Lowering Simon Fraser
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Lowering Simon Fraser. Drawing by Michael Kluckner, 2019.

Lowering Simon Fraser
September 30 - October 04 2019
New Westminster
Vancouver, Canada

Project commission and Fieldhouse Residency Contemporary Art Gallery (CAG), Vancouver

Shaun Dacey
Kimberly Phillips (CAG)

500 free copies of an illustrated book, printed on stone paper; temporary paint application on the Simon Fraser Monument, New Westminster; electronic billboard on Queensborough Bridge, New Westminster; newspaper announcements New Westminster Record, September 26 2019; public discussion Anvil Centre Theatre, New Westminster, October 1 2019.

Project credits:
Research, concept, proposal: Maddie Leach Drawings: Michael Kluckner, Vancouver
Design: Warren Olds & Felix Henning-Tapley at Fount-via, New Zealand
Digital sketches: Adrian McCleland
Plexiglass box: Associated Plastics, Vancouver
Electronic billboard: Outfront Media, Vancouver

Supported by
Creative New Zealand Toi Aotearoa
Vancouver Foundation
Contemporary Art Gallery (CAG)
Valand Academy at University of Gothenburg
City of New Westminster Museums and Heritage Services

With warmest thanks to: Nigel Prince (former Director, CAG); Shaun Dacey and Kimberly Phillips; Rob McCullough, Manager, Museums and Heritage Services; Kamala Todd, discussion moderator; Julia Lamare and Ellie Nixon (CAG); Biliana Velkova (former Public Art Officer, New Westminster); Barry Dykes at City of New Westminster Archives; Jas Lally (formerly at CAG); Stephen Scheving, researcher; Shalon Webber-Heffernan, Mackenzie Reid Rostad, Ines Min (CAG internships); Travis Stasney; Malika Montague; Jem Noble; Jill Lambert; and Julian McKinney.

Link to Lowering Simon Fraser, CAG website

Project proposal: Commissioned by the New Westminster branch of the fraternal 'settler' society Native Sons of BC in the early years of the 20th century, the Simon Fraser Monument has an intriguing history of disassembly, reassembly and relocation. In 1908 a tall granite column was unveiled at the top of Albert Crescent Park overlooking the Fraser River; In 1911 a bronze bust of Simon Fraser was completed in Montréal by the celebrated Canadian sculptor Louis-Phillipe Hébert and positioned on the column. By 1988 the monument had undergone several relocations - moving steadily downhill towards the river, the plinth having been substantially reduced in height, the bust turned 180 degrees to face away from the river and its gaze directed at a waterfront pub & grill.

Acknowledging this curious history, alongside the continued circulation of heroic and 'heightened' narratives of Fraser's expedition, Maddie Leach proposed a further material adjustment to the monument in 2018. This action would have removed a six inch section of the existing granite pedestal, further lowering the monument. The removed section was, subsequently, to be transported to the source of the Fraser River at the remote Fraser Pass and relocated there. This geometric form, out of place in the geography, was intended to be reshaped, reformed and reduced as a result of time, weather and water.

A condition of the approval by New Westminster City Council was the requirement to attain written support from a specific First Nation community in New Westminster and the nation whose tribal boundaries the granite would be repositioned within. The process that followed has revealed some of the structural complexities, ideological aspirations and practical uncertainties located in achieving such a request. In addition, it has highlighted the vulnerabilities and problematics of working at distance to the place in which the project is located geographically and conceptually, and the ability to maintain institutional attention on a durational project.