Lorna Boschman, Victoria Moulder, and T’Uy’Tanat-Cease Wyss worked collaboratively to develop this public artwork. They also worked with:
translator and artist TJ Grewal,community members who provided audio recordings, Kwantlen Polytechnic University Fine Art instructor Sibeal Foyle and her second-year students, Bobbi Kozinuk who assembled the electronics, Mike Vandermeer and Cheryl Hamilton from i.e. creative who fabricated the poles, and Akash Murgai who created the vinyl design and opening invitation.
Public artwork commissioned by the City of Surrey as part of Cultural Capital of Canada designation
Talking Poles, located on both sides of 68th Avenue at the Serpentine Greenway in Surrey, commemorates a community dialogue project that transpired over the spring of 2009. The two steel poles stand 4.2 metres tall and are emblazoned with symbolic imagery and words, denoting “peace” and “love” respectively, in languages used throughout the Newton community: Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, Hindi, Korean, Punjabi, French, and English. Also included are iconic First Nations symbols representing these terms, and their translations into binary code, in order to represent the role digital technology plays in contemporary human life.
The artist team conceived of the Talking Poles project as a means to galvanize a sense of community in the particular area of West Newton in which it is situated, by inviting local residents to express themselves via storytelling. This ethos lends itself to the name of the project, which refers to the talking stick, an item used in Indigenous speaking traditions in order to impart importance and respect upon whoever holds it.
By working with people from the area, two themes were chosen – Love and Peace – these words are displayed in ten languages on the Poles. Pedestrians approaching the Pole trigger a sensor, activating prerecorded audio clips by local residents sending messages to future generations.
To involve participants, we contacted a number of local community groups, schools and spiritual leaders; developed iconography with a university visual art class; worked with high school design students; and organized a World Drumming Day event at a First Nations housing co-op. To engage residents who walked along the Greenway, we designed a Talking Pole prototype and placed it on location. With printed brochures in hand, we stood in front of the prototype inviting people to sit at a table and to talk with us.