Language and Land Use,
A series of 13 assemblages.
medium: each assemblage includes 3 black and white
photographs, selenium-toned silver prints, each 16 x 20 inches (41 x 51
cm); hand written text panel, pencil on matboard, 10 x 12 inches (25 x
30 cm); and found objects from the site.
of each assemblage: 70 inches
high (from floor to top of frames) x 79 inches wide, plus floor space
(178 cm high x 2 m wide, plus floor space).
works from the series
are in the following collections:
The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery, St. John's; National Gallery of
Canada, Ottawa; Saint Mary's University Art Gallery, Halifax.
Almost ten years ago I wrote that
my work was about “places and paths: absence and presence, leaving and
arriving, identification and dislocation.” These ideas still preoccupy
me and I would now add: memory and language – layers of language and
narrative hovering over and infused in the land. I am fascinated by the
different layers of history — ‘natural’ and human — that can occur in
the same place. When I think about them, they often seem
wonderfully incongruous, or even absurd.
Most of the places represented in this series are, at this time, public
recreational areas: municipal, provincial, and national parks; golf
courses; campgrounds; and historic sites. In each place I looked at the
printed public signs – What are the instructions telling us to do, or
not to do, in these places? What words are being used?
The geography around each of these signs, the territory that is under
the influence of the printed public message, is a place circumscribed
by human activity. In each assemblage, under the central photograph in
the three-part panorama, in juxtaposition to the print and language of
the public sign, I have placed a small, hand written panel describing
my personal observations and experiences in each place; and below
these, a tangible object I collected there.
When I was young and my father would come back from trips, he would
show us the slides he had taken of the places he had visited; many of
the pictures were of historic plaques. It became a family joke. We all
used to groan when he projected yet another slide of a plaque, all the
while eagerly and painstakingly reading it out loud to us. When I
started working on this series and found myself taking pictures of
public signs, I remembered my father's photographs of historic plaques.
Perhaps I got that from him: the thrill of thinking about what happened
in this place, on this very spot, in the past. “Look at this,” he'd
often say to us, “this is History.” The signs that I have photographed
are not about the past but about the current use of land where infinite
changes and events have taken place over the course of time. These
signs record what some people think should not take place there
Marlene Creates, 1994
A publication of the complete series is
Language and Land Use, Newfoundland 1994