 2006) by Murray White.

Eye Candy: The Centre Cannot Hold” (Eye Weekly, April 27, 2006) by unknown author



Elliot Negelev is constantly photographing the Sghool and shot a lot of the event photos on this page.  Check out his website at


© 2007 The Arbour Lake Sghool