Acoustic Anvil sits on its feet like an ancient, rusting artifact left by giants. Solid and mostly red with streaks of brown and orange, it stretches from a ship-like prow on one side to a blunt, stubby end on the other.
It’s a work that’s a combination of opposites: at four metres by 7.5 metres, its big size holds its own as a public art work by the False Creek seawall but it also has a more intimate side that reveals itself if you get close enough. Acoustic Anvil refers both to the hard work of manual labour, and the refined world of music. It’s both strong and supple.
Its weathered surface makes it look like it’s been in place in Leg-in-Boot Square for a long time. In fact, Acoustic Anvil by Maskull Lasserre is a recent addition. It was officially unveiled this past July as part of the Vancouver Biennale.
Made out of steel, Acoustic Anvil is an enlarged version of the anvil used for thousands of years by blacksmiths to work metal. It honours False Creek’s history as the city’s first industrial centre where several sawmills along with a cooperage, foundry and iron works were located.
Leg-In-Boot Square is named after a grisly story from 1886, the year Vancouver became a city. A man named Wood was walking on the south shore of False Creek when he noticed a boot with something “projecting out the top,” according to a local newspaper. When he went over to look, he found a decomposing human foot inside. The mystery of the foot was never fully solved, although one account in 1887 suggested that the leg belonged to a body discovered in the woods nearby which had been mauled by a bear.
Looking north with the skyline behind, Acoustic Anvil stands out with its earthy colours against the blue-greens of the water and mountains; its horizontal orientation contrasts with the vertical glass towers of the downtown peninsula. Looking south, it’s embedded in the condos around the square.
On opposites sides of Acoustic Anvil are two delicate curving f-holes. In a violin, f-holes are paired on the front to help to produce the instrument’s rich sound. On Acoustic Anvil, they’re connected to each other through the centre: if you stand in the right spot and look at one, you can see through to the other side.
On opening day, I went up and listened to the anvil. It spoke with a low, rumbling voice that could only be heard when I put my ear close to the metal. It sounded like a glacier moving slowly along the ground.
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