The Colour of My Voice, the Colour of the Land, Newfoundland 1996
the chronicle of a calendar year


medium: video, 13 minutes

This work is about everyday experience, audible difference, language and the land. In this video I incorporate the sound of my voice with what are almost “still” images of the land, alternating with sequences of words that appear silently on the screen. Altogether the images and words describe a calendar year of my life in St. John's.

The landscape images—details of the ground seen from standing height—capture seasonal shifts in colour on Signal Hill which is the main landform I see every day. It is the reality that is here: the geology and the vegetation, transformed during the year by the climate. Signal Hill is a landmark where generation after generation has written and continues to write its own text—military, domestic, agricultural, scientific, medical, commercial, governmental, recreational, touristic ... something else is bound to follow. Landscape, even if we suppose it to be “wilderness” and outside our culture, is the product of it. And culture, it seems to me, is the result of the human mind interacting with its environment.

The single words that appear on the screen are verbs and they follow, in chronological order, the experiential and emotional territory of my year here. The viewer silently reads them, “hearing” his or her own internal voice. All of these verbs are active; they name what I did. But in the course of choosing verbs to accurately describe my activity, I was often looking for a word which goes against the cognitive prejudices of the English language. Beauty, after all, does not name itself; we do. We perform the act of seeing something as beautiful (disappointing, worthwhile, difficult ...).

Underlying this video is the shadow of a question—“You're not from here, are you?”—the unanswerable question which I am often asked in Newfoundland as soon as I speak. In my everyday transactions in St. John's, my identity is often defined by my audible difference or, as I call it, the “colour” of my voice.

Marlene Creates, 1996

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