Liz Magor, talking about the work Provincial Sideboard
Sideboard of wood, metal and plaster with eggshell and bitumen, framed retouched gelatin silver print, beaver of synthetic fur
169 × 182.8 × 75.5 cm
Collection of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Purchased in 1993
This work is called Provincial Sideboard. It’s from 1993, which (I’d have to do the math)… but it’s a long time ago. In a way, I was trying out a different way of making a work operate in 1993. I think in a way I have relaxed over the last twenty years or thirty years. In 1993 I’m still working quite hard to make things signify. I’m trying to force things a little bit. So I see this work as operating differently than let’s say Being This or Good Shepherd. The elements are similar: there’s a sculpture with a picture, there’s an animal, there’s this sort of combination and relationships of things but… but they’re different. In Provincial Sideboard there’s a replica of a historically significant piece of furniture. It’s significant not because it’s a beautiful piece of furniture but there was a very short period in Canada where this quality of furniture was produced in Canada before it was imported either from Britain or the United States. There’s a short period that Canada was being Canada. By short I mean twenty years maybe. So I made a replica of it. And then I included a print. It’s a manipulated engraving by an artist named William Bartlett. He was employed to make images of Canada and the U.S., and of settlement in the New World. And these images were intended to go back to Europe and encourage people to come to Canada and settle here.
Those are stories that interest me a lot because I think about those people coming, both the Francophone and the Anglophone, coming to this kind of land and dealing with material… dealing with heavy, difficult situations. And even if they were skilled in farming or clearing land, it was nothing like what they would face here. So I always imagine what it would be like. In this picture, the original engravings have these settlers (I think they’re in Quebec actually), have these settlers around a fire. And the smoke was coming out of the fire. But I had it retouched and I put the smoke coming out of their cabin. So instead of their cabin going up, I have their cabin being destroyed. Because in 1993, ’91, there were some big changes happening between Francophone, Anglophone and First Nations that were historically significant. And we are playing that out now still. So that colonial past is altering, altering and hopefully ending. You know, hopefully it’s behind us. And that is burning down.