High Slack Installation

High Slack: MOA -The University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology, 1994-95.
High Slack is an ensemble of painting and sculpture brought together for the Museum of Anthropology to create a series of metaphorical platforms from which to view North West Coast First Nations/incomer encounters. With director Michael Ames and curator Rosa Ho’s support, my ongoing painting, sculptural and research interests were used to challenge MOA’s architectural, historical and museum tropes.
 Arthur Ericson designed the museum in 1976 around three, sea facing, gun emplacements built on un-ceded Musqueam territory during the Second World War. The building is locked onto the central emplacement that now serves as the platform for Bill Reid’s sculpture of the birth of Haida First People from a Butter clam shell. The windows of the exhibition space then looked directly at the northern gun emplacement and steel-doored ammunition storage containers that I viewed as High Slack adjuncts.
 The aim was to place my “readings” of encounters by Captain George Vancouver and the Spanish Captains Galiano and Valdez with First Nations ( Log:A), Royal Engineer Robert Homfray’s meeting with a Chilcotin man in the Homathko Canyon, images of the W.W II tunnel below the room, and native blocked efforts to export water to California (Water Damage), to create positions from which to consider our behavior in the face of the “other.” The concept behind painted portions of the work was derived from sketches made at the 9000-year-old midden at Namu.
           Reading/Redoing, a wooden boat/seat, was placed outside the main exhibition space at the end of a corridor connected to Bill Reid’s Bear, MOA’s only touchable object.
          The climbable, Reading/Redoing offered apposing seats for perusing two artist’s books; Logs: A and BLog: A alternates pages by Vancouver and the Spanish about their differing perceptions of their Desolation Sound surveys. A figure, a man one assumes, drives a boat through the same territory until it turns to reveal the beautiful mouth of a woman. Log B is about loss, of losing native pictograph photos and of losing the native society in which they functioned.
 Naming Names is a textual painting about replacing the descriptive name of Naiikun (Long Nose) on Haida Gwai with “Rose Spit” after George Rose who was never there.
 At the entrance to the main installation space, a screen (Hommesh) hovers in front of High Slack, a 9’x26’ steel pipe, Fibonacci spiral laced with painted tarps. The text is from Robert Homfray’s diary of his meeting, during his survey in Bute inlet for Alfred Waddington’s 1860s road to the interior gold fields, with a Chilcotin man who examines him to see if he is human. The later massacre of Waddington’s road crew led to the only major native/incomer conflict in B.C. history. Testimony from massacre survivors and Police Commissioner Chartres Brew spiral inward to a fragile silk panel telling of the violence.
 Two desks sit outside High Slack bearing Water Damage, a translucent, hand bound book about contemporary water export from the area, and Likeness which is a textual collage of conflicting voices relating massacre events.
 Hoist is composed of B&W photos by MOA preparator David Cunningham of the tunnel beneath the museum, and coloured photos of wild roses covering native midden. The images are overlaid with screened text relating Homfray’s uneasy night in an underground, kikwilly house in Homathko Canyon.
They Would Not Let Us Stay is a 20 x 9 foot painted tarp overlaid with two layers of text from Homfray’s journal entries and photographs referring to Chilcotin in dark, narrow canyon thru which all efforts to build a road would have to go.
 Namu’s 9 x12 foot, painted tarp hangs from a rafter onto the floor over a half hidden book on the sea’s changes and photographs of slate blade and blue trade bead midden finds.

Symposium: “The Tsilhqot’in War of 1864 & 1993 Cariboo-Chilcotin Justice Inquiry”, Nov 19, 1994.
Publication a) Symposium report, UBC Museum of Anthropology and The First Nations House of Learning at UBC.
                 b) High Slack, info@News Star Books.com)
1)            “Reflections of a coastal Culture,” Robin Lawrence, June 2, 1994, The Vancouver Sun.
2)            “History through an artist’s eye,” Peter Wilson, The Saturday Review, The Vancouver Sun, Nov 19, 1994.


Installation Slide Show