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A Fragmented History: Port Moody

While Port Moody’s history is no more fragmented than any other community, history is an imperfect record. Information is lost or forgotten, people, places, and events have been written out of the record in an effort to construct grand narratives, and the vast majority of history which has simply not been deemed worthy of recording is now inaccessible. However, when history is allowed to become speculative and even consensually fictional, such as in historical fiction where elements of reality are combined with fictional narratives there is another type of truth that may become available to us.

The initial goal of this exhibition was to produce fictional objects based on fragmented artifacts originating from Port Moody. These reconstructions did not aim to recreate the original object but to imagine or speculate on alternative possibilities. While this process has occurred in the work 1082.143.002 (2022) this project has also become an overall exploration of the act of historical reconstruction and how it applies specifically to Port Moody. Through this project and my graduate research at the University of Victoria, it has become clear to me that all reconstructions, not just historical reconstructions play upon both authenticity and the unknown in an act of both legitimizing and fictionalizing. This understanding led to the creation of The Othering of Time & Place (2022) and D.M. Norton’s Blacksmith (2022) both of which explore preexisting reconstructions related to Port Moody’s history.

These works have been made possible through the Kwi Am Choi Exhibition Scholarship and the support of the Port Moody Arts Centre.

This work is based on two items found in the collection of the Port Moody Station Museum. It is a fictional and speculative reconstruction of a piece of machinery that these fragments could have theoretically come from. Inspired by the genre of historical fiction in which “real” facts, people, and events are intertwined with an entirely invented narrative, this machine represents a tangible recreation of that literary format in both elements which fictionalize and those that legitimize. Created through a combination of traditional 3D modeling/computer-aided design and a 3D algorithm designed to locate and orient these found parts in 3D space, these reconstructions reference forms in the found parts themselves and other early machinery.

Special thanks to The Port Moody Station Museum, staff, and volunteers for support and access to the collection.
D.M. Norton’s Blacksmith
Inspired by a passage from D.M. Norton’s book Early History of Port Moody, this work is based on a lack of historical record relating to the settler town’s first blacksmith. This series of hammer-like forms respond to the fragmented history as potentially variable, speculative, and infinite. These forms are the result of a generative 3D algorithm originally developed to replicate a collection of real hammer heads but has now been modified to accept names as input parameters. Of the 33 hammer forms, 32 represent the names of real blacksmiths sourced from 1860s BC directories with the last being a fictional name for the unknown Port Moody Blacksmith.
The Othering of Time & Place
This work is based on reconstructed 3D data from Google Earth of the McNair Mill ruins across the inlet from Port Moody. The exploration of this site taking place first online and then in person led to the understanding that the reconstruction of place operates similarly to the way in which time is othered from us. When we reconstruct history from historical texts, written accounts, and archeological data, we may develop some sense of that time and place but it is neither full nor authentic. 

Inspired by the cedar shingles that the mill produced, these shingle-like forms have been CNC milled from 3D data extracted from the Google Earth 3D viewer. The choice of scale and orientation depicted on these shingles are defined by the location and orientation of where users who submitted photos of the site were located.
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