Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ceci n'est pas un paysage. A nod to Magritte, and my dissertation work on the processes of landscape representation and place-making. Available at Perivale Gallery, Manitoulin Island.

Anna Jameson's "Wilderness" Narrative. Available at Perivale Gallery, Manitoulin Island

Emergence of Free Oxygen. #3 of series of 4 paintings titled "Willisville Mountain, History of Time". Available at Perivale Gallery, Manitoulin Island.

Land Lines Series

The first in a new series titled Land Lines, this series intends to examine territory and place-making through boundary marking. Available at Perivale Gallery, Manitoulin Island.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Archive Madness

Walked to Library and Archives Canada in a snowstorm this morning after dropping Emilie off at Joanie's. Found some maps of the North Channel and northern Lake Huron, and a few of Manitoulin. For some reason the Geological Survey didn't survey Manitoulin in any depth. I assume it's because at that time (1857) the Island had been assigned as territory for the Odawa, Pottawatami and Ojibwe; mineral deposits, forest fibre and other resources on the Island would have been of less interest than those in the surrounding areas. However, I found some interesting things and have ordered copies of a number of maps.

The maps are interesting as they show the territorialization over time. I am looking forward to looking at letters, journals and other such materials to see the language, descriptions and representations of place.

Well, must be off to retrieve Emilie.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Power Geometry

Last night I was reading Alison Blunt and Robyn Dowling’s book Home.  They propose three components for a critical geography of home which resonate for my analysis of place and belonging (I, for the moment, conflate ‘home’ and ‘place’ as it’s not clear how Blunt and Dowling conceptualize this relationship, and I haven’t thought through it yet):

“…home as simultaneously material and imaginative; the nexus between home, power and identity; and home as multi-scalar.” (22)
They write about Doreen Massey’s concept of “‘power geometry’ whereby people are differently positioned in relation to, and differentially experience, a place called home” (25) which I think will be useful in the context of La Cloche and Manitoulin Island. 

As a creative exercise I map a quick personal map of Whitefish Falls where I grew up (see yesterday’s post). I need to read more of Massey and think through her concept of space and place. Interestingly I realized while drawing that the community is not entirely as I remembered: I often think that the village was effectively drawn along racial lines (minus a few people on either side), physically divided by the bridge.  This was not actually the case (at least not during the time I lived there) – there are many mixed families (including our next door neighbours and the home of my first sweetie). Probably the line was more divided by income levels if I think about it (but again this is not entirely true). Regardless, the village has multiple geographies and boundaries. The formal boundary of the Whitefish River First Nation ran through the village, yet the Ojibwe imaginative and historical boundaries are really much larger than the current treaty boundary. 

As my house was sometimes chaotic and my mind equally so, I found myself drawn to the bush and would find comfort there.  My sense of home was much broader than the physical house in which we lived and supports feminist critiques of both phenomenological concepts of home as the sanctum, and gendered spatialization of masculine public and feminine private spheres.  To draw a full map of ‘my’ home would mean extending quite far beyond our house, the village and into crown and First Nations lands, as well as onto lands owned by INCO mining, as I would spend many hours walking in the bush, following the lakes, climbing hills – I felt at home in an area that was not mine. So, I come up against colonial/western/capitalist constructions of home as that which we own  - however, is sense of home a claim to ownership in some form, at least imaginative?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thinking about place

Kwon’s article ‘The Wrong Place’ is a very interesting read, and resonant for me as an organizer of site-specific programming and arts creation through 4elements, and in my own work as an artist. Many things to think about and say, but here are a few: 

1. Regarding the observation that ‘a new spatial paradigm has developed at a faster rate than our capacity to perceive and understand it’, I’m not sure it’s a question of not being able to understand or perceive these paradigms (after all, the paradigm was not created outside of us, but through us and particular social, cultural, material relations), but that we become disoriented by what we’ve created and disconnected beyond the point of productive disconnection.
2. How much of these ‘hyperspaces’ have been produced/driven by capitalism?
3. Why are a rejection of place and a process of becoming geographically removed necessary for an artist to be effective politically, or to be avant-garde? Perhaps we need to reject an essentialized, dominant knowing, and definition, of place?
My work/life/art are engaged with a region in which land, property, treaty, boundaries, ownership, territory have distinct material, social, cultural, colonial, and political histories - one cannot engage politically by dismissing place.
What I have found to be important for my work is to think about un-settling (literally, conceptually, methodologically) place and our/my relationship to place without destroying place; making place uncanny (to use Freud’s term) but not rejecting the importance of place and belonging; understanding the systems (space?) in relation to the place; and engaging with and understanding multiple relations to place within the same geographical location.  This “locatedness within a particular region” (Malpas, A Philosophical Topography p 190) necessitates understanding of positionality, historical engagement, and a commitment to place. This for me is means to engage socially, politically and ethically.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Engaging with the archive

Today I begin an auto-enthnographic process to document, interrogate, ponder, and engage with the textual works and archives of Anna Brownell Jameson (her 1836-7 writings, drawings and paintings of Upper Canada). To understand her engagement with place and negotiations of belonging is to interrogate my own. Upon reflection I realize that I have been aware, since I was a young child, that my intense attachment to place is layered with that of others, and that this layering has a particular historical context. Where is this place to which I feel I belong, or rather, where I feel at home? La Cloche in northeastern Ontario, along the Precambrian shield and the North Channel that flows between Manitoulin Island and the North Shore. I grew up (from the age of 9) in a little village called Whitefish Falls (Pickeral River in the old language). Now I live on Manitoulin Island in a house from which I can look out at the hills and the water and not a day passes that I don’t think about those waters and hills and the centuries and millennia of passages over these waterways.
“Here (Great La Cloche Island) we found the first and only signs of civilised society during our voyage. The north-west company have and important station here… It is not merely the love of gain that induces well-educated men – gentlemen – to pass twenty years of their lives in a place such as this; you must add to the prospective acquirement of a large fortune, two possessions which men are most wont to covet – power and freedom.”
Anna Brownell Jameson (Jameson 1837)
Whitefish Falls is a simple loop. A single paved road comes off the highway at one end, curving back onto it at the other, crossing over the river once. The bridge splits the village in two physically, and divides what is mostly the white side of town from the native side, although of course there are a few exceptions on either side. The Whitefish River Indian Reserve lands weave in and around Whitefish Falls, with a pocket that runs through the village, right up to the road, then curves behind the Lodge, and around the other side again. There was, I found out, an Indian graveyard separate from the white picket fence graveyard. I had never noticed before. I was charged with mowing it. I also mowed the graveyard beside our house, pushing the mower up and down through the sunken graves, over old stones and unnamed broken white crosses. There were some veterans, and graves almost a hundred years old, some probably older, indistinguishable except for a sunken space in an uneven row. I had heard that Indians had been buried around the outside fence perimeter. Whitefish Falls had been, old Marian Stump told me, an Indian village before, in her memory. Later a mixed village with a missionary church and school, a community garden; later still nothing but the empty church and a street of houses.
Excerpt from Edwards, S. The Anna Line (Unpublished novel), unpublished work-in-progress.