Entering and Leaving St. John’s, Newfoundland 1995

medium: 15 pairs of azo dye (cibachrome) colour photographic prints, image size of each photograph 4½ x 6½ inches (11.4 x 16.5 cm); each pair framed 4½ x 14 inches (11 x 36 cm).
installed dimensions: 70 inches high (from floor to top of frames) x 6 feet 9 inches wide (178 cm high x 206 cm wide).
collection: Government of Newfoundland & Labrador, Provincial Art Bank.

This series of photographs forms an inventory of the signs that indicate the limits of the city of St. John’s as they were established with the amalgamation in 1992. Most of the roads that cross the boundaries of the city have a pair of signs on either side of the road — both exactly the same, facing in opposite directions — that indicates the precise spot where one enters and leaves the city. I went along all the roads that cross the city's boundaries and found 15 pairs of signs. Together they make visible the geopolitical limits of a city that exists somewhere between these signs.

The City Limits signs that first caught my attention are the pair across from each other on the Trans-Canada Highway. When approaching St. John’s, one comes upon a sign announcing the city’s limits, but then there’s another 30 km of driving by woods and bogs before seeing any evidence of the city. And when leaving St. John’s, one drives those 30 km before coming to a sign that tells you that you really hadn’t even left the city yet.

Most of the landscapes surrounding these signs do not correspond at all to the image one might have of St. John’s. This creates a disconnection between the label announcing the city, the actual surrounding place, and the idealized image one may have of this city. St. John’s is larger than whatever idea we may have of it, including for those of us who live here. And Newfoundland, too, is and is not the Newfoundland of the imagination. Which is why my work may or may not be what one expects of a Newfoundland artist.

Marlene Creates, 2000

A publication that includes this work is available:
Marlene Creates: Signs of Our Time