lights camera sound actions | time-based contemporary art

Streaming Twelve Artist Statement

(as posted in the gallery, May 2014)

The Twelve Mile Creek is running at the foot of the hill where you stand.

You are looking at a live, streamed image of the Twelve taken from a camera secured to the roof above you and an aerial view of the Twelve from Burgoyne Bridge upstream to Glendale Bridge. The small video is primarily of images related to the building of Decew Generating Station 2. The audio you hear on the headphones has three sounds: the sound of electricity being generated in Decew 1, excerpts from the annual reports of the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario for 1942-44, and a translation into Mohawk of the Nanfan Treaty of 1701.

The source of the Twelve is in Pelham and its mouth is at Lake Ontario via Martindale Pond. The part of the Twelve in St. Catharines has been influenced for almost two centuries by industry, primarily the old Welland Canals and hydro-electric power generation. Just upstream from where you stand is the oldest continually-running hydro-electric station in Canada, Decew Generating Station 1, built in 1898 by a private company and acquired by the Province of Ontario in 1930. Beside it, is Decew Generating Station 2, built in order to power the industries of World War II, and made feasible in part by the raising of the level of The Great Lakes due the Ogoki and Long Lac diversions in the Lake Nipigon area.

I have long been interested in the interplay and interdependence of nature and human culture. In this work, my research was focused through the lens of ideas about ownership and governance. In Canada, no one can own water but of course it is not that simple as anyone who has ever seen a bottle of water knows. Ideas of ownership are themselves cultural.

Consider the layers of governance where you stand – Ontario Power Generation owns the Twelve creek bed, embankment and water flow, the City of St. Catharines owns the adjoining strip of land where you may walk or ride your bicycle as well as the utility possibly delivering electric power to your home, and Brock University owns the adjoining Walker Botanical Garden and this building. All of these land-owners are governed by concepts of the common good, which modulate in time like water flow.

No consideration of ownership and governance in Canada can be complete without reference to whose traditional territory on which we stand and the agreements made between First Nations and settlers. I chose Nanfan as the generally-accepted document for Niagara territory complicated by the disappearance of the Neutral Nation, and chose a Haudenosaunee language. It was necessary to commission the translation because the treaties were written in European languages. Through this governance document, I intend also to allude to indigenous concepts of ownership, stewardship and understanding of common good.

I am interested in the local in a global context. Our enjoyment of abundant water, good infrastructure, and responsible government does not exempt us from the urgent global issues about water ownership, use and protection. This view from here resonates with water issues.

I would like to thank Joe Lapinski for audio editing, Merv Griffiths of Ubu Video Production for video editing, Andy Harris of LEV8 for aerial videography, Fourgrounds Media Inc. for webcam installation, Tehahenteh for Mohawk translation and recording, an anonymous supporter for audio recording access, Tami Daoust of St. Catharines Museum and Jean Bridge for research assistance, and Jean Bridge and Stuart Reid for support of my work.

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