Maureen Gruben (Inuvialuk)
Cast resin, steel, copper nails, reflective tape, wax
12″ x 52” (each piece)
Titled in overt opposition to archeological or religious fixations on objects seen as somehow locked in a state of purely historic value, Fresh Artifacts consists of three suspended resin casts taken from a wooden fox stretcher used by Maureen’s father, Eddie Gruben. Renowned as the region’s most successful trapper, he would often have as many as 500 traps in a line stretching from Tuktoyaktuk to Baillie Island—a distance of roughly 200 kilometres—which he set and checked with a dog team. Eddie was sent to residential school and was assigned the number four as a “student number”; throughout his life he inscribed many of his important possessions with the Roman numeral “IV.” This marking has been transferred directly from his fox stretcher to two of the casts. Fresh Artifacts works to preserve not an object itself, but the many complex memories that can become associated with an object. Its paradoxical title and active play with light emphasizes that memory is a living phenomenon that is bound as closely to the present as to the past. In its connection to a life spent immersed in the Arctic tundra, the work evokes a spirituality based on a present, living land and family lineage, rather than on opaque ancient texts or transcendent but endlessly deferred futures.