Unstitching Maps / Retelling Stories

Unstitching Maps / Retelling Stories is an experimental public-participant artwork that was created through Cambridge Art Galleries’ exhibition Journey With Our Kin.
(October 29, 2022 – February 5, 2023) 

Part 1: 40″x60″, stretched white denim, red cotton thread, seam rippers, instructional panel

Part 2: Timelapse projection, seam rippers, 43″x63″ unstretched denim, plant and mineral dyes, cotton thread, relief printing ink

The work centered the consideration of land, of property and how our common conception of mapping informs our relationship to it. The colonial division of land and the creation of property affects how everyone, including animals and plants, can live and move on the land. It’s the underlying layer of our experiences, laws, and social expectations. Focusing solely on the division of land, colonial maps are abstract and difficult to read; in fact, the creation of property is itself abstract. 

Special Thanks
Thank you to the staff at Cambridge Art Galleries for their invaluable support in this project and Pat The Dog Theatre Creation for their generous support in the research of this work.

Exhibition documentation by Toni Hafkenscheid

Phase 1: October 29-Nov 27, 2022

In this evolving artwork, Phase 1, “Unstitching Maps,” depicted the property division in downtown Galt through a traditional colonial lens. It maps the area around Galt’s three bridges, including this property of the gallery located centrally on the map. This sewn map unravelled over a month through public intervention with seam rippers, turning the map into something almost unrecognizable. 

Above: People unstitching the map
Right: “Unstitching” timelapse

Phase 2: December 19, 2022 – February 5, 2023

The second phase of the project, “Retelling Stories,” the map was removed from the gallery, mended, dyed with plants and reworked through a community mapping workshop. Brenda had specially gathered plant material from their neighbourhood and bundle-dyed the map. Through the community-held workshop, participants were invited to reflect on the practice of mapping, reimaging what maps can tell us about our priorities. Using their experiences of the Grand River/Willow River, they create a print block to symbolize that story, printing directly onto the dyed map. The stories depicted range from a life lived along the river to a moment in time. After the workshop, the river was sewn to connect all the stories. The final form of the map was reinstated in the gallery next to a timelapse projection of Phase 1.