If you have ever been to the Diefenbunker Museum in Carp, Ontario, a National Historic Site and Canada’s museum dedicated to the Cold War, you know that it is a unique and special space – a space that also has endless possibilities for artistic exploration and interpretation.
Since 2014, alongside their regular museum programming, the Diefenbunker has offered local artists the opportunity to conduct a site-specific project through their Artist-in-Residence program. The Diefenbunker’s Curatorial Manager, Megan Lafrenière, explained that the idea for the program began with an invitation to artist Gail Bourgeois to expand on her work exploring Cold War themes through a residency opportunity, which culminated in an exhibition, To warn other Canadians (April 26 to September 28, 2014).
“The Diefenbunker is a very visual and experiential place, and having artists develop site-specific works related to the museum is so special and exciting for us and our visitors,” says Lafrenière.
This year, the selected Artist-in-Residence is Hull-based filmmaker, Pixie Cram, whose experimental films and videos have dealt with themes such as the relationship between nature and technology, the aesthetics of urban architecture, and dystopian fictions.
Cram’s project at the museum, a stop motion animation film, will explore the objects, furniture, and spaces found in the museum. Although the project is still in the early stages with Cram currently conducting extensive research into the museum’s archives, it sounds like it will be an eerie investigation of the threat/possibility of nuclear attack. Especially given that there will be no visible human presence within the film.
“I have a very deep concern regarding nuclear war.”
Cram’s other projects and past works, including Pragmatopia (currently in post-production), The Factory of Light (30 min., 2007) and Joan (6.5 min, 2014) have featured themes tied to war. According to Lafrenière, Cram’s film Joan, a short film about Joan of Arc, solidified the selection committee’s decision to offer her the residency, “the way she presented this particular story made it made it clear what she could do here.”
Lafrenière says, “Pixie captured a certain tone in her proposal. She had such a clear idea of not having a human presence in her project, presenting the Diefenbunker as an eerie kind of place – some people already find the space a bit unsettling since it was built to house a select group in the event of a nuclear attack on Canada.”
“I have a very deep concern regarding nuclear war. I saw a film made by the National Film Board of Canada called, If you love this planet (1982), it was a lecture by Dr. Helen Caldicott explaining the impact of nuclear war in Japan… I was maybe 10 or 11 years old when I saw it, and it had a deep impact on me,” Cram says. “The whole period of the Cold War was under threat of nuclear attack, and everyone was rushing to develop these safety strategies, like building bunkers – but actually, if there was an attack, there would be no time to get to safety.”
With this in mind, Cram’s plan for her residency project takes on an even more eerie, haunting, and an even ominous tone. The idea that her film will solely be oriented towards the spaces and object found within the Diefenbunker already has me wondering: Where are the people? And what happened to them?
I am excited to see it when it will be screened at the museum in June 2017.
To stay up-to-date with Pixie Cram’s project and associated events at The Diefenbunker (there was mention of an artist talk and a workshop on stop motion animation) please see the museum’s website: www.diefenbunker.ca.