Mark Rendell

CULTURE TIP: THUNDER IN OUR VOICES

A multimedia installation on the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre

An intriguing multimedia installation marking the 40th anniversary of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry recently opened at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. Using photography, audio and text, looks back at the people and testimonies that ended up halting the pipeline project in 1976.

At the installation’s centre is a tent constructed from nine moose hides. Inside it, archival photos merge with animations on a screen, while audio from the 1970s plays along with modern interviews.

Above the tent hang 20 large photographs taken during the inquiry and framed on beaver hide stretchers. Ringing the space are another 20 images, this time life-size contemporary portraits of key players in the pipeline debate 40 years ago, taken by photographer Linda MacCannell. Their memories of this pivotal moment in Northern history are collected in binders beneath the photographs. The exhibit asks for genuine interaction from viewers: you need to dig into the binders and read in order to identify people, and you are asked to make up your own mind whether inquiry head Thomas Berger’s decision to halt the project was in fact the right one.

Former CBC journalist Drew Ann Wake dreamed up the exhibit after rediscovering a cache of photographs and around 150 hours of audio interviews and testimonies she had collected during the inquiry. Wake wanted to bring these voices and images back North, so in 2008 she and MacCannell set off down the Mackenzie River to share the personal archive with the communities that had once hosted Berger and his inquiry. Along the way, the duo taught workshops to youth and gathered the photographs and interviews that make up the modern part of the exhibit.

Though the exhibit is now open to the public, more audio will be added in the coming weeks, and on March 3rd,  Thomas Berger, now 83, will be in Yellowknife for the exhibit’s official launch.

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