John Craig Freeman in collaboration with Michael Jarrett, Shawn Berney, Danyel Ferrari and Georgia Kotretsos
Funding support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Small Cities Community-University Research Alliance and Emerson College
In November 2005, I was invited to participate in the “Artist Statement: Artistic Inquiry and the Role of the Artist in Academe” workshop/symposium co-organized by Will Garrett-Petts and Rachel Nash of Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops BC, Canada.
The “Artist Statement” workshop/symposium was part a five-year research program supported by a Community-University Research Alliance (CURA) grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The program focused on how the “artists-as-researchers” model extends and complicates the practice of interdisciplinary research and collaborative practices.
On November 26, I delivered a presentation titled “Imaging Place; an artistic Inquiry”, and spent November 27 producing the initial fieldwork media for the “Imaging British Columbia” project.
The fist phase of “Imaging British Columbia” focuses on the Soft Wood Lumber Treaty between the U.S. and Canada. In 2001 the U.S. government decided to prop up it’s own inefficient timber industry by imposing a large punitive tariff on Canadian softwood lumber imports. Since Canada and the U.S. both signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Canadian government went to the World Trade Organization and filed a complaint. What followed was three years of panels and arbitrators looking at the case, finding the U.S. actions illegal under NAFTA. The U.S. position remains that it won’t accept any decision that rejects U.S. claims, and if Canada wants to end this dispute they have to agree to U.S. terms. Hundreds of miles from any border, issues of globalization dominate the landscape.
With Weyerhaeuser, a U.S. softwood lumber plant, as a backdrop, Michael Jarrett and other “Artists Statement” participants move through various plant operations drawing correlations between wood pulp and the history of writing.
Michael Jarrett: “Can you see the logs behind us? They’re just amazing. Its like these giant scrolls littering the landscape. I used to go to sunday school. We’d make these scrolls out of paper straws. They didn’t have plastic straws at that time. You would take two straws and a little strip of paper and you would make a scroll.”
Michael Jarrett: “So years later, I read this book by Hugh Kenner that was really important to me. And he talked about how so much of the literature that I had read might as well been written on scrolls because it just unfolds before us.”
Danyel Ferrari: “I was wondering what the emotional loss was of experiencing a place only visually, and then I remembered that I experience everywhere I ever go as though it was a picture first. And thats really when I know how to feel with it or how to think it.”
Shawn Berney: “I see the everyday. I see my friends work. They labor day and night in the saw mill, on shift work, and they put food on the table.”
Michael Jarrett: “At a certain point, people start writing in codexes, books whith leaves. And books become random access machines instead of these linear big log-like, scroll-like narratives. A great example is the encyclopedia, the telephone book, and now with the internet, we end up thinking in terms of this random access pattern. It’s really amazing to see the birth of writing in front of us, from leaves, to pulp, to bark, to big piles of amazing logs here.”
Michael Jarrett: “The thing that strikes you at any paper plant is, that you smell the place and know that there is a price to pay. You get your nose into it and it is quite different than getting your nose into a book.”
Michael Jarrett: “All this is done in secret. It is almost as if the making of books is a secret activity here. This pulp that makes book seems to arise out of this caldron, and so there is this really hideous beauty here at this place.”
Michael Jarrett: “Georgia and I were talking about Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, and what is it? People in stalker, they get what their innermost need is met in the zone…”
Georgia Kotretsos: “Their wish. I think it’s the idea of, you could get what you want, but do you really want to get what you want?”
Michael Jarrett: “Right and that’s being tested, do you really want to get what you want.”
Danyel Ferrari: “Benoble monkeys buy sex from each other with oranges, because they are capable of placing value on a thing and exchanging that thing for something else that they want, and it’s a process of consumption.”
Shawn Berney: “It’s a matter of degree. We are always consuming, but no other time in history, have we consumed at the level we are today.”