Freight Trains and Transcontinental Surveys / by Caitlin Chaisson

nations are narrations
— Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism

On May 7th, Musquodoboit Harbour-based artist Andrew Maize boarded a train bound for Prince George as part of his process-based contribution to the exhibition, Disturbances in the Field. The experimental artwork involves research, travel and collaboration, a multi-disciplinary endeavour that brings the artist to the communities speckled along the railway from one coast to the other. Maize has titled this project nations are narrations, after a line from Edward Said's seminal text Culture and Imperialism (1983) which addresses the role narrative plays in the consolidation of empire.

Maize's project for this exhibition encompasses, in part, a 17-day train journey. The artist is looking to the way the railway historically worked as a tool to unite the disparate regions of Canada and purport a unified national vision. The artist's research into the legacy of the railway has led him to query the way that visual culture was instrumentalized to promote, advertise and entice settlers to this continent. Print paraphernalia and photo essays pictured a sublime, majestic and a strategically uninhabited landscape- which worked to displace, marginalize and alienate existing Indigenous nations. As Maize notes, "The arts played a big role in the colonization of this land, and it is the responsibility of this generation of artists to help see its undoing." 

The socially-engaged component of the artwork, which includes the conversations and relationships the artist is developing with both residents living along the railway and fellow train passengers, is complemented by a number of visual materials Maize is producing in the spirit of re-making the narratives that define this place. Through nations are narrations, Maize asks, "how do we [re]approach the stories, myths and untold realities that are rooted at the core of our “Canadian identities?” Addressing the overlapping and intwined histories that define this country, nations are narrations fractures dominant and hegemonic narratives, in favour of those that are multi-vocal, polyphonic, and perhaps even noisy.  

Images Above:

Andrew Maize. 2017. Untitled. Panoramic photo taken with an iPhone in New Brunswick on Sunday, May 7 at 5:20 PM. Photo courtesy of the artist. 

Andrew Maize. 2017. Trainspotting. Panoramic photo. Photo courtesy of the artist. 

Andrew Maize. 2017. Untitled. Digital collage using Preview. Photo courtesy of the artist. 

Andrew Maize. 2017. Untitled. Oil on card. Photo courtesy of the artist.  

Andrew Maize. 2017. Untitled. Four workers clearing the railroad in Musquodoboit Harbour. Early 1900's lettraset on inkjet print from the archives of the Musquodoboit Harbour Railway Museum. Photo courtesy of the artist.