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Saskatchewan Gothic

  • Dunlop Art Gallery / Mediatheque 2311 12 Avenue Regina, Saskatchewan S4P 0N3 Canada (map)

The Saskatchewan Gothic program situates itself through the concept of the “prairie gothic”—an aesthetic approach in the history of prairie art and literature that has aimed to capture the unique sense of being-in-place that has been part of prairie identity in Canada throughout the 20th century and which persists in new forms into the 21st century. The popular prairie has primarily been defined by its flat, minimalist landscape, which, like its population, is seen as both banal and extreme, and strangely unknowable. In Saskatchewan, with its traumatic history of geographical isolation, insulated farming communities, punishing climate, outmigration during the years of the Great Depression, and, until recently, economic stasis, the dark impulse of the gothic sensibility manifests in offbeat and ironic combinations of rural “fairy tale innocence” and “sinister innuendo” that go “way beyond normal.”[1] Filmmakers who have experimented with such forms include Amalie Atkins, Ian Campbell, Mike Rollo and Gerald Saul. However, in recent years, the insights of Aboriginal artists, such as Dana Claxon and David Garneau, have come to remind us that the “prairie gothic” is a decidedly white settler perspective, and they further challenge the darkness underlying ‘Saskatchewan prairie identity’ by exposing the destructive if not genocidal aspects of colonial prairie history and white racism—aspects which Atkins, Campbell and Saul have also come to critique in their work. Moreover, as Saskatchewan’s economy has diversified in recent years, and the province opens its doors to the world, the influx of international immigrants, many with their own traumatic backgrounds as refugees and victims of ethnic cleansing and genocide, bring new voices that continue to broaden and deepen definitions of Saskatchewan identity on the prairie horizon.

Thus, in the broader context of Meet in the Middle, Regina becomes a cross-cultural meeting ground and the works in Station 4, Saskatchewan Gothic, attempt to show how the local connects with transnational realities as a relatively closed region of Canada opens itself to contact with diverse people, their memories and ways of being, and their own traumatic histories and struggles with imperialism, colonialism, racism, belonging and place.

Later Event: January 30
Prairie (Magic) Realism(s)