Because of the recent spike of COVID-19 cases in Alberta, TRUCK Contemporary Art will be closed to the public until further notice. As an effort to make sure the Untunnelling Vision exhibition can be experienced and accessed by as many people as possible during this time, we have made it available online for a limited time.
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3D documentation for this exhibition was generously provided by Calgary Photos.
People suspend in float tanks; their nervous systems slow down. They float for ninety minutes and their sense of self loosens. They are preparing for a conversation, tending to their bodies before discussing the effects of colonialism and racism. Called Relaxing into Relation, this experiment was proposed and led by Jin-me Yoon for the 9th M:ST Performative Art Biennial in 2018, and it emerged from the following question:
Can another form of being together be brought forth, one that is less prone to violence and oppression?
This is where Untunnelling Vision began and the gallery located on the second floor of TRUCK Contemporary Art includes a work inspired by these float experiences. Openings (Saekdong Seas) is a video that aims to unleash a potential carried in these altered-state conversations, as does the exhibition as a whole.
Three years, two residencies, and one workshop later, Untunnelling Vision is the culmination of Yoon’s site-specific research in combination with an artistic practice focused on the entanglements of militarism, tourism, and colonialism. The exhibition was enabled by many IBPOC workshop participants, as well as Elders and Knowledge Keepers from the Treaty 7 Nations, particularly from Tsuut’ina. Untunnelling Vision opens a set of relations, amongst those who have been a part of the process, and between the final works themselves. It is possible to look at the artworks as discrete objects, but they say much more when considered alongside one another.
In the main gallery of TRUCK, multiple approaches to photography are present: pictorial representations, staged representations, photoshopped images, three-dimensional photographs, even photographs made without a camera. What does it mean to look at all these different images gathered together? It’s as if photography itself were on display. The eponymous video is similar, it strains at the seams from its own difference. Skirting the borders between narrative, documentary, and experimental film, the video contains black and white, and colour footage; conventional and 360 degree images; long, durational shots mixed with jump cuts; and the emergence of a strange figure– part Rodeo Clown, part cheerleader, part Korean folk dancer?– appearing mysteriously throughout. Divided in three parts, just as the film starts to cohere into a story, it seems to shift stories altogether. Is that the vision being “untunnelled”—our relentless drive for a singular story, told from one perspective?
Despite the many differences, all the works in Untunnelling Vision were produced at the same locations. Two feature predominantly, both marked by historical twists and turns in the sedimented narratives they tell. These sites are located on either side of the border between Tsuut’ina Nation and the City of Calgary. The first is on land leased to the Canadian Armed Forces from 1910 to 1998. Used for manoeuvre training that included land and air launched rockets and grenades, it was returned to Tsuut’ina Nation contaminated with unexploded munitions from ‘war-play.’ Ten years later, ordnances were cleared and a movie set was erected for the shooting of the Canadian WWI film Passchendaele. Years after the movie left theatres, the set remains—a place reduced to rubble by war.
Not far from the film set is a construction site on land obtained from the Tsuut’ina Nation by the City of Calgary for its South West Ring Road. When complete, it will include 31 km of six and eight-lane divided highways, 14 interchanges, and 49 bridges. “Destined to become part of a large east-west trade corridor that will enhance access to markets in and out of Alberta,” part of the transportation design includes a tunnel that leads to the Tsuut’ina Nation. This tunnel, and tunnels in general are a recurring motif throughout the exhibition, standing in for worldviews that privilege a direct route from point A to point B.
Other Ways Through (Saekdong Skies) addresses this worldview directly, opening the tunnel form itself to alternate routes. Eight feet long and six feet in diameter, this artwork is a CNC rendering of the connector tunnel when it was under construction. The work offers multiple ways through this linear form, one through photographs that skin the outside of the tunnel, another through the physical model, energetically enlivened by the coloured stripes that line the inside. The stripes reference the “saekdongot”, a traditional Korean pattern especially associated with children’s clothing. The saekdongot symbolizes resilience; its colours vibrate together. For Jin-me Yoon, this vibration carries a potential future.
So, too, does the video in the screening room of TRUCK. In Untunnelled: Sonic Transformations #1, two of the characters from the main video are witnessed playing instruments inside the Ring Road tunnel. (Their sonic bass is also the source material for the sound in the main video.) In their performance, seth cardinal dodginghorse (who contributed significantly throughout the research and production) and Hanum Yoon-Henderson (Yoon’s son) are seen improvising with each other and with the effects generated by the tunnel itself. In the act of creation, the tunnel transforms. It exceeds what it was intended to be, and in so doing, expands the set of possibilities. “A future, potentialized, haunts that tunnel now; it is carried in the very vibrations they created. Unlike images, sound can’t be contained, it can’t be captured in the same way. Their sounds reverberate, carrying the history of a future that could be.”