Friday, July 23, 2010

Landscape, Narrative and New Media: The Boreal Poetry Garden Project

Last November, the Intangible Cultural Heritage program sponsored our Place, Narrative and New Media symposium, a gathering which examined using technology to explore the ways and whys of where we live.

One of our presenters was then-ICH intern Jedediah Baker, and one of the attendees was artist Marlene Creates. Since that first meeting, the duo, along with visual artist, filmmaker and poet Liz Zetlin, have been hard at work. They have recently released a new web-based narrative project.

A Virtual Walk of The Boreal Poetry Garden ( was conceived by Creates. The project uses words in situ to commemorate certain fleeting moments of Creates' interaction with the place where she lives in a ‘relational aesthetic’ to the land.

The virtual component, featuring web design by Baker, is comprised of an aerial photograph of the landscape, with a series of poem titles to one side. When the online visitor moves the mouse over the list of poems, a dot shows up on the photograph, and when clicked, opens up one of a series of short, location-specific video poems directed, shot and edited by Zetlin.

Within the six acres represented on the map, there is a multitude of microhabitats: dark spruce and fir thickets; a steep wooded droke; a windblown tolt with goowiddy and tuckamore; a rattling brook called the Blast Hole Pond River; an overgrown bawn; and moss-covered volcanic rock up to 1,000 million years old.

“I have become more and more aware that my experience of the landscape includes language," says Creates. "I cannot walk this terrain without local names for landforms and vegetation sounding in my head."

The project was produced with the support of The Canada Council for the Arts.

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