Project commission and Fieldhouse Residency with Contemporary Art Gallery (CAG), Vancouver
Curators: Shaun Dacey, Kimberly Phillips (CAG)
- 500 free copies of an illustrated book, 44 pages, printed on S-Eco Stone Paper;
- Temporary paint application on the Simon Fraser Monument, New Westminster;
- Electronic billboard on Queensborough Bridge, New Westminster;
- Newspaper announcements New Westminster Record, 26 September 2019;
- Public discussion Anvil Centre Theatre, New Westminster, 1 October 2019.
Research, concept, proposal: Maddie Leach
Drawings: Michael Kluckner
Warren Olds, Studio Ahoy
Associated Plastics, Vancouver
Electronic billboard: Outfront Media, Vancouver
Creative New Zealand Toi Aotearoa
Contemporary Art Gallery (CAG)
Valand Academy, University of Gothenburg
City of New Westminster Museums and Heritage Services
With thanks to
Nigel Prince (former Director, CAG); Rob McCullough, Manager, Museums and Heritage Services; Barry Dykes at City of New Westminster Archives; Stephen Scheving, researcher; Biliana Velkova (former Public Art Officer, New Westminster); Kamala Todd, discussion moderator; CAG interns 2015–2016: Shalon Webber-Heffernan, Mackenzie Reid Rostad, Ines Min.
Lowering Simon Fraser culminated Maddie Leach’s artist residency and research project focusing on the Simon Fraser Monument currently sited on the riverside boardwalk of the Quay in New Westminster, British Columbia. The monument commemorates the controversial early nineteenth century fur trader and explorer credited with charting much of what is now understood as British Columbia. In 1808, with the aid of many Indigenous communities, he explored the river that now bears his name, long a transportation and exchange route and source of food for Coast Salish Nations near the mouth of the Fraser; the Nlaka’pamux, Okanagan, Secwepemc, St’át’imc and Tsilhqot’in in the central Fraser; and the Dakelh, Sekani and Wet’suwet’en in the regions around its northernmost origins.
Commissioned in the early twentieth century by the New Westminster branch of the Native Sons of BC, a patriotic order sworn to uphold the values of British Columbia’s colonial pioneers, the Simon Fraser Monument has a curious history of disassembly, reassembly and relocation. In 1908 a tall granite column was unveiled by Premier Richard McBride, on a mound in Albert Crescent Park, overlooking the river. A bronze bust of Fraser was completed in 1911 by Montreal-based academy sculptor Louis-Phillipe Hébert and positioned atop the column. Over the following decades the monument underwent several relocations due to the construction, and reconstruction, of road approaches to the Pattullo Bridge. At each occasion it was shifted further downhill towards the river. When the monument arrived at its current site on the Quay in 1988, its granite plinth had been substantially reduced in height, the bust turned 180 degrees to face away from the river and its gaze directed towards a waterfront pub. This seeming restlessness and physical diminishment might be argued to mirror public shifts of opinion—from celebration to indifference and a generalized forgetting of things in plain site—and the growing need to re-examine Fraser’s role in the region’s colonial history.
Leach’s original proposal to the New Westminster’s Civic Council requested permission to make an adjustment to the monument by removing a narrow slab of the granite plinth and transporting it to the source of the Fraser River in a remote area of the Rocky Mountains. There, the modest granite monolith would have been left to be reshaped and reduced by the effects of weather and running water, and slowly carried downriver over eons of time. The artist imagined that one day, the granite slab may have arrived back in New Westminster as a small, insignificant stone. Reframed as an unrealised conceptual premise, this imagined alternate future was chronicled in a limited-edition bookwork, with illustrations by Michael Kluckner, launched in tandem with a text displayed on an electronic billboard over the Queensborough Bridge, and a public conversation hosted in New Westminster.
Kimberly Phillips & Maddie Leach