Field Work, 1989
gelatin silver prints on paper
matted print: 55.9 x 71.1 cm each (some vertical, some horizontal)
National Gallery of Canada (no. 37174.1-10)
Liz Magor plays on the element of fiction or dramatization that often colours museum displays. In "Field Work" she presents photographs of her friends taken in the British Columbia wilderness in the early 1970s. The photos are framed with museum-style mats bearing captions borrowed from Edward Curtis's documentations of the disappearing way of life of Aboriginal Peoples. Curtis is known to have asked his subjects to pose rather elaborately, and his captions seem more like fiction than fact. Magor draws parallels between Curtis's efforts and her own youthful role-playing search for alternative values in the same landscape that Curtis worked in. In this work, Magor questions the subtexts of museum display, its claims to authenticity and its implicit theatricality, asking us to re-consider where the meanings of such displays might lie.