The Prince George Métis Elders’ Documentary Project.
Mike Evans and Stephen Foster
The project video includes a series of interviews and video journeys that depict and document the Métis community of Prince George and BC. There are various video elements from cultural workshops, historical documentation, Métis music, medicine walks, individual and group interviews of local Métis Elders on the Island Cache and the history of Métis in Prince George. These video and audio elements are interlinked with one another to form a non-linear multi-vocal narrative that allows for inclusivity and simultaneity to inform and educate audiences on local Métis history as well as generating compelling and emotive audio and visuals. The simultaneity also creates unique and intriguing juxtapositions and vignettes of content and image. This fragmentation while metaphorically represents the complexity of the contemporary Métis Diaspora it also works to create a deeper more intuitive understanding of the local community, its history and dynamics.
Fundamentally this project is an artistic exploration and experimentation with the form of documentary and its conceptualization of representation. Audience members can choose material by navigating the screens or by just watching as the video plays through the various sections of the DVD. The way in which different people will activate certain material at differing times will create intertextual inferences between the various screens.
The interactivity embedded in the video elements engages the viewer/audience in a dialogue with the video imagery and content that is beyond mere passive reaction. As the viewer/audience navigates through material, via mouse on screen, they build their own connections and construct their own narratives. Interviews can play off and inform one another or they could combine with imagery of surrounding locations and historical information giving a broader contextualization.
Mike Evans (PhD McMaster 1996) taught at the University of Northern BC, the University of Alberta, and then joined UBC Okanagan. His primary research relationships are with people in the Métis community in Northern BC, the Métis Nation of BC, the Urban Aboriginal Community of the Okanagan Valley, and Tonga (in the South Pacific). Evans has been involved in several community based research initiatives, and in particular has a long-term relationship with the Prince George Métis Elders Society. Together with Elders and community leaders in Prince George he put together a number of publications including What it is to be a Métis (Evans et al 1999), A Brief History, of the Short Life, of the Island Cache (Evans et al 2004). Working with Stephen Foster and these same Elders has resulted in new media presentation offered here. As Research Director for the Métis Nation of BC, he served on the Métis National Council National Research Initiative, helped form the Research Agenda for the Métis Nation of BC, and has worked extensively with colleagues at the MNBC on a number of research projects over the last few years, including a number of web-based tools for governance and a recently completed and collaboratively produced DVD set entitled The Métis of British Columbia: Culture, History, and the Contemporary Community. He supervises graduate students working on urban aboriginal issues, and Métis history and communities across Western Canada. He is also a Co-Director of the Center for Social, Spatial, and Economic Justice at UBC Okanagan.
Stephen Foster is a video and electronic media artist of mixed Haida and European background. His work deals with issues of indigenous representation in popular culture through personal narrative. He has exhibited in solo as well as group exhibitions both internationally and nationally as well as participating in various festivals with video installations and single channel works. Stephen has published and presented numerous scholarly works, and has participated on panels for new media, video art and contemporary indigenous art at national and international venues. In 2007, Stephen received his first opportunity to present a retrospective screening of his video work at the Dawson City International Short Film Festival. Stephen holds two college diplomas, as well as a BFA and a MFA. For his Masters of Fine Arts degree at York University he received the Master’s Thesis Prize, one of three given University wide, for his thesis exhibition and support paper entitled ‘Behind a Sheet of Glass’. More recently, Stephen was awarded a Research/Creation Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for exploring interactive and experimental approaches to documentary, through which the Prince George Métis Elders Documentary Project was resourced. Stephen is currently Associate Professor in the Creative Studies Dept. and is the Director of the Summer Institute for Interdisciplinary Indigenous Graduate Studies at the University of British Columbia – Okanagan. He is also the coordinator of the CanWest Global Centre for Artists’ Video and instructs courses dedicated to video production, digital media and visual and cultural theory.