SkyTrain art installation showcases SFU student photography

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snəw̓eyəɬ (teachings), at Waterfront Station - SFU University Communications

The art of SFU design student Reese Muntean was selected to hang in the hallway leading to the Canada Line at Waterfront Station for public viewing.

Her collection, snəw̓eyəɬ (teachings), is one of many Canada Line exhibits, documenting different fishing technologies in the Musqueam First Nations community through a series of photographs.

The photo installation project is a continuation of c̓əsnaʔəm,; the city before the city, a larger multi-institution partnership by the Musqueam Indian Band, the Museum of Vancouver (MOV), and the Museum Of Anthropology (MOA) at the University of British Columbia. c̓əsnaʔəm is a 4,000 year-old traditional Musqueam village, sometimes called the Great Fraser Midden.

Muntean’s work was initially created for another project, ʔeləw̓k̓ ʷ– Belongings. The collaboration between SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology and the MOA resulted in a showcase for this interactive tangible tabletop project. The museum exhibit is meant to show the continuity of culture and knowledge in the Musqueam community over thousands of years.

The photography by Muntean and her co-curator Jordan Wilson captures the everyday salmon processing practices of community members at the Fraser River in Vancouver.

“For ʔeləw̓k̓ ʷ– Belongings, we focused on fishing technologies to show the continuity of Musqueam culture,” Muntean explained. “The photographs at Waterfront Station document the contemporary preservation practices.”

The series of photographs shows the tools and technologies used in the processing and preserving of salmon, such as axes, hoses, containers, knives, sharpeners, and the smokehouse.

The interactive tangible tabletop installed in the MOV, which is available until the end of the year, features replicas of six ancient Musqueam belongings excavated from c̓əsnaʔəm and six contemporary day-to-day items.

“Drawing on contemporary community voices and Musqueam’s ancestral language, hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓, you learn about how the past connects to the present by connecting something ancient to something contemporary,” said Muntean.

The idea for a photo installation occurred when Kate Hennessy, Muntean’s graduate supervisor at SFU SIAT, was asked to curate a selection of photographs to be placed in Waterfront Station for Vancouver’s Capture Photography Festival. The whole Canada Line exhibit is focused on presenting Musqueam and c̓əsnaʔəm traditions.

“Kate [Hennessy] is very familiar with the images that I had taken for ʔeləw̓k̓ ʷ– Belongings and wanted to present them here,” added Muntean.

For Muntean, the use of the SkyTrain as a base for exhibiting public photography speaks to finding creative ways of showcasing different installations and tapping into different audiences to make art more inclusive and accessible.

Although the art installation projects were initially created thinking they would be on a tabletop in a museum setting, Muntean commented that “having these [photos] on display at Waterfront SkyTrain [Station] really opened up these images to a wider audience.”

She continued, “Now, our audience is anyone who is going through the Waterfront Station. I think it is really wonderful to have all of the Canada Line for photography relating to c̓əsnaʔəm and Musqueam.”