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Stefanie Loveday

Investigations into Animal/Human


Sp 2011
Tundra
Into the Expanse


Grandfather!s Self-Portrait; Self-Portrait as a Hunter
My Grandfather stands, poised with his rie; a red jacket set against a sea of green
Canadian pines. Shortly after immigrating to Canada from Switzerland with my mother
and Grandmother, my Grandfather took this self-portrait at age 28, the same age as
myself. Rummaging through my clothes one day, I pulled out a sweater I had bought
some years ago at a thrift store. It is grey with images of animals and text like you often
nd on those old-men trucker hats of the I"d rather be... variety. It reads I"d rather be
HUNTING with a large deer, a duck, and an image of a hunter ready to re. I had
thought it was ironic - at the time I was vegetarian, and it also pointed at how strangely
removed I felt from the hunting tendencies of my Grandfather while I was a child. I had
removed in my mind the act of hunting from the artifacts of animals that were strewn
around my grandparents home - the bearskin rug and the numerous antlers mounted to
the walls.
I shot a self-portrait, wearing the sweater, in my studio with a white fuzzy carpet.
The image is decidedly not comforting - it is cold and looks like the outdoors despite the
white studio walls behind me. I am contemplating the expanse of white-on-white, of the
Great Canadian North, at age 28.



Books


Bookcase with Tundra and CN Rail
In my Grandmother"s house, the basement is full of collections. It is where the artifacts
of my Grandfather primarily reside. I found three books stashed in the bookcase next to
Mountain Man and The Ice: Ordeal by Ice, Polar Passion, and Tundra, a trilogy by
Canadian author Farley Mowat. They are collections of historical documents from ship
wrecks, explorers, polar expeditions, and Canada"s rst immigrants and colonizers.
These accounts were the start of the current (Western) mythology of Canada. The
letters from northern explorers sent home to Europe with descriptions of the tundra, the
expanse of the north, and the animals that lived there, were the beginnings of icons that
still symbolize Canada today. The futile efforts of multiple expeditions to nd the North
West Passage through the ice drew a large amount of interest throughout Europe and
formed a collective imaginary of what Canada, as a landscape and territory, stood for.
Ordeal by Ice:
The Hunter
The re-enactment of my Grandfather"s hunting memory took place on a farm
south-west of Calgary, Alberta. As we arrived, the only light was the blue glow of dawn
1
on the horizon over the black prairie and the glow of our truck headlights streaming
1
For in all hunting mythologies the sun is a great hunter. At dawn his arrows slay the stars.
Campbell, Joseph. Renewal Myths and Rites of the Primitive Hunters and Planters. Spring Publications
Inc., 1989. p.16
across the cattle grate on the snowy farm road. My Grandfather"s friend had invited me
to go deer hunting with him - this was my rst time hunting, and my rst experience of
the woods as a landscape of trails and dens. Walking through the wilderness alone in
the snow, the woods became a maze-like enclosure that entangled me with bramble
branches only to lead to a deer trail that disappeared in a clearing. At the base of trees
were little hollows melted out of the snow - traces of sleeping deer, nestled together. I
was re-imagining my Grandfather"s memory through my own actual experience. The
mythic qualities my Grandfather held in my memory - as hunter, provider, explorer -
were echoed within my own experience of the wilderness.


Prairie Lights at Dawn
The myth of the hunter that my Grandfather had become was held up by the history of
human animal relationships within the identity of Canada. Beaver trappers who worked
for the fur trade industry explored Canada by river, expanding and mapping the territory
of known land. The animals that the hunters and explorers encountered became a part
of the identity of the land, a vast northern territory where the rivers were lled with sh,
the northern tundra with endless herds of caribou, and the mountains with deer and
bears. The hunters of Canadian history became myths and legends in their immersion
into the wildness of the north. Throughout Western history the hunter has been seen
as a liminal and ambiguous gure, now a ghter against wilderness and now a half-
animal participant in it, who stands with one foot on either side of the boundary and
swears no perpetual allegiance to either side.
2
Within an art historical context, the
hunter myth was re-imagined in Roeland Savery"s The Bohemian Husbandman from
1616.

In the rst decade of the seventeenth century he painted the denitive image of
2
Kalof, Linda and Amy Fitzgerald, Ed. The Animals Reader. Oxford International Publishers Ltd, 2007. p.
239.
the Bohemian forester, clad, shod, and hatted in fustian and hides, the ancient, hirsute
wild man evolved into a wholly sympathetic Waldmann - the man of the woods.
3
The
hunters duality between wild and domestic helped form the symbolic relations between
humans and animals as they appear in myth and the collective imagination. The human
characteristics that both hunter and animal possess in mythology form parallel
connections between the natural world and ourselves, and as these animals are born
from the landscape, their characteristics further inform our ideas of the wilderness.

Polar Passion:
Animal as Artifact


Bearskin
The anthropological and scientic study of animals classies their characteristics and
our own relationship to them.

The dualisms of the hunter residing on the border between
animal and human allow for a wider understanding of the role of animals in the
imagination and mythological landscape. Society and the state need animal
characteristics to use for classifying people; natural history and science need
characteristics in order to classify the animals themselves. Serialism and structuralism
either graduate characteristics according to their resemblances, or order them
according to their differences. Animal characteristics can be mythic or scientic. But we
are not interested in characteristics; what interests us are modes of expansion,
propagation, occupation, contagion, peopling. I am legion. The Wolf-Man fascinated by
3
Schama, Simon. Landscape and Memory. 1st ed. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1995. p.100.
several wolves watching him.
4
The traits shared between animal and hunter, and the
concept of an idealized wilderness propagated by myth, creates a fascination of the
animal as artifact and brings the animal into the territory of the home.
On the oor of my Grandmother"s home is a bearskin rug that I used to sit on as
a child at the foot of my grandparents bed. Now it is in the basement, surrounded by
mounted antlers hanging on the walls. These animals within the home reference hunting
as a cultural activity and become icons for the natural national landscape. Animals as
artifacts signify my identity within the history of the hunter-gatherer and the idealized
Canadian landscape. The animals become symbols of my Grandfather, traces of his
movements as a hunter. Their transformation from living to artifact reinforces the myth of
my Grandfather, as outdoorsman, hunter, explorer, as well as the myth of the Canadian
wilderness (etymologically wild-deer-ness
5
).

The cave bear skulls found in early Neanderthal caves in St. Gallen, Switzerland,
were placed in specic positions associated with ritual.
6
The ways in which they were
placed signied which form of ritual they had been involved in - some were found with
leg bones placed beneath the skull, some with a ring of stones around them, and others
were placed in reference to a human burial - as a symbol for a god. Just as in our early
relationship with animals, especially as seen in bear cults, contemporary society still
makes use of animals as symbols in myth, ritual, and shamanism. They stand in for
cultural references, geographic spaces, symbols of nationalism, and our connection to
the natural world.
Tundra:
Imaginary Landscapes
The parallels between my Grandfathers and my own experiences are bridged by the
myth, memory and identity constructs that are shaped by the land we inhabit. The
mythological landscape of Canada that informed his decision to immigrate still informs
my own concepts and experiences of the Canadian wild. A myth always refers to
events alleged to have taken place long ago. But what gives the myth an operational
value is that the specic pattern described is timeless; it explains the present and the
past as well as the future
7
A line of blood in the snow from a hunted deer dragged
4
Deleuze, Gilles, and Flix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia. 11th ed.
University of Minnesota Pr, 1987. p. 239.
5
From the eleventh to the fourteenth century, words that had meant animal or wild beast in several
European languages narrowed semantically to mean deer or doe in particular - English deer, French
biche, German Wild, and so on - and words for deer and hunting became conated, so that deer
became both ideal animals and the ideal objects of the hunt. Kalof, Linda and Amy Fitzgerald, Ed. The
Animals Reader. Oxford International Publishers Ltd, 2007. p. 240.
6
Campbell, Joseph. Renewal Myths and Rites of the Primitive Hunters and Planters. Spring Publications
Inc., 1989.
7
Levi-Strauss, Claude. Structural Anthropology. trans. by Claire Jacobson and Brooke Schoepf. Anchor
Books, 1967. p. 205.
through the woods begins from mythological origins, was repeated by my Grandfather,
and is shown, once again, as tracings of the re-imagining of my Grandfather"s memory.
This bloodline is symbolic of both my familial history with my Grandfather, as well as the
history of myth within the landscape.
Bloodline
It is vain to dream of a wildness distant from ourselves. There is none such. It is the
bog in our brain and bowels, the primitive vigor of Nature in us, that inspires that
dream.
8

8
Schama, Simon. Landscape and Memory. 1st ed. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1995. p.578.