Synopsis (Work in Progress)
Social Studies is an ongoing body of work which examines changing perceptions of Canadian history in the 21st century. Using the contemporary fur trade as a point of departure both for research and as an allegorical element which references aspects of our troubled past, the work constitutes a reconsideration of landscape, settlement, and the one-sided Canadian history that has formed the basis of many people’s understanding of Canadian identity.
As a common subject in early Social Studies classes, the fur trade period was, like many aspects of Canadian history, taught in a way which seemed victimless, inevitable, and even fun. Formative lessons such as these maintained a distance between the wrongs of the past and the ongoing, institutionalized problems that we continue to grapple with and confront as a country.
Addressing this supposed distance is one of the defining themes of the work. What began as an investigation into the contemporary fur trade in Canada (both in terms of rural economies and it’s ongoing significance to different cultural groups) has since shifted to question more broadly different aspects of the “Canadian” experience and how we define ourselves. Through the presentation of imagery that is at once instantly familiar and iconic to the Canadian experience and contrasting it to imagery which reveals the deeper (and oftentimes darker) implications of and history behind this symbolism, the work invites one to question and confront our identity as Canadians.