Although the cabin was “off-grid” and lacking many modern-day conveniences, its interior design created a sense of warmth and comfort, creating for me an odd contradiction: the juxtapositioning of a primitive setting with a sophisticated design.
Off-grid suggests disconnection from externally provided services, such as electricity, water, telephone, etc. and to many this infers going completely without. But if positioned as “stand-alone”, meaning that such services are self-provided, a different scenario can be envisioned. For example, as a child, our summers were often spent in off-grid / self-contained cabins. Using propane for the appliances, gas for lighting, a gas-operated pump to fill a water tower, etc. all the essentials of light, heat, refrigeration, and running water for washing and toilets, were provided.
This cabin, however, left us in a more primitive state. Water needed to be brought in, there was one sink plumbed with a drain, but neither faucets nor plumbing for toilets, lighting was by kerosene, the fridge was an ice cooler. I did have a solar panel to charge our phones, a gas generator to charge my camera batteries, bicycle, and laptop, a wood-burning stove for heat and there was a propane stovetop to cook with.
One might argue that we were not completely off the grid as we bought food in a grocery store, there was a road enabling vehicle access, and periodically a cell signal got through and delivered a text message. As well, services were available externally including at the Provincial park, where we could have a shower, wash our clothes and charge batteries. The Twillingate Library had internet access, as did a local pub.
So why go through all this? To elevate as many contrasts from daily life as possible, through both physical to emotional challenges. One purpose of a residency is to break away from routine; to position oneself outside daily norms into a space where new or different experiences might stimulate new or different thoughts, impressions and interpretations. Going off-grid created a disconnection that went further than one created by a simple change in space to develop a deeper experiential and emotional break.
By way of a parallel, an anthropologist might go in situ to experience a different culture to see the nuances and to develop a deeper understanding and in doing so carry the learning experience from an intellectual approach to a more physical one and through this bump into the unexpected. My expectation was that these unexpected things would highlight the contrasts with my regular routine.