Hopewell rocks of Fundy Bay.
Ash bark devoured by Emerald Ash Borers.
Roadside signs on route to Alma, NB and elsewhere.
Collagraph, edition of 3.
24" x 29" Print
Nat Cann takes on themes of invasion and multiplicity in his collograph triptych titled On Route. In the first frame, the ubiquitous image of the Hopewell Rocks is featured. One of the province’s “must-see” natural wonders, the site often sees upwards of 200,000 admission paying visitors per year who stop to capture their own snapshot of the iconic landmark featured prominently amongst tourism collateral. The essentialization of this site above the region’s many other vistas calls into question the agency of the visitor as well as the integrity of the land itself. Colonial, corporate, and government gate-keeping of the natural landscape often conflates conservation with the illusion of scarcity. This allows for greater control over the land as well as the way it is interacted with—inevitably eroding the visitor’s experience to a singular and stereotypical encounter.
In the bottom frame of the print, omnipresent icons in the form of gas stations and fast-food signs rise above the trees like smoke clouds from industrial stacks. These amenities abound along New Brunswick highways and, in drive-though-province rhetoric, are often considered the only reason to stop. Some of these logos are particularly evocative to New Brunswick residents given their tie to the provincial oil economy. Cann has alluded to this stirring symbology by creating the ink for these prints from carbon extracted from Alberta tar sands.
The central image was not carved out by the artist in the collagraph technique used in the other two frames, but rather is a print of New Brunswick ash bark that has been dug into by the invasive emerald ash borer beetle. These introduced beetles have, themselves, played a role in the decimation of the region’s tree species, scarring the wood in the creation of their own network of highways in much the same way the Trans-Canada has marked the landscape. The three frames of the print together speak to a parasitic relationship to the natural world—one where a parallel can be drawn from the didactic paternalism of pay-to-view look out points to extractive impacts that range in scale from nearly microscopic infiltration to monoliths of capital.
- Christiana Myers, Roadside Attractions Connexion Arc
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