“Sur la route menant le voyageur vers l’Atlantique,”
Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, Québec 1997

medium: laminated colour cibachrome photographic print, and silkscreen text on plexiglass.
dimensions: photograph: 33 x 50 inches (84 x 127 cm); plexi: 6 feet x 6 feet (1.8 x 1.8 m).
collection: The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery, St. John's.

In the 1997 tourist guide published by Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, the town describes itself as a destination “sur la route menant le voyageur vers l’Atlantique” (on the road that leads the traveller to the Atlantic). This suggests that the town is a stopping place for visitors whose direction of travel is from west to east. The road, which goes through the town, follows the shore of the St. Lawrence River—the route by which Europeans travelled into the interior of North America, that is, whose direction of travel was from east to west.

I was interested in Newfoundland as a possible destination for people on this road. A place one has never visited can, in some way, reside in the mind – as a geographical, political, social, cultural, or economic entity. Scenic postcards we may have received, for example, present “positive”, almost fictionalized, views which conform to the conventions and values of nineteenth century romanticism and often strain in the tension between the nostalgia for a rural way of life (that may have never really existed) and the reality of what exists now.

My work presents the answers I received – from both residents and visitors – to the question À quoi pensez-vous quand je dis Terre-Neuve? (What comes to mind when I say Newfoundland?). I asked the question in the course of a typical conversation in which strangers exchange the most preliminary information about each other: Where are you from? When I answered that I was from Newfoundland, there was always a surprised reaction. Then I would ask if they had ever been to Newfoundland and if they answered “no”, I would ask, À quoi pensez-vous quand je dis Terre-Neuve? The answers I received were all spoken within a few steps of the section of road seen in the photograph, and they are presented in the order in which I received them. These answers say something about what is “known” about Newfoundland, as well as something about the relationships between what was said, where it was said, who said it, and to whom it was said – someone known to be from Newfoundland.

Marlene Creates, 1997