Prince George, British Columbia
Far Afield's inaugural project will take place in Prince George in theMay 2017. Disturbances in the Field will launch Far Afield with an exhibition of work by Prince George-area artists and a month of public programming in the city.
Disturbances in the Field will forefront the experimental work being done by artists in the region, and provide a platform for these practices to be shared with the wider arts community across the country. The title of the project gestures towards unexplained phenomena: crop circles or drifting lights; but rather than satiating on the mystery of it all, the project endeavours to become the source of disturbance itself. The field in which this disturbance takes place is a reference that is forked into a divining rod of sorts. It points to the field as it has come to be understood as a discipline, or a branch of knowledge, and the field as a rural or distant site. Through experimental practices, disruption, agitation and upheaval, Disturbances in the Field will seek to complicate our understanding of the field of contemporary art by working outside the purview of the metropolis.
Prince George's Experimental Legacy
The generous influence the Experimental Farm in Prince George has had on the development of Far Afield is a key factor in situating the launch of the project in this city.
The Experimental Farm arrived in Prince George relatively late in comparison to the other Farms in the program, but nevertheless it was a strong presence in the area from 1940-1985. The farm endeavoured to serve the regional farming community not only through scientific research, but also through social and cultural activities. In former Superintendent Walter Burns' 1961 article to the Prince George Citizen Newspaper, titled “Agricultural Research Conducted Here”, you could substitute “artist” for “farmer” and “art” for “agriculture", and it would read almost entirely like an art collective’s manifesto .
In 1985, changes to the federal program meant that many of the Experimental Farms across the country began to close- including the site in Prince George. The farmland laid fallow for many years until negotiations began with the Lheidli T'enneh, whose ancestral ties to the land were acknowledged in 1994 and the property was deeded to the Nation.
The transfer of land from the Experimental Farm back to the Indigenous community is an event that is unique to Prince George. On top of the real transfer of ownership, the the symbolic quality of the event is revealing. What does it mean that the last major event at the Prince George Experimental Farm is one of repatriation? For an institution that aimed to support cooperative, innovative, and sustainable methods of working, the transfer of the site to one of Indigenous stewardship is a profound outcome; particularly in today's political climate.
Today, the Experimental Farm in Prince George is a vast expanse of growth and roaming horses. At the entrance to the property, the Federal signage still remains. Though it has been painted over with a paintbrush and black paint, "Experimental Farm" still visible through some of the brush strokes. Past the sign, and further into the field, one steel barn remains- a Quonset. The rounded, half-barrel shape is one of the most common structures to find on any piece of farmland across North America, and it is also a piece of architecture that links the infrastructure of agriculture to the military.
More on the background of the Experimental Farm Program can be found here.
 Burns, Walter. “Agricultural Research Conducted Here.” Prince George Citizen, 24 May. 1961, p. 24. "It is obvious from inquiries we receive that many people do not appreciate why we are here. A favourite inquiry is, "Is the veterinarian there?... Do you sell plants or seeds or eggs?..." These questions suggest the inquisitor does not segregate our activities form that of a commercial production farm unit... Naturally, of course, we do as much as we can for these people in supplying information as to where they may get what we can't give but we are anxious to see a full understanding and appreciation of our objectives." (24).