still underwater: Tracing Skwácháy̓s, “water coming up from ground beneath”, in today’s False Creek Flats

an informal surveyor map of what is today central Vancouver circa 1890, no author attributed

ḴEXMIN field station
still underwater:
Tracing Skwácháy̓s, “water coming up from ground beneath,” in today’s False Creek Flats

8 April – May 24, 2019
still underwater | 1: traces, pronunciations, recollections

The former inlet and salt marshes bounded today by Vancouver’s Union, Clark, Great Northern Way, and Main Street, were once known as Skwácháy̓s and False Creek East, what might roughly be translated as “water coming up from ground beneath.” In the centennial years of the filling and destruction of hole-in-bottom, PLOT invites the land art collective ḴEXMIN field station to initiate new research, field trips, monitoring, test sites, public conversations, screenings, ceremonies, performances, interventions, and proposals. In various periods over the next three years, still underwater will explore new forms of decolonial land art based on emergent protocols in acknowledging a wider range of territorial, linguistic, cultural, and historical concerns, as well as emerging relationships, alliances, and communalities.

enlargement of the“water coming up from ground beneath,” False Creek East portion of an informal surveyor map of what is today central Vancouver circa 1890, no author attributed

At the core of still underwater are a series of questions about new opportunities for environmental, site-based, and public art on the Pacific North-West coast: How can artists, curators and audiences—with a wide range of heritages—engage fully around unceded land and sites, with respect and support towards the rapidly evolving cultural, political, and legal protocols of the xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ / Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) nations? For indigenous artists, what does it mean to have a heritage and political entitlement around unceded sites such as “water coming up from ground beneath”? On the seismically-vulnerable terrain of “water coming up from ground beneath,” how can site-based artistic interventions and permanent public art works hold transformative roles within its ‘redeveloping’ neighbourhoods, where new construction seems inevitable despite its geological instability?

This event is held on the unceded territory of the sḵwx̱wú7mesh, sel̓íl̓witulh, & xʷməθkʷəy̓əm nations.

a map of what is today central Vancouver made in the year of the city’s naming and incorporation, circa 13 June 1886 – Skwácháy̓s, “water coming up from ground beneath”, False Creek East is in the lower right indicated by “CREEK.” The “New Road” is today’s Main Street. Today the area indicated by ‘improvised morgue’ is occupied by the remaining train station in Vancouver, Pacific Central Station and the area indicated by “Refugees Bivouac” is the present location of Science World on the north-eastern corner of Olympic Village.

ḴEXMIN field station is a loose collective of indigenous and non-indigenous site-based artists, environmental researchers, scientists, and designers focused on the waters, shores and islands of the Salish Sea. Currently located on Salt Spring Island, the field station exists as a research, learning and experimentation space to nurture conversations spanning traditional indigenous knowledge, modern science, and contemporary culture. Individuals currently contributing to ‘still underwater’ include Musqueam weaver and public artist Debra Sparrow, Salish curator Rose Spahan, Métis public artist and environmental scientist Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram (currently coordinating the 2019 events at PLOT), public artist and designer Alex Grünenfelder, ecological designer and public artist Oliver Kellhammer, and Sharon Kallis a community engaged environmental artist.