The Military Museums

Stephen Nunoda: Ghostown

The Military Museums :: Founders Gallery

Feb 7, 2020 - Apr 13, 2020 

Opening Reception: Thurs, Feb 6, 2020
Time: 5:00 - 9:00 pm with remarks at 6:30 pm


This solo exhibition is based on Nunoda’s research into Japanese-Canadian internment during World War II, addressing social, familial and personal fallout. Comprising a large-scale sculptural installation, Nunoda explores questions of culture, memory and community, supported by an adjunct interpretive exhibit organized by Founders’ Curatorial Coordinator Dick Averns. Recently exhibited at the Royal Ontario Museum, Ghostown is the first of three 2020 exhibitions at Founders’ marking the 75th anniversary of the end of WW II.

The Ghostown shacks are scale models based on the cramped housing built by Japanese-Canadian work crews for the internment camps. The act of erecting the installation’s 230 tarpaper models following the arrangement used in camps recalls and memorializes the displacement of some 23,000 persons of Japanese descent during the Second World War.

The term “Ghost-town” was used by many people of the artist’s grandparentsʼ generation to refer not only to the camps (many of which were established in abandoned mining settlements in the interior of British Columbia) but also to their internment experience. The work is intended to provide a focus for community remembrance: a crucial undertaking as the internment itself passes out of living recollection. In presenting these stories it is Nunoda’s intent to comment on wider issues of immigration, displacement, cultural survival and racism.

Looming over the camp is a video projection of the phases of the moon compressed at a rate of one minute per day on a thirty-minute loop, making the moon’s changes barely perceptible. The video is an excerpt from another work entitled Ladder to the Moon which deals with the aspirations of Nunoda’s family after the internment. In the context of this installation, the moon acts as a timepiece and a watchful presence over the sleeping camp.

Steven Nunoda is a Calgary-based multidisciplinary artist whose practice takes the form of long-term thematically interrelated research projects. Although oriented towards sculpture and installation, his work is physically and aesthetically diverse, acquiring form to suit the subject. Employing a variety of media including miniatures, woodcarving, found-objects, photography, digital imaging, text and time-based strategies, Nunoda’s art explores questions of family life, culture and place, memory and identity. The work in this exhibition from Nunoda’s ongoing Ghostown project was exhibited most recently at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto as part of Being Japanese Canadian: Reflections on a Broken World.

Photographs by David Brown, UofC

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