Bringing People and Land Together, Picturing Transformation

Picturing Transformation, Nexw-áyantsut Cover

by Jarrah Hodge

“When the Witness project came, it made my heart wake up. To be able to take care of the spirit of the land, we have to take care of the spirit within so that we can venture and bring it out into the world. To care for the feelings, care for the spirit: spirit of the trees; spirit of the animal; spirit of the water; spirit of the unknown creatures in our forest.” – Eugene Harry/Haykwílem, quoted in Picturing Transformation.

Between 1997 and 2007 the Utsám Witness project engaged 10,000 people in witnessing and ultimately, peacefully protecting a 50,000-hectare area of the Squamish Nation from logging. It started from a fortuitous collaboration between Squamish hereditary Chief Bill Williams, telálsemkin siyám, award-winning photographer Nancy Bleck, and the late mountaineer John Clarke. Clarke and Bleck had realized that protecting the area would require leadership from First Nations, and Williams realized the benefit of reconnecting people to the land – even people outside the Squamish Nation – to build a sense of collective responsibility.

According to the Squamish Nation Assertion of Aboriginal Title, “Being called to ‘witness’ in the Coast Salish tradition is a sacred honour.” “Witnesses” are meant to listen and watch and take the message back to their home communities. They also bear responsibility to recount the events if, at any time in their lives, there is concern over what took place.

The new book Picturing Transformation, Nexw-áyantsut helps those of us who were not involved in the original project nonetheless share in it, and Bleck’s photographs of the land, the water, the logging, and the people, are the most significant part of that. I found I couldn’t help feeling drawn in , spoken to, and asked to share in the responsibility to repair our broken relationships with land and First Nations communities. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Books, Can-Con Leave a comment

Where Does Artist End and Art Begin?

by Tracy Bealer

While watching the 2010 documentary The Woodmans, I was reminded of the Yeats poem “Among School Children,” where he posits the seemingly unanswerable question, “How can we know the dancer from the dance?” And the movie left me with some questions, of various answerability, of my own. The film centers on the surviving family of avant-garde photographer Francesca Woodman, who committed suicide in 1981 at the age of twenty-two.

Woodman’s body of work includes thousands of black and white images, many of herself, which focus on the female body in various stages of undress. The prints are exposed so as to make the figures seem ethereal, blurred, or otherwise impermanent. Woodman’s lack of early success as an artist, along with her documented struggles with depression, are a few of the narratives her family and friends offer for her suicide in the series of interviews that comprise the documentary. The film is, thankfully, less an attempt to “explain” Woodman’s death and more an investigation of how art and love can heal an unfathomable loss. (Both of Woodman’s parents, along with her brother, are also visual artists.).

Woodman’s mother Betty, a well-known ceramics sculptor, mentions her frustration with devotees of her daughter’s work who insist upon a biographical interpretation of the photographs, insisting that Francesca was most healthy when she was creating, and ceased taking pictures in the months leading up to her death. However, it is difficult to look at the images of Woodman produced of her naked body, distorted and vulnerable, and not imagine she was revealing something of her troubled mind. Read more

Posted on by Tracy Bealer in Feminism, Pop Culture Leave a comment