To warn other Canadians / Avertir les autres Canadiens
Residency dates: November 1, 2013 – April 26, 2014
Exhibition dates: April 26 – September 30, 2014
Photo documentation: Kate Oakley
The exhibition To warn other Canadians presented art works dispersed throughout the four levels of the Diefenbunker as interventions designed to amplify the environment of the already existing museum displays. The exhibition title was borrowed from something Doug Beaton, tour guide and museum archivist, said: “The bunker was here to warn other Canadians”. This refers to the role the bunker played in housing elements of the federal government in the event of a nuclear attack. Signals are a bunker’s human element.
The exhibition presented black and white drawings as a witnessing of an important period of recent history. Ink-jet prints on Fabriano paper (these are titled Cold War Pieces, 28 x 22 cm (11 x 8.5 inches) were made from my original drawings in graphite, pastel, carbon pencil or black gesso on Mylar combined with and printed over images from the museum’s archive, emblematic images from the internet or pinhole photos taken by Maggie Knaus and Giuliano Pirani. The exhibition took form through fruitful collaborations at every level, with the curator, the institution and with these two artists who use photography as their medium.
To move around the imposed restrictions of displaying art in a bunker, I devised the unique strategy of using black tape as a framing devise around each drawing. The formal black lines of the tape integrated the work into the architecture of the corridors and the columns. It also signalled the constant presence of artworks throughout the bunker. The exhibition logo, a silhouette drawing of an air raid siren, was placed at eye level at the entrance to each room where an artwork was presented among the posters and other pieces that form the museum’s wall displays. An art map was created to guide visitor throughout the four floors, but no other information was made available to the viewer. The works fostered alternative interpretations of the bunker and gave visitors a chance to think about the issues raised by the displays in another way.
The opportunity to research permitted the development of an understanding of the site, its historical function, the human factor in its equation and the current status the museum holds as a well attended local museum. All works I presented sought to find the character of the site through its architecture and history while addressing issues of social agency. This agency is a personal response to events beyond the control of an individual. The Cold War, a sustained state of global political and military tensions between East and West Blocs of power, is often given beginning and ending dates that nicely contain a still existing nuclear threat. Named by George Orwell after the dropping of the first atomic bombs in 1945, “cold war” describes the experience of nuclear destruction held in delicate suspension by the avoidance of direct military combat.