Winner of the 2019 Masterworks Arts Award
Creator: Ursula Johnson
Nominator: Sarah Fillmore, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
Moose Fence is a large-scale multi-media sculptural installation combining a large galvanized gate and cage with operatic lighting and additional visual elements to create an immersive experience that compels viewers to choose how they interact with the structure. Physically, the work asks observers to consider the tangible realities of manufactured interventions on nature. Mentally, the work confronts systemically imposed traumatic treatment of Indigenous peoples.
The power of the piece is commendable, as mere images of it created moving, emotionally overwhelming responses in jurors, truly speaking to its calibre. The claustrophobic metaphor of colonization and the layering of issues within the piece speaks so closely to experiences that while the jury felt it unanimously important for settlers to experience the work, they also felt need to caution it could be damaging to Indigenous peoples who experience it. The piece also brings to light the reality that Indigenous artists need to wear their wounds very openly, in order for settlers to understand them. This work has pronounced potential to do good, provided it catalyzes people to understand and change.
As the jury commented: “Moose Fence is astounding in its ability to distill every element of its conception into its realization.”