As far upriver as you can go before having to switch to a pole (2015)
Chilliwack means "as far upriver as you can go before having to switch to a pole" in Halq’eméylem, the language of indigenous groups local to the area of Chilliwack (Ts’elxweyeqw). This meaning reflects the turning point in the anthropogenic influence, the moment at which an external dependency occurs. Succeeding the last hundred centuries of the Holocene, the Anthropocene is the proposed current geological epoch in which the earth’s climate is affected by human influence. Nature was the standard in which species evolved, and now nature must adapt to conditions created by one of its byproducts. Centred on a 16mm film installation of footage shot on location in Chilliwack, the various forms of the anthropogenically-altered landscape are represented within this project to build a discourse between the perception of what is natural and what is naturalized.
The Vedder Canal, in Chilliwack, BC, is the product of a large-scale dredging project that displaced the Sumas Lake in the early 20th century. Prior to the completion of this project in 1924, Sumas Lake would triple in size during flood season in the spring. Regulated by a series of small canals and pump stations that supply water to farms, the main canal is situated on the eastern edge of the former lake and floodplain. The Vedder Canal is a functioning monument to the displacement and dispossession of indigenous life: flora, fauna and people. Just as monuments that commemorate historical events and figures become obscured as history accumulates around them, so too is the history of the canal obscured by adaptation. The plants grow over the berms. Birds and people feed on the fish that swim through the water. It is visibly artificial, but has been naturalized. It exists in an in-between state, in conflict with itself.
As far upriver as you can go before having to switch to a pole focuses on three specific sites in Chilliwack that challenge notions of the natural, unnatural, and naturalized. In addition to the Vedder Canal site, the second site is a golf course located on a former dairy farm, which constitutes an apt example of ‘man-made’ nature. It is in a state of constant maintenance, through intensive landscaping, within the anthropogenic landscape. The third site is a fallow field, formerly used as a dump and currently used as a grazing field for cattle during the summer. The field is surrounded by subdivision and townhouse development, and is scheduled for full residential development by 2019. Over the course of several months, I visited and documented these sites, in both moving and still images.