Cultivation and Conquest, 2011 

Antique Cultivation Blades with Early French Explorers' Writings and Lumen Photographs 361/2 X 241/2 X 51/4(each box)


The carrying of seed from one ecosystem to another was common practice in my ancestor, Louis Hébert's time. We are only recently recognizing the impact that such disregard for natural habitats has had on the current state of our planet. The fact that I could trace my line directly to one of the few people who was known to have done this at the beginnings of European settlement in Canada was a poignant realization for me. As I walked around my property, I considered several of my "weeds", such as plantain. Plantain, called "white man's footsteps" by some First Nations people has an unknown origin. It is assumed that it came over with the early European settlers. Did Hébert himself bring it over?

Once I recognized this tangible connection between myself, my ancestor, and my weeds, I began an exploration of the relationship between the colonialist ideals and practices of the first European settlers and the degradation of the land in our time. I read a number of primary source texts; namely, the writings of the first French colonial explorers themselves. What struck me was that the language they used to describe the land in the "New World" was the language of conquest. Land was a possession to be taken and shaped to the needs and desires of the conquerors. The language of cultivation was the language of the colonialists. This language extended to their philosophy of conquest of the Indigenous  populations. The people were crops, or weeds, or seeds to be harvested or in some cases, exterminated.

By printing the colonialists’ writings on antique cultivation blades and then pairing them up with lumen prints of the plants that should be growing naturally on my property, I am exploring the relationship between the ideals and ideologies of the past and the state of our land and of our relationship with our Indigenous brothers and sisters in the present.