Queering the Dams

January 29 - April 23, 2022
Central Gallery

Queering the Dams

prOphecy sun



Projected across the wall in the Central Gallery, Queering the Dams is a collection of experimental video arrangements featuring prOphecy sun moving through and interacting with the dams of the Kootenay River. At first sight, one cannot help but be struck by the alignment of the dams and transmission lines – stranding in rows, hugging tree lines, rocks, and the river with massive concrete arms spread open. They appear to be holding up the world and vast amounts of moving energy. We understand dams as protectors and symbols of progress: continually in flux, bursting, storing, blocking, channeling, creating, powering, and preserving our existing realities against flooding and drought. At times, the dams feel like kin, family, old lovers; we take their water, wash, drink, mix, and make our lives with parts of them. We overuse their gifts, forget their presence, and ignore their majestic countenance and steady departures.

Dams and their associated hydroelectric power generators provide immense amounts of electricity and royalties which support surrounding communities. The dams of the Columbia Basin have transformed the economies and ecologies of the area over the past 70 years, enabling economic growth and stability. Of course, the reality proves to be more complicated. Developed by private, state, and corporate parties to control water and generate hydropower, the ecological and cultural cost of large-scale industrial infrastructure is high. Their creation irreparably impacted local ecosystems and destroyed rich habitats, displacing Indigenous and local communities. They stand, atemporal, as relics of engineering hubris and environmental disregard.

Throughout the work, we see prOphecy inserting herself into the landscape, manipulating a large, fluid plastic shape as she navigates the shoreline and causeway of the dams. Reminiscent of the water alternately captured and flowing nearby, the movements change from a struggle to a flow and back again; revealing the inherent tension in the idea of dams. The sense of scale shifts with changing viewpoints of the massive infrastructure. These are fundamentally enormous structures, yet the simple act of intentionally being there performing an artistic intervention challenges the conceptual framework that underpins industrial development.

While the dams are historically well documented, there remains an absence of creative and speculative works that account for ecofeminist perspectives about these projects. Queering the Dams builds on intersectional and queer theory to examine and question commonly accepted ideas about the Kootenay River dams. The resulting work is asking the questions: How is energy translated or gendered in the Columbia Basin? What does a queer, ecofeminist perspective look like? And, importantly, what does care look like through an artistic research lens? Video installation asks the viewer for a different kind of attention; it requires you to spend some time immersed in the work, outside of regular reality. Each video arrangement in Queering the Dams highlights ecological acts of care, moving imagery, performance, sonic compositions, and a textual manifesto; melding landscape, body, and technology in new speculative and hybrid ways.