Unsettled

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Unsettled
ScottWalden
of Newfoundland
ArtGallerg
andLabrador,
St.John's
August
9 - 0ctober
28,200t
ScottWalden'sphotographg,
as BruceJohnsonpointsout in his curator's
statement,hasa lot in commonwith the workof WalkerEvans.Bothphotographerswere motivatedto recorda rural wag of life, a harsh and brave
existence
thoroughlgdependent
on nature.
Thereare no humansubjectsin the exhibitUnsettled,
andthis is perhaps
betweenEvans'swork,publishedin the booklet
the moststrikingdifference
Us Now Proise FomousMen, and Walden'sphotographs.WhereEvans
portrausthe weather-beaten
facesof sharecroppers,
Waldenshorisus the
faces of abandonedoutport homescaughtin the ravagesof decag.lt's
impossiblenot to anthropomorphize
thesecollapsing
structures.Clapboards
sag,windowsstare,paintpeelslike scabrousskin, a cornersinks into the
earthasthoughon bendedknee.
Between1954and 1975,approximatelg
28,000ruralNewfoundlanders
left
their homes in small outportsfor largercommunities.The resettlement
program,designedbg JoegSmallwood,
providedeasgaccessto healthcare,
new roadsand emplogment.
MangNewfoundlanders
were forcedto leave
homestheg had built bg hand.Peopleleft their vegetablegardens,fishing
groundsand the gravegards
in whichtheirancestorshadbeenburiedsince
In short,theglefta wagof life.Andsince1997,Walden,
the 17thCenturg.
who
is originallgfrom Toronto,has been photographing
the remainsof rhese
churchesandgravestones.
communities-houses,
Paradoxicallg,
there is somethinganimatein the stillnessof Walden's
photographs.
Theirdgnamiccompositions
capturegesture:the motionof
fallingapart,tippingoverandcrumbling.
Eachimagelooksasthoughit might
be a framefroma film caughton the cogof a projectori
oncethe film is freed,
the buildingswill promptlgcollapse.Perhapsafterwatching,repeatedlV,
the
footageof the WorldTradeCentercrumbling,oneexpectsa building,if it is to
fall apart,to do so in a matterof minutes.But Walden'shouseshavebeen
fallingfor threedecades,
andthe photographer
hascaughttheirslow,staggeringdemise.
In the accompanging
Waldensagshe'dlike his photographs
catalogue,
to
evokememorgin the samewagMarcelProust'sfamousmadeleine
does-the
taste of a plain biscuitdippedin tea triggersin Proust'snarratoran
overwhelming
flurrg of distinctand achinglgnostalgicchildhoodmemories.
Proustdescribesan involuntarg
relivingof the past boundinextricablg
to the
senses,particularlg
thoseof smellandtaste.
However,
the majoritgof Walden's
audiencewill be too goungto haveever
experienced
the smellsand flavoursof these resettledoutports.Walden's
goungeraudiences
will haveheardfrom grandparents,
songwriters
suchas
AnitaBestand the literatureof BerniceMorganand,morerecentlg,Michael
Crummeg,
what it was liketo growup in outportNewfoundland.
But absent
will be the uniquelgpersonal,sensoruexperienceequivalentto Proust's
madeleine.
Forthemajoritgof Walden's
audience,
theseremarkablg
beautiful,
richlgtexturedphotographs
will not involuntarilg
triggermemoriesof rural
life,as woulda favouritebakedtreatfromchildhood,
but will insteadprovoke
the viewerto imaginethe past.Perhaps
evenlongfor it.
. LisaMoore
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