In October 2020, I travelled for around 5,000 Km visiting the northern region of British Columbia in Canada. The journey was my contribution to the PLURAL research project in collaboration with the University of British Columbia and University of Northern British Columbia. The project identified a knowledge gap in the province - those of us living in the lower mainland know nothing or very little of what is it like in Northern British Columbia.
My journey was planned months before the pandemic hit. In different times, it would have had a different structure and very likely a different significance. In-person contacts were not possible anymore, and the journey, originally set to make contacts with the local communities, had to be completely reconsidered. At this time, it would be a solitary journey.
After the summer of 2020, there was a lingering feeling of hope that the worse was over. Travelling was allowed and after a preventive self-quarantine, I decided to head to the north of the province, but only as an observer. Even if contacts with locals were limited, just being there, roam the roads and the distances, soaking the landscapes, I learned a bit about the territory and its dynamics.
I travelled from south to north, from east to west, and back again. I tried to include as many stops I could. It was fall and the only changes in the landscape, the shifting colours in preparation for the winter thought me a lot about the territory and its geography.
After ten days, back into the busy city of Vancouver, my first thought was that I wanted to return back. The connection with the territory was strong and I was already missing that closeness to the land. Feelings I didn’t expect to have.
A couple of moths later I started online photo-voice meetings with local communities. Those allowed me to make connections on both individual and group level and listening about what life in Northern BC is like.
I carried on my research, to piece together the stories and pictures people shared with me, my own photographs and the experience of travelling there. The sense of community, the connectedness with the territory, the sense of belonging and the geographic enormity of Northern BC were recurrent topics. That induced me to work with the theme of resilience.
In Northern BC, people’s daily lives are continuously affected by the territory demands. That could be the long distances, the extreme temperatures, the difficulties to reach some service or even to be able to make a telephone call.
What it was also clear to me was that the north of the province, is a place full of natural resources, but I wasn’t able to understand if the people living on that territory were equally benefitting from those resources as per the rest of the Province.
For this commission, I have imagined resilience as a tiny film that adjusts to the shape that the land presents. That tiny film, the skin, is shaped by the circumstances and challenges of living in a remote and disperse territory like the Northern BC.
During the shaping process, the skin suffer with shock and stress, leaving on its surface signs of this own adaptation.
Using a chemical process similar to the emulsion lift, I’ve been able to raise the layer of ink from the media. That allowed me to literally transform the images I take during my journey in photographic skins.
With the help of water, I toke this floating tiny films and transferred on a new media, like a paper sheet or an object like a stone or something else.
Transferring the image from a media to another one allowed me to work with the photographs’ materiality and their shape, questioning identity and significance of those landscapes.