Helloland! Notes from the Curators

A series by Darryn Doull and Melony Ward
 

This page is home to a series of notes from the curators of Helloland! Art, War and the Wireless Imagination. These notes bring together fragments of curatorial research, historical context and information about featured artists and their work. Collectively, the blog will tell many of the stories that live within the exhibition and it will evolve in much the same order.

One artist from the exhibition will be highlighted each week. Each artist will be ‘paired’ with museological objects, archival images and/or historical documents that share a common theme. In some cases, resources for further reading will also be provided.

New posts will be added every Wednesday until the exhibition closes on April 18, 2021.
 


 

March 3
Grounded Signals: Wireless Infrastructure on the Land

A wireless imagination contains a certain utopian promise. It promises to get rid of the cables strung along our streets, wrapping around our homes and tethering every device. Life is supposedly cleaner, faster and more efficient. Increasingly, our cell phones relay staggering amounts of data for voice calls, internet searches, GPS directions, near-field communication transfers, and so much more. With all of this supposed convenience, it is easy to stay blind to the physical infrastructure (like data storage farms) required to make this imagination a reality. A wireless system is never without wires - they are just kept out of sight. 

For all of its benefits, the infrastructure that facilitates wireless transmission brings a number of drawbacks. Most notably, they alter the environment in two direct ways. They impact the lands upon which the infrastructure is built and maintained, and they increase global carbon emissions from the production of materials and the ongoing operation of required technologies. As these networks become more widespread and accessible than ever before, it is important to think about the sustainability of future development and the consequences of modern convenience.

Qavavau Manumie is a Kinngait, NU, based artist who is best known for his drawing and printmaking. He began drawing in his late teens and is part of a generation of artists that are expanding the subject and form of contemporary Inuit art. Common subjects in his work include the natural environment, familiar objects and activities from daily life. These are often imbued with humour and an original creativity.

As noted on the Inuit Art Foundation website: “His landscapes are also politicized… The warming environment is emphasized. Manumie’s work combines both gritty scenes of reality and fantastical scenes taken from the artist’s imagination.” These characteristics are both readily apparent in Wild World (above) and Composition (Melting Arctic) (below). Manumie represents the melting Arctic as a product of unfettered industrial development. Human and animal forms find themselves disconnected from each other and from the rest of the land. As the ice fragments and falls apart, the only thing holding it together is individual will. It seems that traditional tools and practices must be mended, remembered and strengthened in order to survive.

 

In thinking about wireless infrastructure and the impact on the land, we turn to the publication DEWLINE POLAR ECHOES. It was published by the Federal Electric Corporation which received a contract from the United States Air Force in 1957 to operate and maintain the Distant Early Warning Line radar stations. This publication was for their employees. A January 1959 issue of Polar Echoes states their mission: “To operate and maintain the land-based segment of the DEW Line at maximum efficiency, on an austerity basis, in order to detect, evaluate and report to the Air Defense Commanders all airborne objects entering or operating within the DEW Line Identification Zone.” 

The publication captured ongoing business operations and the life of the staff. Segments included News from the Line, Safety Tips, updates on corporate initiatives (such as providing materials to Amateur Radio Operators on staff) and personnel stories like My First Trip to the DEW Line and At the Foot of the Mountain. The publication also featured photography from radar sites and occasionally included Inuit from the regions. These inclusions, however, often establish a tenuously colonial relationship. For example, the January 1959 cover juxtaposes an airplane landing (or taking off) over an Inuit dog sled team. 

DEWLINE POLAR ECHOES was ostensibly a corporate communications tool (slogans included “Make Haste Slowly” and “Safe Construction Prevents Costly Destruction”). Looking back with a critical historical eye, the publication can be a useful primary source in understanding day-to-day life of DEW employees. 

For a look inside one of these radar sites, check out the 1953 short film Radar Station from the National Film Board. 

Image credits:
Top: Installation view, Helloland! Art, War and the Wireless Imagination. Featuring work by Qavavau Manumie. Photo by The Rooms.
Upper Middle: Qavavau Manumie, Wild World, 2007, lithography, William B. Ritchie Collection, The Rooms. Photo by The Rooms.
Lower Middle: Qavavau Manumie, Composition (Melting Arctic), 2019, coloured pencil and ink on paper, Royal Bank of Canada Collection. Photo by The Rooms. 
Bottom: DEWLINE POLAR ECHOES, published by Federal Electric Corporation, Paramus, New Jersey. The April 1957 issue is included in the exhibition. Collection of and photo by Melony Ward.
 


February 24
Distant Early Warnings: Wartime Origins and Utopian Dreams

 

“A border is not a connection but an interval of resonance, and such gaps abound in the land of the DEW Line. The DEW Line itself… points up a major Canadian role in the twentieth century, the role of hidden ground for big powers. Since the United States has become a world environment, Canada has become the anti-environment that renders the United States more acceptable and intelligible to many small countries of the world; anti-environments are indispensable for making an environment understandable.”

Marshall McLuhan

The Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line was part of a continental radar defence system built during the Cold War. It was a joint US/Canada operation, designed to detect incoming Soviet nuclear missiles and to communicate information to NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense) command in the south. The DEW stations became operational throughout 1956 and 1957 and eventually formed a northern border comprising 63 sites along the 69th parallel, stretching from Alaska, across Canada and into Iceland. 

The first geodesic dome was originally constructed in the 1920s in Jena, Germany, to be used as a planetarium; the term ‘geodesic’ wasn’t coined until the late 1940s by Buckminster Fuller at the experimental Black Mountain College. Fuller is credited with the popularization of the geodesic dome in North America and his original designs have become icons of modern utopian architecture. For the DEW Line, Lincoln Labs collaborated with Fuller to design a rigid geodesic radome that would be electromagnetically invisible to the antennas inside. The dome kept the sensitive instruments protected from the harsh Arctic environment while remaining invisible to their signals. 

Fuller is often associated with utopian thinking. He developed frameworks for using the world's resources in an efficient and egalitarian way in order for humanity to survive: the world only works if the world is doing well. In the context of the DEW Line, Fuller’s radomes played some part in avoiding the Mutually Assured Destruction (M.A.D.) of that very world. 

A single spherical dome articulates an infinite boundary between inside and outside. Inside, there is safety and protection from the elements and when sheltered within, the impressive architecture can metaphorically expand to become a whole world. It becomes a planetary and cosmic volume. Similarly, a network of radomes draw a border of inside and outside. This border, however, is enforced by political interest, military might, and social need, and was made visible through dichotomies of us and them, good and evil, survival and collapse. 

As Charles Stankievech notes, “The geodesic radome is the ultimate metaphor symbolizing the shift in modern warfare in the second half of the 20th century: an architecture that distributes its structural tension and compression through a network similar to the communication network it shelters.”(1) In his artwork, The DEW Project, Stankievech revisits the issue of boundaries – both in regards to the environment and sovereignty – while observing how communication technology plays a pivotal role in defining and delivering such ideologies. Here, the geodesic dome remains a symbol of invisible military communications, counter-cultural utopias and recalls another efficient type of polar structure: the igloo. 

The artwork includes four main components. The first consists of a large glowing dome, an antenna, three solar panels and some wires. These were used in the initial field installation of this project in the Yukon. A field installation is defined as: 

“A work of art that takes into account the geographical site comparable to a strange attractor that warps one’s perception of the space. Sharing the history of “art installation” which takes into account the architecture of the site and the viewer’s phenomenological position, a field installation creates its own temporary architecture within a space or in a landscape. Such architecture, however, might not always be a traditional shelter, but can include sonic material, electromagnetic fields, light projection, or relationships.”(2)


Resting on the frozen confluence of the Yukon and Klondike Rivers, these objects originally formed a listening station and recorded underwater sounds with hydrophones. These sounds were broadcast on a Dawson City radio station and over the internet. Today, excerpts of the audio are the second component of the installation. This soundtrack was also released as a composition by Musicworks (Issue 106) and accompanies the third component of the artwork: the video. The video documents aspects of the artists’ fieldwork, including: a windy Arctic expanse illuminated by the setting sun; ice pans flowing down a river; various antennae and associated infrastructure; the artist recording audio, visiting sites; and the pulsing light of the glowing dome.


The fourth component of The DEW Project is a comprehensive online archive. Stankievech collaborated with David Neufield, Yukon and Western Arctic Historian for Parks Canada, to develop the The BAR-1 DEW Line Archive. This rich resource brings together Neufeld’s 20 years of research on the BAR-1 station. Here you can browse over 200 images, 300 blueprints and a collection of critical essays exploring site construction, modes of life and operation of the site. 

Artworks like The DEW Project offer many points of entry. One is retrospective and considers the past through archival research, experiential depth and critical reflection. Another is situated in the present as a constellation of objects, images and sounds in the gallery, and in relation to current global issues. Yet another looks out toward the future. Here, we can ruminate on a number of subjects: how will the so-called Warm War (over natural resources in the North and sovereignty in a rapidly melting world) end, or has it even begun; what are the legacies of our contemporary architecture; where will the lines and networks of surveillance and wireless communication be inscribed next, and what will their effect(s) be? 

Lastly, the archival object for this week is from Athens, Greece, c. 1960. The card features an illustration by Ioanna Athanasopoulou of a Canadian DEW line site. The futuristic imagination of a distant, unfamiliar land includes penguins roaming the Arctic ice. Of course, penguins do not live in the Arctic! Nonetheless, the image distills a certain utopian promise of military technological development and architectural evolution: a future where a population can feel protected by unseen technology in the North.

For more about the DEW Line, listen to the January 2021 podcast from Canada’s History, Cold War Tech and Its Discontents, produced by Melony Ward with assistance from Sarah Martin. 

Image credits:
Top: Installation view, Charles Stankievech, The DEW Project, 2009, geodesic dome, 3 solar panels, antenna, HD video and sound, 13:46 minutes. Collection of the artist. Photo by The Rooms. 
Upper Middle: Charles Stankievech, The DEW Project (installation view), Confluence of Klondike + Yukon Rivers, Yukon Territory, Canada. 64o03’ N, 139o27’ W. Courtesy of the artist.
Lower Middle: Charles Stankievech, Field Recording on the Beaufort Sea, near Tuktoyuktuk, Northwest Territories. 69o26’ N, 133o00’ W. Courtesy of the artist and F. Jamison. 
Bottom: Installation view, Trading Card with Artist’s Impression of Northern DEW Line Installation, c. 1960, printed card from Athens, Greece. Collection of Melony Ward. Photo by The Rooms. 

Sources:
1. Charles Stankivech, Cinema, Gramophone, Radio: A Quiet History” in Canadian Electroacoustic Community, eContact!, 11.2 (Concordia University online, July 2009) Accessed February 8, 2021. 
2. Ibid.
 



February 17
The Power of Form, a Form of Power

If I ask you to “think of the radio,” what comes to mind? Do you remember listening to a favourite program on the radio, discovering a new band, or following a significant world event in real-time? Do you picture a radio that you had growing up, or one that you still listen to at home? Or do you first lean toward a more abstract concept of what radio is? Radio can be a tangible object, a familiar memory and an iconic symbol of communications and information exchange. It is both form and function, transitory and provisional. 

In these works, Brian Groombridge explores the history and form of radio. Marconi Whisper (above) brings us back to the first wireless trans-atlantic signal that Marconi received on Signal Hill in December 1901. Marconi’s team raised an antenna more than 500 feet into the air by a kite. After several attempts, Marconi picked up the receiver and heard three quiet pulses: Dit-dit-dit. It was Morse code for the letter S. In Groombridge’s print, the bold, condensed, sans serif font (wherein all parts of the stroke are an optically uniform thickness) mimics the consistency of the Morse code pattern. The print is hung higher up on the wall, aerially tethered to the exhibition like the receiver of Marconi’s S’s. 

Untitled (below) is a small, sculptural construction detailed in a red, blue and yellow colour palette of the Dutch movement, De Stijl (1917-1931). The movement advocated for universality by reducing form and adornment to the essentials. This work alludes to the form of a radio, a site of transmission, with the fullness of a sign, but no signal. It is a classic case of Groombridge’s reductionism as we work to decipher the visual codes embedded within. As Charles Reeve noted: “All art speaks in code. Obscurity and clarity are functions of knowing or not knowing a particular code, not of whether a given work is coded. Beyond that, what seems obscure in Groombridge’s work actually is the metaphorical point: a message that, drained of purpose, goes nowhere.”

Not far from Groombridge’s work is a shortwave radio from the 1930s. As an object, it’s incredibly warm and inviting. Its warmth stems from the well-worn wood, the soft brown fabric on the speaker grill and the tiny ship illustrated in the middle of the dial. The object wonderfully contains its material history - one can only imagine how many broadcasts it received over the years. Its basic form also appears as a loose template for Groombridge’s sculpture: both objects have one circular portal in roughly the same spot.

Shortwave radio is different from the AM or FM broadcasts that we most often hear today. It is a specific type of radio transmission using wave frequencies that can be reflected off of a layer in the atmosphere. This means that shortwave radio broadcasts can travel far beyond the horizon; they overcome geographical and political boundaries. 

Since transmissions can be received thousands of kilometers away from the transmitter, the technology is often used to distribute information within geographically isolated or politically censored communities where information may not otherwise be widely accessible. These characteristics of shortwave radio imbue it with a certain democratic promise and potential, to freely distribute information and communicate with others around the world. 

Where Groombridge revels in the power of form, the shortwave radio is a form of power. 

Image credits:
 Top: Brian Groombridge, Marconi Whisper, 1993, silkscreen on paper, 63.5 x 63.5 cm. Courtesy of Susan Hobbs Gallery.
Middle: Brian Groombridge, Untitled, 2008, painted aluminum and wood, 110 x 40 x 40 cm. Courtesy of Susan Hobbs Gallery.
Bottom: Installation view, Knight A9871 7-tube Shortwave Radio, c. 1937, wood, assorted electronics and mixed media, The Rooms. Photo by The Rooms. 
 



February 10
The Political Economy of Sound



 

“When lawyer Peter Grant asked Chief Mary Johnson to sing a Gitksan song as an essential part of her evidence on the “Ayook,” the ancient but still effective Gitksan law, Judge McEachern objected. He said he did not want any “performance” in his court of law. “I can’t hear your Indian song, Mrs. Johnson, I’ve got a tin ear.” 

Most of us non-Aboriginal Canadians also wear a tin ear. It seems natural because we have worn it all our lives. We are not even aware of the significant sound we cannot hear.” 

Walt Taylor
The Three Rivers Report, July 15, 1987
Quoted in Dylan Robinson’s Hungry Listening [1]
 

From the beginning, much of the development of early radio infrastructure across Canada was connected to industry, resource extraction and colonization. 

The first large-scale investment in radio infrastructure was by the Canadian National Railways (CNR) Radio Department. CNR Radio began broadcasting in 1923 and continued until it was nationalized, becoming an early version of the CBC in 1932. Generally, the only voices available on the airwaves were colonial dialects of the English and French. The rail lines brought settlers in, carried resources out, and broadcast audio along the way. Occasionally, CNR Radio included content for Indigenous communities that the trains were passing through.[2] 

Quite simply, there was not very much programming available for Indigenous communities prior to the 1970s. This specific relationship of broadcast source and intended receiver seems to somewhat relate to the “listening through whiteness” that current Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Arts, Dylan Robinson, writes about in Hungry Listening: Resonant Theory for Indigenous Sound Studies.[3] One company essentially maintained a monopoly on the radio spectrum - if you wanted to be heard, it had to go through them and serve their interests. 

This gradually changed over the course of the 20th century as radio licenses became more widely available and nationalist monopolies wore away. The 1970s and 80s, in particular, saw the formation of many Indigenous-led communications organizations and the development of radio programming designed for, and by, their communities. This movement highlighted the importance of Indigenous voices holding space on the spectrum and increasing the audibility of language. Within the province, one example can be seen in OKâlaKatiget Society, a radio station based in Nain, Labrador and incorporated in 1982. In English, OKâlaKatiget translates to “People who talk or communicate with each other.” A primary aspect of their mandate is to preserve and promote the language and culture of Inuit in the region. 


 

NDNs on the Airwaves is a short documentary set in Ohsweken, Ontario. It tells a story about poet and radio host Janet Rogers re-connecting with ‘place’ by finding her voice on the airwaves. It also reveals what community-driven radio represents to the community in that region. The station, CKRZ-FM - The Voice of the Grand - was founded in 1987 and received its broadcast license in December 1991. The documentary positions CKRZ-FM in relation to the mainstream, and asks how the community can Indigenize the medium. They want the airwaves to be a signal that carries people back home and to have a place for their voices to be heard. It is a place for the community to tell their own story, instead of having it (mis)represented by external media platforms. 

The archival documents for this week demonstrate a different sort of concern for the airwaves. In 1945, Newfoundland was under the control of the British Commission of Government. Coming out of the Second World War and working to reform the economy and population of Newfoundland, the Commission was sensitive to the content of local radio broadcasts. By overseeing the Broadcasting Corporation of Newfoundland (BCN), they directly shaped some of the most popular and widely available programs on the island. 

The first letter was written by the former Minister of Finance, Major Peter John Cashin, to British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill. Cashin suggested the BCN was being used to suppress free speech in Newfoundland for the purpose of “hiding from the people the misdeeds of our present form of totalitarian government.” Certainly, Cashin was not only interested in radio - he was adamantly against the Commission overall. Even so, his letter shows an understanding of the power of this form of mass media, and a deep sense of how the technology should serve the receiver and not just the broadcaster. 

In a summary response for Prime Minister Churchill, secretary J. Haig-Smith contends that they have done no wrong. He explains that they allowed Cashin to speak at the BCN for three, 30-minute periods, free of charge - though he was required to submit his script for review first. He also confirms that in every case, censures were made. A policy was subsequently developed that prohibited speeches of a political nature on the radio unless it was by an existing high-ranking politician. The letter concludes that the BCN was directly led by the Board of Governors who were, with one exception, all Newfoundlanders, dismissing any suggestion that Cashin should be upset with the Commission in this regard. 

Sound is a political tool. Listening, audibility and intention are intersectional processes that weigh upon the original sounding body and the receiving one. It is a process that involves bias, habit, lived experience and veritable truth. But it isn’t just a technical process; it is one that can also touch the feelings of the listener and move them. 

View the short documentary by Jackson 2bears and Janet Rogers here:
NDNs on the Airwaves 
 

Image credits:
Top:  Installation view, Jackson 2bears and Janet Rogers, NDNs on the Airwaves, 2015, HD video and sound, 11:59 minutes. Produced by Janet Rogers and directed by Jackson 2bears. In partnership with the National Screen Institute, National Film Board of Canada and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. Photo by The Rooms. 
Middle: Jackson 2bears and Janet Rogers, NDNs on the Airwaves (still image from documentary), 2015. Courtesy of the artist. 
Bottom: Installation view, Letter from Mr. Cashin to Sir Winston Churchill, June 21, 1945, ink on paper, The Rooms; Letter from Representative to Sir Winston Churchill, regarding Cashin Letter, July 30, 1945, ink on paper, The Rooms.

 


 

February 3
From the Depths of the Ocean

In 2014, nine blue whales died in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence after being trapped by sea ice. Three of these bodies drifted into Gros Morne National Park and were recovered in Bonne Bay by the Royal Ontario Museum for its collections. 

You may remember reading about the event in stories like these:
Blue whale heart from Newfoundland installed at Royal Ontario Museum

Or perhaps you saw the results in this exhibition:
Out of the Depths: The Blue Whale Story

In How Deep is the Ocean? (Narratives of Loss), Losier broadcasts a real-time audio signal of the marine soundscape of Bonne Bay from a hydrophone installed at a depth of 20m. The soundscape documents the acoustic experience of marine species as they approach the shoreline. Once every two weeks, this audio stream will be joined by live interviews with community members, curators and researchers who contributed to the history and mythology of these events.

The first conversation takes place on Friday, 5 February @ 6 pm with Mark Engstrom, Senior Curator and Deputy Director of Collections & Research at the ROM. Listen to the conversation live in the exhibition at The Rooms, or stay-tuned for a digital upload in the future if you aren’t in St. John’s. The full interview schedule can be found at the bottom of this post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In some ways, Losier’s project can be seen in the context of oceanic communication; we are listening to the ocean in real-time, hearing indications of industry and the presence of sealife. There is a different sort of link to oceanic communication in the beginning of the exhibition. Here, we present a section of trans-oceanic submarine telegraph cable from Heart’s Content, NL. The other end of this cable was tethered to Valentia Island, Ireland. It became the first lasting link connecting Europe and North America when, after several failed attempts, the original cable was finally brought ashore on July 27, 1866.

Ultimately, the wireless imagination that supplanted the utility of the telegraph cable is the means of transmission for Marc’s project today. 

For more about Marc’s project, you can read this interview with the artist:
Listening to the Ocean

Full schedule of Marc Losier’s interviews:

Friday February 5th, 6pm (NST)
Mark Engstrom
Senior Curator and Deputy Director of Collections & Research
Royal Ontario Museum
Toronto, ON

Friday February 19th, 6pm (NST)
Jenny Parsons
Community Leader and owner of the Seaside Restaurant
Trout River, NL

Friday March 5th, 6pm (NST)
Richard Sears
President, Mingan Island Cetacean Study 
Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan, QC

Friday March 19th, 6pm (NST)
Bonnie Brake 
Local Fish Harvester/President of the Harbour Authority
Trout River, NL

Friday April 9th, 6pm (NST)
Brett Crawford
Head of Mounting, Research Casting International
Trenton, ON
 

Image credits:
Top: Installation view, Marc Losier, How Deep is the Ocean? (Narratives of Loss), (2020-21) Map, text, sound, interviews. Photo by The Rooms.
Middle: Installation detail, Marc Losier, How Deep is the Ocean? (Narratives of Loss), (2020-21) Map, text, sound, interviews. Courtesy of the artist.
Bottom: Trans-oceanic submarine telegraph cable, Heart’s Content, 1860s, Telegraph cable, The Rooms Museum [974.50.1]. 

 


January 28
GUGLIELMO MARCONI: 20TH CENTURY TECH GIANT
 

Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937) set out to prove that wireless radio could reach across the Atlantic Ocean. In December 1901, he arrived in St. John’s, NL. His group used a kite to lift a wireless aerial more than 500 feet in the air. In England, Marconi’s team tapped out three dots of Morse Code for the letter “S.” After several failed attempts, Marconi picked up a receiver, heard the three dots, and made history. 

Marconi was the technology celebrity of his day. In 1896, he patented the first wireless telegraphy system, which used radio waves to communicate. In the early days, Morse code messages were sent where wires and cables couldn’t go – ships, remote islands and battlefields. Marconi’s innovations became the basis for radio, television, radar and today’s cellphones. Biographer Marc Raboy casts his influence as the “wireless imagination” that continues to define technological change.

In the 1950s, the province commissioned Reginald Shepherd and Helen Parsons Shepherd to produce paintings related to historical events and significant figures. For his part, Reginald Shepherd produced this painting of Marconi, as well as images of Alcock and Brown and the ship that landed the first transatlantic cable in Heart’s Content, the Great Eastern. By looking closely at the items on Marconi’s desk and in the bookshelf behind him in this painting, it is possible that the artist referred to a well-known photograph of Marconi currently held in The Rooms Archives [MG 760 B-196] when making this work. 

For more on Marconi, check-out this interview with Curator Melony Ward and Author Marc Raboy: 
Radio Pioneer: Transatlantic message revolutionized human communications 

 

Image credits:
Top: Installation view, Reginald Shepherd, Guglielmo Marconi, 1952. Oil on Masonite. Government of Newfoundland and Labrador Collection. The Rooms.
Bottom: Guglielmo Marconi with instruments used to receive the first transatlantic message, St. John’s. December 1901. Gelatin silver photograph. The Rooms. 
 

 


January 27
What is in a name?
 

What is this “Helloland” all about? In the early stages of research, I came across an issue of Scientific American from 12 February 1887. A reporter visiting the Boston Telephone Exchange wrote:

“Any one who has often used the telephone must have had the occasion to be impressed with the mysteriousness, the sense of material non-existence, of that part of the machine and its belongings that lies beyond one's own instrument and that of the person at the other end, whom one is talking to. My own material existence I am reasonably assured of. I can imagine my friend at the other end of the line. But between us there is an airy nowhere, inhabited by voices and nothing else - Helloland, I should call it.”

This disembodied land of hellos seemed an ideal frame for the wireless imagination that Marconi was developing in Europe in 1887. A subtle play on words also draws attention to the impact on land and environment from the development and maintenance of wireless infrastructures. The amazing vanishing quality that the reporter noted was complicated in the wireless age. On one hand, the radio broadcaster still entered your home for a while before vanishing again. At the same time, radio brought widely dispersed people and communities together, and radar surveillance mapped presences and incursions. 

Throughout the exhibition, there will be weekly blog posts. Each will look at one artist and one or more objects and archival images from the exhibition, framed by a common theme. These warbles will include: radio as a tool for cultural preservation; the collision of military, identity and presence; non-hierarchical, chance operations; listening to the ocean; and fallout from the cold war - environmental remediation.  

 

Image credits: Helloland! Art, War and the Wireless Imagination, 27 January - 18 April 2021, Curated by Darryn Doull and Melony Ward. Rendering by Darryn Doull.

 


 January 27
Introduction: Helloland! Art, War and the Wireless Imagination
 

There are few better places to tell a story about wireless communications and radio infrastructure than St. John’s, NL. Famously the site of Marconi’s first trans-Atlantic wireless communication on December 12, 1901, radio has long found a home here. Indeed, the story of radio in this place is one of community, survival, education, religion and confederation. It is a story that is indivisible from the social, political, economic and military developments of a small independent country, which became the tenth province in Canada.

Marconi’s early experiments ushered in an age of wireless technology that has changed human relationships and our relationships with the land. From Morse Code to commercial radio, to radar and mobile phones, wireless infrastructure has been employed in war and colonization from the beginning. It has been a conduit for anxiety as well as scientific and artistic exploration. Wireless imagination is so fundamental to contemporary life that it is easy to forget how these invisible radio waves continue to change the world. 

Helloland! brings together artifacts, archival documents, historical paintings and the work of contemporary artists. Each uniquely reflects upon the complicated legacies of wireless communication in Canada. Their diverse nodes of exploration include communal aspects of radio broadcast, sovereignty issues, economic self-determination, environmental stewardship and geographic militarization during the Cold War. 

Tune in to voices and sounds as they echo from the past, greet us in the present and carry their waves into the future.
 

Featured artists:

Jackson 2bears + Janet Rogers, Alan Collier, Brian Groombridge, Maureen Gruben, Marc Losier, Qavavau Manumie, Margo Pfeiff, Christopher Pratt, Reginald Shepherd, Charles Stankievech, Michael Waterman, Andrew Wright and material from The Rooms Museum and Archives.

Featured loans: 

The Secrets of Radar Museum (London, ON), Canadian Museum of History (Gatineau, QC), Canadian Forces Museum of Aerospace Defence (North Bay, ON), Bell Island Community Museum (Bell Island, NL), National Research Council of Canada Archives (Ottawa, ON), and a number of private collections.
 

Image credit: Charles Stankievech, The DEW Project (installation view), Confluence of Klondike + Yukon Rivers, Yukon Territory, Canada. 64o03’ N, 139o27’ W. 2009. Courtesy of the artist