Going Live July 13 2020, visit Artspace July 13-19 2020
In conjunction with Anne White’s 2019-2020 Artist in Residency at Public Energy Performing Arts.
Company Town is a live and online installation that maps the complex legacy of the General Electric factory in Peterborough/Nogojiwanong. We see mapping as a creative tool for addressing the factory site as a layered space:a 50-acre lot of buildings mostly sitting in a state of disuse in the south end of the city and a non-literal space imbued with memory, imagination and association. We undertake this project at a moment when the representation of this factory as a benevolent local force is being contested by horrific information brought forward by former workers.
How do these revelations unsettle our relationship to the mythic image of this factory? We are working across film, performance, visual art and the media artform of a website to provide our own locations of return, reentry, remembrance and grieving. We hope that our work can invite reflection and provide new space for conversation about a legacy that will continue to transform.
By building our work as a website, a form that can be accessed from within and beyond Peterborough/Nogojiwanong, we are trying to find a new way to make space that can be shared across political borders. We also see the website as a structure that is inherently open-ended. We hope that when our current work period comes to an end that we can invite other artists to continue working on this site and perhaps map out layers or reference points that we may touch upon in our work but cannot adequately address. As a local point of connection to the project, the installation at Artspace is a counterpoint to the website. There are multiple ways of engaging with our work within and between these two installations addressing the multifaceted ways that GE lives on in Peterborough and echoing the variety of experiences of countless individuals who have been a part of GE’s long history within and beyond this town.
Company Town has been developed in two parts: as a temporary installation at Artspace and as a digital installation in the form of a website. Both will go live July 13, 2020.
In the meantime, for updates follow Public Energy on social media.
A note on sources & process
In researching General Electric and its legacy, we have relied on a variety of local sources and evidence to inform our creative approach. Key sources that we have accessed to build an understanding of General Electric’s impacts on local residents and workers include:
- The Report of the Advisory Committee on Retrospective Exposure Profiling of the Production Processes at the GENERAL ELECTRIC PRODUCTION FACILITY in Peterborough, Ontario 1945-2000;
- The film Town of Widows by Natasha Luckhardt and Rob Viscardis;
- Conversations with the Chair of the Advisory Committee, Sue James;
- A decade of coverage in the Peterborough Examiner; and
- Documents retrieved by Jon Oldham, archivist at Peterborough Museum and Archives.
In our processes, we have engaged with these sources both directly and indirectly. Links and sources will be available at companytown.ca; we encourage you to view and read these sources to learn more.
The team of artists behind Company Town are:
Special thank-you to Sue James for her time and energy sharing her expertise with the artists.
Keep scrolling to learn more about each artist and their work on this project.
Our work has been generously supported by Public Energy Performing Arts and Artspace. Research for this work was supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.
Anne White (2019-2020 Artist in Residence)
In residency with Public Energy over the past 9 months, I have been researching the General Electric factory that occupies Nogojiwanong/Peterborough. My artistic research in this context has drawn on work already being done in local labour communities. I typically make site-specific live performance, but for this process I am creating a text and image-based work to explore the intimate relationship I have developed with documents in my process.
Today is Our Last Day Together: Memory Work After General Electric will survive as a printed booklet distributed throughout Nogojiwanong/Peterborough in summer 2020 and as an online text embedded in companytown.ca.
I have travelled repeatedly to the GE factory’s physical remnants, a polluted site built on and seeping into this land where I live. I have also returned to this factory again and again as it appears in a growing collection of texts, maps, images and the memories of people who worked there. My embodied relationship to representations of the site through cutting, pasting, note-making and digitizing have helped me engage with workers’ labour to reconstruct the GE narrative through their meticulous, collective memory-based research processes. – Anne White
Ann Jaeger is a writer and multidisciplinary artist. Since moving to the Peterborough area in 2001, she has written extensively about its cultural scene and has been a critic of regional gentrification. In addition to recent visual arts exhibitions at Artspace, the Arts and Heritage Centre of Warkworth, Coeur Nouveau and Evans Contemporary, she has created sets for the Theatre on King and has developed her own independent performance projects through Public Energy’s Alternating Currents. She is pleased to be collaborating with Anne White, Miranda Jones, Lily Ross-Millard and Eryn Lidster on this multi-faceted and locally relevant project.
How do you preserve the legacy of a vacant factory that signified the industry of Peterborough, known as the Electric City, for over a century? How do you map its fifty acres that occupy the heart of a city, empty of workers and too toxic to use? How do you give substance and voice to the ghosts? For now, paper, fabric, photographs, and text will have to do. – Ann Jaegar
Miranda Gee Jones works with devised theatre, contemporary dance and sound. Her practice is often collaborative, across disciplines. Her work on Company Town has been influenced by recent learning with Public Recordings and Sarah Albu. Miranda is committed to learning to live well in Tio’tia:ke/Montreal (and the many other places she is lucky to have ties to).
Moving and listening to a body (of research) is an exercise that encourages embodied thinking as a research practice for tackling a mountain of information. A way of sitting with, moving with our sources.
In archival practice, a ‘fonds’ is a group of documents sharing the same origin, that have occurred naturally as an outgrowth of an individual, or organization’s life. What if our time spent researching together as a group of artists is treated as a fonds? What questions will emerge by trying to hold as many pieces of our collaborative process together as I can, trying to move through space without dropping anything? – Miranda Gee Jones
Lillian Ross-Millard is a conceptual artist working mainly in video, and is based in both Canada and Scotland. Her innovative practice documents physical research methods borrowed from alternative theatre processes, bringing lyrical expression to her findings in the form of multi-channel video and audio installations. Ross-Millard is committed to confronting and challenging white supremacy and anti-black racism within herself and her community, and will strive to use her platform to amplify POC voices, promote racial equity and the abolition of police brutality.
Blue Smoke (working title) is a moving image work that weaves documentary with dream logic. By combining virtual space with video, an uncanny panorama unfolds. This hybrid space is both lyrical and horrific, and echoes the complex legacy of Peterborough’s General Electric Factory. – Lillian Ross-Millard
Eryn Lidster is a producer and technical designer and a proud member of Peterborough’s artistic community. Since first operating tech for a production in 2015, Lidster has been involved in the production of over 30 theatrical projects. Her work, Invisible and Rejoinder, premiered at Peterborough’s Precarious and Precarious2 ArtsWORK Festivals in 2016 and 2019 respectively; Lidster developed Rejoinder as a participant of Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program. Lidster’s work focuses on originating performance from a technical perspective within a collaborative process. She recently graduated from Trent University, receiving an Honors BA in Cultural Studies with a Specialization in Image, Sound and Performance. In pursuit of this degree Lidster has expanded her artistic practice to new media, including work in experimental film for which she was twice awarded Trent University’s Gregory R. Frith Memorial Prize and shortlisted for acceptance into the Toronto International Film Festival’s Wavelengths Program in 2018.
Thinking critically and creatively about the technical and logistic aspects of presenting artwork, for this project I am developing a website, formed alongside the research and process work undertaken by the group over the last few months. Playing with themes emerging from this collaboration, I’ve been particularly interested in investigating a relationship between maps and narratives as descriptions of space and time, respectively, and how they function as intelligible metaphors, symbols, representations, distillations… when we come up against the vast, complex and inhuman. – Eryn Lidster