Mi’kmaq artist Jordan Bennett took inspiration for al’taqiaq: it spirals from a photograph of a Mi’kmaq porcupine quill basket created by ancestor Mi’kmaw artists, an artifact currently held in the collection of the Museum of Vancouver. Drawing on the colours, patterns, and history of this basket, he arrived at the final work for the Dal Grauer Substation Public Art Project: a photographic work featuring a brightly painted moose skull that was gifted to the artist by a family friend who harvested the moose in Bennett’s home community. Bennett took the skull’s patterns directly from the ancestral designs found on the porcupine basket and then photographed the painted skull on Mi’kma’ki land. Through photography, Bennett reconnects the spirit of the displaced basket back to its origin and home territory.
al’taqiaq: it spirals is a reclamation of cultural belongings, stories, and histories. The image weaves together generations of Bennett’s ancestors and their deep connection to land and animals. By placing this photograph of Mi’kmaq culture in Vancouver, a link is created between both places – the Lower Mainland and Mi’kma’ki – and between the cultural belonging of Bennett’s ancestors and the artist’s own work. The work’s positioning on a public building and on a huge scale provides space for these ancestral designs to exist outside the museum and on the street, to be visited daily.
Bennett’s multi-disciplinary practice explores land, language, the act of visiting, and familial histories and challenges colonial perceptions of Indigenous histories and presence with a focus on exploring the Mi’kmaq and Beothuk visual cultures of Ktaqmkuk, Newfoundland.
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Capture Photography Festival annually commissions artists to create new site-specific works to be installed on the Dal Grauer Substation’s façade. Drawing on the building itself, these projects temporarily emphasize the substation in the streetscape and reassert it as an architectural icon.
Completed in 1954, the BC Hydro’s Dal Grauer Substation was designed by the young architect Ned Pratt and artist B. C. Binning. The building was commissioned by the B.C. Electric Company, under the helm of then-president Edward Albert “Dal” Grauer, to bridge functional design and public art. The substation would go on to serve as a three-dimensional “canvas” that was said to resemble a Piet Mondrian or De Stijl painting.
The Dal Grauer public art installation is made possible due to the partnership of BC Hydro.
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