Annie Ross

Walk in the woods

October 16, 2008

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By Stuart Colcleugh

Venture down the woodland trails surrounding SFU’s Burnaby campus over the next few weeks and you may be surprised to encounter a temporary art installation made up of 98 separate signs with poems and photographs.

Surviving Modernity is a part of a three-year project by Annie Ross, an SFU assistant professor of First Nations studies/archaeology. Each piece consists of a real-estate-sign frame housing ross’ poetry and a pair of photographs highlighting a specific theme: clean water, nuclear contamination, remediation, sanctuary, domestic violence, estrangement from the natural world, reproduction, despair and species loneliness.

Surviving Modernity began in 2005 with a three-year research/creation grant in fine arts from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. "The grant has funded several projects to fruition," says Ross, "including the aboriginal artist mentors program at SFU and a print exchange with 116 international artists exhibited at the SFU Gallery.

"It has also funded a community poetry exchange and a community poetry celebration and art fair at the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre, SFU student exhibits, oral narrative field work and research about the nuclear industry and its history in aboriginal communities.

"It has funded the creation of five visual arts series over the past three years including Surviving Modernity, about facing the mythic utopia that industrialization, nuclear technology and other so-called advances promised but, of course, could never deliver." The others are:
  • Corn Mother v. the Terminator Gene: seed sovereignty, genetically modified crops and the right to food.
  • Happy Birthday Super Cheaper, toys and trinkets covered with woven wool clothing, as if going to a feasting party.
  • Cedar Trash Lives Again, household items covered with tree bark salvaged from SFU development, exploring the concept of trash, wastefulness and insatiable needs.
  • Sasquatch Emerging from the Basket of Memory; woodblocks about mystery, the wild and the politics
    of hopelessness.

"The theme of all of the work is to consider aboriginal logic of Homeland," says Ross, "and how that can inform all of our communities in methods and ideas to help survive modernity."
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