Operating as an archive, social workspace, expedition and field guide, Trudi Lynn Smith’s project finding aid is a multi-faceted approach to the intensely imagined visual legacy of Waterton Lakes National Park. A profusion of postcards, snapshots, advertisements and scientific photographs have, over the past century, formed a deeply embedded lexicon of nature that continues to shape the way we see and encounter Canada’s parks. Smith, as much tracker as artist, revisits these photographic records to trace the mythical and multiple forms of nature and pose a deceptively simple question: What happens when we try to re-enact a photographic moment? Using repeat photography as her method on inquiry, Smith’s describes her process as, “taking archival photographs on a walk and treating them not only as images of something or objects we can hold, but acts grounded in place.”
From familiar viewpoints such as Waterton’s Prince of Wales Hotel, Smith attempts to replicate the moment as closely as possible (with spatial location, time of day, time of year, camera type, film type, darkroom procedures etc.) only to reveal that the more the attempt is refined, or the closer one gets, the more the distance is felt. These productive failures are recorded in photographs, written narratives, video and drawings brought together to form a new archive. This ironic play opens up a space for new meanings about iconic places – places that we continually return to in search of moments that can never truly be found.
finding aid is extended beyond the gallery through a publication entitled field guide and an excursion designed to reflect ideas of art and community engagement that are key to Smith’s practice. field guide serves as an experiential initiation with text and images through which participants journey on a one-of-a-kind “quest” to relocate an historical image in Waterton. The excursion is an artist-led trip to historical vantage points in Waterton to participate in a repeat photography workshop and to partake in the installation of a portable camera obscura.
Trudi Lynn Smith brings anthropology, art, and curatorial practice to bear on her study of places. She has conducted image-based research in Canada’s national parks since 2002 working with photography, video, text and installation to explore the gap between representations and represented. Currently she is finishing her interdisciplinary PhD in Anthropology and Visual Art at University of Victoria. She has published articles on repeat photography as method in visual anthropology (2007), installed site specific works in Waterton (2008 and 2009), and was included in the exhibition Ethnographic Terminalia at the Icebox at Crane Arts (Philadelphia, 2009).
finding aid is organized by the Southern Alberta Art Gallery and curated by Ryan Doherty. Funding assistance from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and the City of Lethbridge.
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