Thelma Blackstock (detail from Anspayaxw), 2010
Photograph by Denise Hawrysio.

Thelma Blackstock (detail from Anspayaxw), 2010
Photograph by Denise Hawrysio.

Anspayaxw: An Installation for Voice, Image, and Sound

Anspayaxw is an immersive sound-and-photographic installation for twelve channels of audio diffusion, created in 2010 by Canadian artist John Wynne in collaboration with photographer Denise Hawrysio, linguist Tyler Peterson, and members of the Indigenous Gitxsan community at Anspayaxw (Kispiox, British Columbia).

Using innovative sound technology, Wynne merges recordings of the endangered Gitxsanimaax language, oral histories, and songs performed by Gitxsan individuals with situational portraits of the participants and images of handmade street signs on the reserve. These photographs, mounted on flat speakers, become the source of voices and an array of environmental sounds, from bingo calling to water running under the frozen Kispiox River.

In Anspayaxw, tensions between language documentation and the artist’s own creative expression are recognized and represented in image and sound. Wynne considers the complex relationships linking language speakers and linguistic researchers to questions of power, ownership, and the desire to document, preserve, and revitalize endangered languages.

John Wynne’s practice includes large-scale sound installations in galleries and public spaces, photographs that produce sound, and “composed documentaries” that explore the boundaries between documentation and abstraction.

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