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Geographic situation of inquiry into the Inuit art knowledge community

The geographic space encompassed by this stage in my research project stretches north and south to include northern hinterlands and southern heartlands. The producers of Inuit art reside mainly in hamlets that sparsely dot the landscapes of Labrador, Nunavik, Nunavut and the Western Arctic. There are some organizations, institutions and activities in the North that produce and disseminate narratives that contribute to the Inuit art knowledge community. In the North, oral presentations, museum exhibitions, Nunavut Arctic College, commercial dealers produce information, documentation that informs that Inuit art knowledge community. Some researchers communicate with Inuit artists by telephone, email and through other distance communications. Others travel to northern hamlets to gather ‘data’ for theses, dissertations, reports and programs. However, most published material is produced, disseminated and consumed by and for outsiders in the south.

Dismantling the exotic myth of the North: The north as a relevant concept. Iqaluit is not really as isolated, as cold, as small as one might expect!

Iqaluit is only a three hour flight from Ottawa on a comfortable, First Air jet, with excellent service! As we travel north the aerial view reveals a rumpled snow blanket that covered everything. It was no longer white, but soft pinks and blues with touches of yellow where the late afternoon sun caught the snow drifts and snow‑covered hills. Hudson Strait was a flat, frozen white mass. Cliffs along the shore cast long, blue shadows like fingers stretching towards Baffin Island. Farther out over the straight I could see patches of openings in the ice where clear water was visible. As we approached Iqaluit, the landscape changed. Coastal winds from the eastern shore seemed to scrape the soft surface snow away revealing hard icy or rocky surfaces below. Nearer the town, antennas and satellite dishes, these contemporary inukshualuk, dotted the hills surrounding the airfield. As we landed I couldn’t tell where the warehouses, hangars and airport buildings ended and Iqaluit itself began. The architecture of many of the buildings was functional, not aesthetic,  more like army barracks that it used to host, than a capital city.

The descent into Iqaluit reveals a tiny capital spread out along four miles of Koosejee Inlet.  In spite of its relatively small population of seven thousand, the boom in population growth propelled by its status as Canada’s newest capital city, has provoked a housing crisis unparalleled in Canada. Today curved lines of houses, supported  on stilt‑like piles buried in the permafrost, trace irregular paths up the hills that surround the Inlet. Many homes and apartments, designed as single family dwellings, have been informally transformed to accommodate family members, friends and paying boarders. Even professionals open extra rooms to boarders who share scant housing.

The homes perched at the top of these hills enjoy a panoramic view of the islands in the Inlet and the Peninsula across the water.  These sections of town called Tundra Valley and the Road to Nowhere provide the best views of the surrounding area and are not surprisingly the area Iqaluitmiut identify as upper class.  Except in these newer areas, exclusive use of private property seems to be an ambiguous concept. In the areas inhabited by the lower classes, such as the Beaches, informal trails tightly encircle almost every home, providing bikes, snowmobiles and walkers with limitless shortcuts and making landscape and fence‑building a delicate negotiation.

Frobisher Bay: a colonialist not‑so‑distant past

Frobisher Bay was a highly segregated community. Apex to the east of town was the Inuit residential area. Only three decades ago young Inuit children walked the three miles to school from their homes in Apex to the elementary school in Iqaluit even in temperatures of ‑40 degrees! A contemporary northern myth affirms that the colonialism in the north was relatively benign. In reality Inuit have been cast into the minority status in Nunavut. In every social institution, Inuit values have been replaced by the dominant western value‑system.  This does not mean that the majority of Inuit have adopted these values. However, the modus operandi of northern institutions reflect the dominant values of the southern market economy. Education in the North does not respond to the real needs of the Inuit in the North. This leads to a cognitive and learning gap with widespread consequences. There is an assumption that there is only one way of perceiving progress and growth. It is more reflection of a corporate vision than an Inuit vision.

Iqaluit, Nunavut:

It is a desert region surrounded by water. Strong sunlight has become a concern. It is narrated as an exotic, isolated, pristine, northern frontier. The Road to Nowhere is officially marked on maps of Iqaluit and included on taxi tours of this northern capital. The self-mocking de-locational indicator  ‘nowhere’ is turned on its head becoming the Road to Everywhere, when viewed from the standpoint of a circumpolar map.  In reality Iqaluit is a hub of northern activities with a nonstop flow of expert outsiders, government workers, consultants, travelers, tourists and people on transit to other northern communities.

Many hamlets are still ninety percent Inuit. However, both Iqaluit and Cambridge Bay, are composed of 30% non‑Inuit. Iqaluit, Nunavut,  is a complex community governed by three layers of government. Indigenous peoples worldwide are watching Nunavut and the unfolding of this experiment in indigenous governance and sovereignty.  At the same time, deeply entrenched government bureaucracies challenge more equitable social change with paralyzing, counter productive responses.

There is an epidermic respect paid to the role of IQ in the Nunavut government. But the unwritten whispers in the hallways and over coffee call for a return of the ‘corporate dinosaurs,’ with quick, decisive action and a ‘firmer grip on reality.’ They question if there is a specific way of knowing that is IQ. They confide in each other the belief that the knowledge of the Inuit elders is outdated. The work of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth, in educating and integrating IQ into everyday government operations, is a challenging, uphill struggle.  Their job is not only to convince the outside world of the validity of IQ in the contemporary northern landscape. They must also quell the murmurs that abound within the walls of Nunavut government offices. These myths that IQ is outdated, are reinforced by an overwhelming group think that maintains the status quo.

Grounding through sound: A Polyglot Community

In Iqaluit everyday life unfolds in a sound‑scape of three accent‑textured languages, Inuktitut, English and French.  Social classes span language and cultural lines. There are distinct social classes evident within the Inuit community.

Hearing diversity

Accents in three languages reveal newcomers geographic origins. Among Inuit, the varying levels of mastery of Inuktitut and English, flavoured with distinct accents in Inuktitut from smaller hamlets, separate a small community into even smaller nodes. English is lightened by the Inuit, Newfoundland, Maritime, Irish and Finnish accents. French is heard everywhere, in coffee shops, restaurants and stores, and frequently, in taxis, as most cab drivers are recruited in Quebec. It is ironic that Environment Canada’s weather channel which provides blizzard warnings was recently made available in French as well as English. It is not yet available in Inuktitut.

On alienation and belonging in a complex society

Iqaluit is not a homogenous community. Inuit now residing in Iqaluit come from communities across the north. These ‘outsiders’ may feel a sense of alienation and ‘otherness’ that plays out in schoolyard bullying, adult shunning, gossip and feelings of homesickness. Acquiring the status of ‘belonging’ in Iqaluit can be a lengthy process. One can remain there as a ‘tourist’ and outsider for several years before being recognized as a community member, insider or northerner.

The politics of naming

There are few street names. Every building is identified by a number that is not necessarily in numerical order. Taxi drivers learn them all. For some Iqaluit residents the concept of street names is a southern importation that is just another irritating example of the politics of naming.

The Inuit art market: producers, Co‑ops, dealers, consumers

The origin of northern co‑ops is linked to the Inuit art boom of the 1960’s. In a number of northern communities, co‑op’s continue to purchase carvings and drawings from local artists.

The changing of the guard

Terry Ryan remained as Co‑op manager in Cape Dorset for over three decades. His continuous presence and his quiet passion for Inuit art, provided a partnership with Inuit artists that helped the West Baffin Print Shop and Co‑op to flourish.

Arctic Co‑operatives: Groceries, snow machines, fuel, furniture

Contemporary Co‑Op managers are more likely to be interested in the more lucrative and less sensitive and demanding markets in commodities such as fuel, groceries, furnishings, etc. and less committed to Inuit art as an integral part of the Co‑op organization. Inuit artists, like any other artist, craftsmen or small businessmen, may not always be easy to work with!

Art‑while‑you‑wait, tourists and cruise ships

In some cases dealers, local customers and tourist‑collectors, request very specific subjects. Tourists off the cruise ships who arrive for very brief visits in small hamlets, have very specific ideas of what they want to purchase. They will make specific requests, for example for Sedna carvings or polar bears. In the case of dealers they may also request specific forms and poses for example in the shape of the wings of a bird or the angle of the neck of a bird.

Art dealers, commercial galleries and stables of artists

Art dealers and commercial galleries operate by maintaining close working relationships with specific artists. In the best arrangements, both dealers and artists benefit. The price of a work of art is split with about 60% going to the dealer and 40% to the artist. The high cost of maintaining expensive commercial gallery spaces, art show openings, invitations, on‑going press coverage, advertisements, etc. and the risk that the artist’s work might not sell, is compensated in the high commission the dealer receives.  In some cases, commercial galleries produce exhibition catalogues and information about the artist’s life, career and individual works of art. The prestige of the artist, and therefore the value of her/his work, is increased by this association with reliable, recognized professional art dealers. It provides the artist with a sense of security and a focus for production. Galleries demand a certain number of works from the artists in their stables.

Shopping centre‑style commercial art galleries

Galleries and dealers vary. There are the shopping centre‑style commercial galleries whose focus is purely commercial. These galleries insist on quantity and a certain predictable uniformity in the artist’s production. Mechanically produced reproductions are sold at prices similar to limited edition prints.

Fine Art galleries

Fine Art galleries attempt to varying degrees to diffuse works of art that contribute to some extent to the fresh and original. They are more comfortable with a continuity in style that evolves and changes rather than abruptly taking on completely new paths. The focus is still on sales. In some of these galleries, the framing is arranged by the gallery but the artists pay for the frames of unsold works. Frames for a medium‑sized art work can be as much as $500.

Art dealers and stables of Inuit artists

Some art dealers live and work from a northern base. Much like southern galleries, they maintain a stable of artists whose work they regularly purchase. They provide stone and tools. The size and hardness of the stone impacts on the size and nature of the carving.

The artists who are part of a stable, may feel that the price they are receiving is unacceptably low. In one case L. E. reported selling a piece for $200 that was sold almost immediately to a European collector for $700. They prefer to sell directly.

Inuit art on the menu and on the run

To the frustration of the professional art dealers and the delight of Inuit artists, the parallel market of direct sales is quite lucrative. Inuit artists are among the only Canadian artists who can produce and sell work on the same day. Artists sell their work from table to table in hotel restaurants, in lobbies of public buildings, at workplaces and/or door‑to‑door in Iqaluit, often through the intermediary of relatives and friends. These purchases which routinely sell for hundreds of dollars, are still a fraction of the cost of one of these works in a southern gallery.

Triage: Fine Art, gift or souvenir?

In the co‑op’s there is a system of subjective but informed triage. Certain works are sent to the more prestigious galleries, such as Dorset Fine Arts and southern auctions organized by Arctic Producers. There public and commercial galleries as well as individual collectors purchase the most expensive and the most valued works by the most highly recognized artists. Seasoned collectors also chose reliable galleries such as the Marion Scott in Vancouver, when making their purchases of Inuit art.  Even before carvings leave the North, certain works have been chosen for the larger market aimed at the tourist‑collector and often destined for gifts and souvenir shops. Prices for the carvings vary from $50 to $200. Artists, whose sustained production, has captured the attention of collectors, produce work that is sold in gallery settings for over $1000. Wall‑hangings average $800 for a large‑sized tapestry. Inuit prints routinely sell for $250 ‑ $500.

Myths and delusions: Inuit artists and their dealers

On the part of both management and artist, there seems to be little understanding of the larger workings of the world of art in which a sculpture or print can become an investment with the potential of increased value through time.

Art collectors: Motivations and standards for acquisition: the passionate collector, art as sound investment, the museum piece, the ideal gift for your Japanese business partner

Inuit art collectors: Inuit art is appreciated at home, in Nunavut.

Original Inuit art works now enhance the living spaces of private homes and public places in Iqaluit. Private collectors hold pieces that would be the envy of curators of public collections. The Nunavut Legislative Building takes pride in the tasteful exhibition and rotation of fine examples of contemporary Inuit art. Hotels and restaurants highlight prints, wall‑hangings and sculptures. The streets of Iqaluit are filled with walking art. Outer clothing, custom‑made by skilled textile artists in Iqaluit, reflects a heightened sense of design, innovation and creativity. Finely crafted silver, ivory, baleen and antler miniature works of art in the form of jewelry are sold in stores, on the streets, worn and admired.

Inuit art easier to purchase on the street than in a gallery in Iqaluit

Unfortunately, in Iqaluit there is no one accessible place where quality Inuit art can be purchased. There are two commercial galleries where the lack of interest of the staff perfectly mirrors the lack‑lustre collection of works for sale. There is one dealer who will show works by appointment. Nunavut Arctic College Arts and Crafts have begun a monthly sale which seems to be quite successful. Artists bring their own work to sell.

The consumers of Inuit art objects are part of a large international community with galleries in France, Germany, Belgium, the United States and Canada. There are a number of small but respected centres of teaching, learning and research with a focus on Inuit art.

The passionate collector

The passionate art collector who purchases works of art based on a resonance between the work and himself/herself is a gift to the art community. Public collections have been enhanced by inheritance of these collections intact.

The collector as investor

Collectors interested in purchasing a work that is not only pleasing to them, but potentially a sound art investment, depend on information about the market, the artist, the artist’s oeuvres gleaned from art dealers, exhibitions, art books and travel.

The dream of a lucrative investment

The highest purchase price for an Inuit print was over $50, 000.  The 1967 print Enchanted Owl by Kenojuak, heralded an era described by some as the golden age of Inuit art. Kenojuak’s prolific and unbroken career as a gifted artist spans three decades and has been well‑documented in film as well as in prized art books. Collectors yearn for the collectible that may one day soar in value. An artist’s death may be greeted with pleasure by dealers  and collectors whose collections increase in value as the rarity of the objects increased.

Inuit artists are aware of the discrepancy between the price received at the time of the initial sale and the price of certain works of art through appreciation.

Artists are dismayed that the work sold in the early years for a pittance is worth more than they would make in a year. There is a sense of mistrust between artist and dealer. The dealer may feel artists are not sufficiently appreciative of the art market and the value of ongoing promotion in which they are constantly involved. The artist feels he/she is being underpaid for their work. The subject matter of Inuit art work reflects an intense symbiotic relationship to the northern ecosystem. Artists take pleasure in discussing the tools with which they work, the choice of stones, the organization of their studios (if they are fortunate enough to have them), details of the geographic location and seasonal attributes, which inspired a particular work. But the actual working conditions under which the Inuit artist works, reflects a market mentality. They are also willing to discuss these conditions which embitter some artists and lead to mistrust of the Inuit art system.

Acquisition policies for public collections

Public museums and galleries, such as the National Gallery of Canada, have stringent policies for acquisitions. Collections are built around themes such as Early Canadian art, First Nations art, Modern Canadian art and Inuit art. Within each of these categories curators attempt to acquire works that reveal pivotal aspects of the theme around which the collection has been built. Similarly to academic work, the question is asked, “What has this artist accomplished and/or does this work represent that is new, original, to the field, that is new knowledge?” Within these categories specific artists are selected for a more in‑depth representation.

Canada’s professional visual artists: managing the contemporary career

Artists, whose works are finally collected by the National Gallery, have become part of the larger conversation about art, by actively producing and exhibiting in provincial, national and international venues. Their work is inserted into contemporary discourse in academia, in art reviews, in art journals. They have exhibited in juried exhibitions.

The role of documentation in the career of the contemporary visual artist

Usually contemporary artists substantiate their claim to professional artist status through a thorough documentation of their work. Applications for grants and submissions for exhibitions and competitions require text‑based and visual documentation. Slides of works are produced and stored. Press books are maintained. The artist’s curriculum vitae is kept up to date. Individual curators research the artist’s biography, including exhibition career, publications. The concern is not with the marketability of the work of art as much as the contribution to the ‘knowledge’ community in which the artist is working. Is the artist contributing to the production of new knowledge about art by providing a fresh idea or object that stimulates a fresh, innovative, original way of thinking, a new way of seeing, perceiving, reading and/or relating to his/her environment?

The profile of professional contemporary visual artists

Numerous artists graduate from art schools without a motivation to enter the commercial art market. The goal is to produce original works of art that contribute to a larger, more enduring conversation about art, a discourse that is tied intricately to theory, literature, philosophy… In reputable art schools, students study theory as much as techniques. Aspiring artists are challenged to think as artists not merely to produce works that look like art. These artists subsist by teaching art, working at a job that is not‑related to the arts, maintaining a studio production, applying for exhibition and project grants, and working as part of artists’ co‑operatives and/or alternative galleries. Visual artists are among the lowest wage earners in the country.

Why produce art?

It is astounding to witness the results of the Arctic Youth Arts Initiative, an ambitious project to bring painting into the lives of Inuit. Beth McKenty has been going into local schools and community centres in Iqaluit and Clyde River with good quality paints and paper in minute quantities. Using postcard size papers she encourages children, adults and elders to paint what they feel. Invariably the results are a visual feast. These artists can describe, using kitchen‑table poetry, complex feelings and imaginary worlds they inhabit or that inhabit them. They are no different from any art activity undertaken by any group where barriers to creativity have not yet been erected. The painting becomes addictive with groups requesting again and again for a repeat of the activity.

Art in schools in Iqaluit

Yet in Iqaluit, except for this volunteer initiative,  art is not actively encouraged in grade schools or high school. Drum dancing is being taught in one fortunate school where a well‑respected Inuit, knowledgeable in traditional ways, actively seeks to incorporate Inuit culture into the curriculum.

The profile of contemporary Inuit artists

While there are exceptions, many Inuit artists seem to be uni‑lingual Inuktitut speakers. This makes it more challenging for researchers who wish to interview the artists. The activity of carving is not considered as a career but as a way of making money. There is virtually no difference between the production of skilled craftswomen who design and sew sealskin kamiks, mittens, hats and jackets. The cost of living in Iqaluit is artificially high.  One of the local artists who was brought up by two very well‑known Cape Dorset artists, lived at the homeless shelter next door to where I was living. Everyday he worked outside in temperatures that ranged from ‑30 to 0 degrees. He sat on a piece of plywood and worked non‑stop for hours using stone provided by his art dealer, David. I could hear the buzz of power tools, and see him carving, sanding and polishing. I bought a couple of pieces that I later realized were not that good. I had the impression that his skill far outweighed the effort he made in these pieces. I looked up his name on the Internet. He was there with photos of his art work and a description of an exhibition in France!

The boom, government salaries and inflated prices

Federal and Nunavut public servants earn salaries two and three times what they could anticipate in southern urban centres. These employees also enjoy extended vacations in the south with in some cases, several round trips tickets a year. They are able to purchase the more expensive items while in the south and further cut the cost of living in the north. Federal and Nunavut governments provide housing for their employees and pay inflated prices for rents. For those who do not qualify for housing, the cost of rental is about twice the cost of a major urban centre. A house rents for $2500 a month, a room in a house for $500‑$1,000. The high costs are reflected in every purchase from clothing to food. Yet a single person on Social Assistance in the north collects less than $400 a month.

L’art, pourquoi faire?

Creating works of art for personal fulfillment, as a means of authentic expression, to enhance understanding of contemporary theories, to

Narrating Inuit art: Who is the intended audience?


In the southwest of the city, trees were covered in hoar frost, Christmas lights shone through halos of dense fog and there were patches of black ice on the bridge across the Bow. My mind was far away even as I listened. I had googled Cambodia before we went to the dinner invitation, but nothing could have prepared me to meet this survivor of the “killing fields.” This gifted scientist, with an unshakable belief in God, was the sole infant who somehow miraculously clung to life while hundreds of mothers’ babies lay lifeless beside him, around him, under him. He rejects the label of miracle child, preferring to travel the globe to study, to learn and to share, to either help or do no harm . . . with an intensity that can be vertiginous.


A group of Vietnamese-American immigrants compiled the following list of cultural differences (1978) shortly after arriving in the United States when they were living between two worlds. Dr. Douglas K. Chung, Professor at Grand Valley State University School of Social Work, Grand Rapids, Michigan (1992) included this comparison to enhance understanding of cultural shock that Indochinese refugees experience in Western countries.

EAST WEST
We live in time. We live in space.
We are always at rest. We are always on the move.
We are passive. We are aggressive.
We accept the world as it is. We try to change it according to our blueprint.
We like to contemplate. We like to act.
We live in peace with nature. We try to impose our will on nature.
Religion is our first love. Technology is our passion.
We delight to think about the meaning of life. We delight in physics.
We believe in freedom of silence. We believe in freedom of speech.
We lapse in meditation We strive for articulation.
We marry first, then love. We love first, then marry.
Our marriage is the beginning of a love affair. Our marriage is a happy end of a romance.
Love is an indissoluble bond. Love is a contract.
Our love is mute. Our love is vocal.
We try to conceal it from the world. We delight in showing it to others.
Self-denial is a secret to our survival. Self-assertiveness is the key to our success.
We are taught from the cradle to want less and less. We are urged every day to want more and more.
We glorify austerity and renunciation. We emphasize gracious living and enjoyment.
Poverty is to us a badge of spiritual elevation. Poverty is to us a sign of degredation.
In the sunset years of life, we renounce the world and prepare for the hereafter. We retire to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Notes

Dr. Douglas K. Chung, Professor at Grand Valley State University School of Social Work, Grand Rapids, Michigan (1992) included the following comparison to enhance understanding of cultural shock that Indochinese refugees experience in Western countries. A group of Vietnamese-American immigrants compiled this list of cultural differences shortly after arriving in the United States when they were living between two worlds.

Webliography and Bibliography

Chung, Douglas K. Taoism: a Portrait. http://origin.org/UCS/sbcr/taoism.cfm

Chung, Douglas K. 1992.

150, 000 visits

November 27, 2009


Near Roche Miette on the Yellowhead Highway we get stopped by a “sheep-jam”, bighorn-induced traffic congestion [1] at about the same time that we interrupted a truly engaged activist, peace rider who was cycling to Alaska to raise awareness of climate change. Just after our second sheep-jam where a film crew member also caught in the same traffic jam, pulled over to catch some sleep behind the wheel of a powerful all-terrain vehicle(did he see that many bighorn already?), we stopped to film a pack of wolves. After we booked into a place to stay in Jasper, we drove up to the ski hill at Marmot. A huge raven guided us along the winding road to the lodge. This winter there is a record snow fall to the delight of snowboarders and skiiers. The tasks of downloading the day’s film clips and photos to Picasa, and reading Gadd to name peaks, etc, were again interrupted by Yellowhead wildlife. Wapitii surrounded the hotel attracting amateur photographers to the unbelievably fun shot of a wapiti posing in front of the Wapiti signage.

Later on the same day speechless hits reached 150, 000 perhaps at exactly the same time we were left speechless by the miyat.

Speechless began as the next step from “beached wail” a failed attempt to overcome serious creative blocks . . .

Speechless does not really require the author to write. Web 2.0 platforms are ideally designed for writers who cannot write. At least for writers who cannot write in a straight line. Rhizomic thinkers and learners can allow themselves to “get lost.” All we need to do is to mark the virtual trail with something more solid than breadcrumbs.

Speechless cannot imagine faces or stories of its visitors and would rather that for now at least, that the speechless face be faceless, ageless, genderless, not associated with any institution, or group, or ideology, or demographics . . .

Speechless shares resources using the Creative Commons,
for memory work,
for revisiting histories with an ethical dimension,
for virtual tourists,
travelers,
artists,
for the blogosphere,
for public policy,

Speechless has been a technological tool for mind-mapping . . .

Notes

1. See Ben Gadd 2008:408. Gadd explained that the bighorn sheep ovis canadensis, are plentiful in this area and female and young are often sighted here.

He claimed that the mountain named in the 1820s by voyageurs Roche Miette (Miette Rock) probably comes from the Cree word miyat (bighorn sheep). This tangible (very geological) link to the early (fur) trade routes is one way that the nonlinear learner can be pulled in so many directions that only web 2.0 platforms and applications could mind map it.

Gadd also notes a number of commonplace Canadian English misprononciations and/or mispellings of geological formations and place names in the Rocky Mountains with Spanish, French, Irish, Cree, Ojibwa etc origins.

Webliography and Bibliography

Gadd, Ben. 2008. Canadian Rockies: Geology Road Tours. Corax.


Arctic Adventurer: We Feel Fine

Arctic Adventurer: We Feel Fine,
originally uploaded by ocean.flynn.

DRAFT
Photos of Iqaluit cemetery taken October 2002; Uploaded to Flickr, Trawled by wefeelfine, Linked to wordpress, wefeelfine.org

American artist, Jonathan Harris describes his work on his website:

“I make (mostly) online projects that reimagine how we relate to our machines and to each other. I use computer science, statistics, storytelling, and visual art as tools. I believe in technology, but I think we need to make it more human. I believe that the Internet is becoming a planetary meta-organism, but that it is up to us to guide its evolution, and to shape it into a space we actually want to inhabit—one that can understand and honor both the individual human and the human collective, just like real life does (Harris).”

“Sep Kamvar is a consulting professor of Computational Mathematics at Stanford University. His research focuses on data mining and information retrieval in large-scale networks. He also is interested in using large amounts of data and accessible media in the study of human nature through art. [Among his other areas of interest he includes] probabilistic models for classification where there is little labeled data (Sep Kamvar’s blog profile).”

Glossary of Terms

Nonlinearity: “At the beginning of Chapter 5 in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, Billy Pilgrim finds himself in jail on the planet of Tralfamadore. Billys captors give him some Tralfamadorian books to pass the time, and while Billy can’t read Tralfamadorian, he does notice that the books are laid out in brief clumps of text, separated by stars. “Each clump of symbols is a brief, urgent message — discribing a situation, a scene,” explained one of his captors. “We Tralfamadorians read them all at once, not one after the other. There isn’t any relationship between all the mssages, except that the author has chosen then carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time.” Harris and Kamvar aimed to write Almanac of Human Emotions in the telegraphic, schizophrenic manner of tales from Tralfamadore, where the flying saucers are.”

Open Platforms: “The power of open platforms in enabling the easy generation of consumable content has been demonstrated repeatedly on the internet, not only with the web itself, but also with sub-platforms like Facebook, Flickr, Google Gadgets, among others. I am interested in platforms that easily enable high-quality content creation for developers and provide a straightforward content consumption and navigation experience for users.”

Open Sub-platforms Open Sub-platforms like Facebook, Flickr, Google Gadgets, among others, facilitate the generation-creation of high-quality consumable content while providing easier access and consumption for users.

Timeline

Webliography and Bibliography

http://wp.me/p1TTs-j6


Arctic Adventurer: a Flicktion

Arctic Adventurer: a Flicktion,
originally uploaded by ocean.flynn.

In the few short months that I have spent in Nunavut, two mothers who had become my colleagues and friends, lost youthful sons to suicide. Within a brief period of two months, four youth in a community of less than 1,500 people committed suicide. Almost the entire community attended the funeral. The hall was filled with infants, toddlers, children, youth, adults and elders. The youngest children wove between chairs and family members comfortably a part of community life. Youth dressed in southern street-smart clothing respectfully gave their seats to elders. The shared pain in the room at the loss of their youth through suicide, was suffocating. At the graveside, it was cold and windy. It began to snow. As one mother witnessed the shovel-fulls of sand thudding onto her son’s coffin, another walked quietly alone to another fresh grave nearby. I stood there helpless feeling so overwhelmed I couldn’t move. I know many others felt the same paralysis. How many of us were mothers? How many of us had sons in their twenties?

The family of the young man, colleagues and friends provided support to the parents and to each other. On the return flight home, one man was unusually upbeat and talkative. Perhaps that is his way of dealing with the pain. I didn’t know who he was. He sat behind me. As I left the plane I asked the woman next to me who this man was. To my astonishment it was the *** for Nunavut.

Following the suicides, friends and acquaintances attempted to find ways of absorbing yet another tragedy. Some felt anger at the youth who committed suicide. Many expressed feelings of numbness. Some regretted their own inability to know what to do. They felt guilty for not knowing how to prevent it. Like many others I feel a sense of powerlessness.

November 21, 2003: (I hope things go well with you. I am writing to ask your favour in helping a bit on your recent (and future) expense claims. I know that S.H. is a bit harried, working herself as a full-time instructor as well as the financial manager on this project. I really do not want her — nor is it fair — working as a glorified clerk. Therefore, in her behalf, could you send her a claim that she can file without amendment — that is, typed or in pen, a correct excess baggage sum, and an amended per diem (given kitchen facilities, it should be much less than $70.) working with an actual cost or estimated at around $35 or $40. We are tight on this project, especially as I went the extra mile on the term appointment. Many thanks.)

December 11, 2002: While waiting for my plane at the Iqaluit airport I met a physician-researcher who had just completed a report on the Nunavut Ministry of Health. She told me about a two-hour conversation she had with a man called TNC in a hotel bar in Rankin Inlet. TNC had lost a friend to suicide. He was deeply bothered by his loss. He went to see a nurse. The nurse became very uncomfortable when Tommy mentioned he was depressed and upset by this suicide. She sent him to a Social Worker. The Social Worker was also ill at ease. She called the police. TNC spent the night in jail. They were concerned he might hurt himself. Because the small hamlet had no counselling services, TNC was flown to Yellowknife. He was separated from the only real support system he had — his mother and grandmother in Rankin Inlet. Later on the plane I sat beside a young man GRB. GRB worked for Baffin Correctional Centre. He started there in c.1996. He told me about a millionaire who made his fortune by buying high-end buildings in Iqaluit, then renting them at high rents to the Nunavut Government. GRB loved speed — the speed of the snow machine. His best moments were out on the land with a half a dozen friends on powerful machines. His work bothered him. He felt surrounded by uneducated, untrained fellow-workers — many of whom came from Halifax — who cared little for the young offenders. Many were there because they could earn huge salaries — especially with overtime. Some of them didn’t even have high school education and in Iqaluit they were earning much more than they ever could in the Maritimes. It frustrated him to see how these untrained workers wanted to work by the book to earn points from the supervisors. Sometimes a situation could be diffused before it became violent and ugly. By rigidly following the book, a small incident could escalate into an ugly incident very quickly. GRB came to know the offenders so he knew how to calm things. Increasingly the workers who lacked experience but were older than him, made the situations worse. GRB noticed the most improvement in the youth came through the on-the-land program. Youth would spend a couple of months with the elders. They came back healthier and more confident. He commented on the work of the psychiatrist Dr. Q He said that Dr. Q tried to prevent the worst from happening but he was not really in control of the situation. He was not able to make all the decisions that would be beneficial to the youth. GRB said that Iqaluit youth threatening suicide would be sent to the Youth detention centre. He would be stripped down, showered and then given ‘baby dolls’ to wear before being locked in a safe cell where he could do himself no harm. (What a contrast to the treatment my friend’s son received in Ottawa. )

June 2002: This text will change organically as the flicktion develops.

Uploaded by ocean.flynn on 30 Nov 06, 9.15PM MDT.


Originally uploaded from my Flickr account ocean.flynn.
I seemed to be disembodied, living through the digital images that appeared by magic on my Dell laptop screen. It was minus forty or fifty degrees. There was no taxi service so the town was shut down for me. Severe weather warnings were issued from Environment Canada. Suddenly a blinding sun broke through. I pulled on my army parka, leggings, mittens and Pangnirtung hat, grabbed my Kodak and headed outside to the breakwater. This image encapsulates the entire experience.

I attempted a number of reductions with this .png image but it created white noise. I tried an even smaller resolution and the noise is still there.

There were many painful things that I tried to forget but these images keep flashing into my mind and I am back there again. I am embarrassed that the loss of this silly lap top remains as such a crushing memory considering the suicides, the murder, the stories of everyday violences against human dignity. Having the laptop confiscated without warning is a metaphor for my inability to process the memories, a missing archives, a secret archives, an archives fever.

TOXIC

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “Afliction: Tempest in a Tea Pot.” Uploaded 2007/01/05. Creative Commons 2.5 BY-NC-SA.

Affluenza: Aflicktion

December 14, 2006


I think my family caught affluenza in the late 19th century. That might explain why my great-grandparents were personal aquaintances of Prince Albert but their son Albert, worked as an electrician on the Canadian National Railway. Fanny and Charles spent a good part of their married life on transatlantic trips. According to on-line ship’s records they made at least one of these with the Governor General of Canada, the Marquis of Lorne (1878-1882) and his wife, Princess Louise. Fanny Peake, the daughter of James Peake, one of the 19th century entrepreneurs who built fortunes on ships and shipping, grew up in Beaconsfield, a Victorian mansion designed by Harris, brother of the artist Robert Harris, RCA. We grew up with these stories which seemed so incredulous; they seemed more like fiction that reality. My mother Fanny loved to tell us about her father, who a few years before his death, literally gave away the vestiges of his portion of the Peake-Leigh. During the Depression the tenants could no longer pay their rent. He gave the renters the deed to their homes.