Which Territory?

Dear Caroline,
Thank-you for starting off our correspondence and posting the photo of your beautiful work. Your post resonates with something that has recently been in my mind; throughout my life I have had few thoughts and little gratitude for my ancestors. (This has been in my mind because I often make a prayer that includes calling to the ancestors. In this prayer I make a point of including blood ancestors and spiritual ancestors, because they are different).

A long time ago, I made a performance that included videotape of women speaking about their grandmothers and I made this work just after the death of my maternal grandmother, who was a strong part of my early life. I never met my paternal grandmother; my parents immigrated to Canada just two years before I was born. (The work, Lean Cuts, is from 1977 and I expect to have some documentation on my website in the near future.)

I am just starting work on a constructed photograph that will include a photograph from the 1950s of the foundry where my father worked. It is part of a series of photographs in which I play the role of Guardian of Niagara, a white-haired crone dressed in a red velvet gown. In late April the local museum’s exhibition will be about this foundry, which was part of General Motors, and I am excited about getting access to their images. The community where I live, and where I was born, is one of the many in North America that experienced major economic downturns because of the fading of manufacturing. So this photograph speaks of my identity in terms of my community, father, gender and age. It also speaks of social class - I am proud of my working class background. It seems to me that social class is less discussed today than it was in the past. In this series of photographs, the Guardian always speaks through a text balloon; I have not yet written the text but I think it will say something about the Creative Economy and the idea that the fires of North American foundries have not been replaced with better jobs only banished to other parts of the world.

Although the Guardian series addresses social issues affecting my community, it is more common that my work addresses the natural landscape of the place where I live. Such works include The View of the Landscape From Here (1990), Fall (2008) and Distance of Their Mouths (2011). I feel deeply rooted to the land here, more than I have a sense of belonging in a social sense. I place a high value on the fact that within a 10 minute car ride I can be in a conservation area or provincial park.

Both Fall (a video installation) and Distance of Their Mouths (a performance) were based in imagery of the waterfalls in the North Niagara watershed and the creeks of which the waterfalls are a part. The creeks are numbered; in the installation the act of measurement by European settlers in Niagara that led to the naming of the creeks, and therefore cultural geography, becomes the device for visually shaping the video.

I don't know how to post hyperlinks on this post directly to these works on my website, but you can find them through the menus at www.elizabethchitty.ca. I look forward to our next conversation.

Les visages de l'inter | RAIQ

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