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Sandee Moore
Jacqueline Hoang Nguyễn at the MacKenzie Art Gallery
June 28, 2017

For many who find themselves awash in this year’s Canada 150 promotions, Canada's 1967 Centennial looms large. This is no more evident than in Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn's Space Fiction & the Archive, which is currently on display at the MacKenzie Art Gallery. It is one of a number of current exhibitions that seek to connect the present moment to the giddy optimism of fifty years ago. In personal scrapbooks and the records of Library and Archives Canada, Hoàng Nguyễn discovered a perfect metaphor in the form of a small Northern Alberta town's award-winning Centennial project to build a UFO landing pad – “a symbolic gesture of welcoming whoever from wherever."

Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn, Greetings from St. Paul, 2012, diptych inkjet prints on archival paper

Literally dwarfed by the remnants of history installed in the gallery, one can examine each fibre in the newsprint in Hoàng Nguyễn's glossy photos of yellowed news clippings, collector coins, and other ephemera. A large aerial photograph of St. Paul, Alberta is laid out on the floor like a welcome mat. The UFO landing pad could be any carport in this tidy grid. An outsized photographic slide leans against a wall. A makeshift sign illuminates the passage leading to a looped projection. The artist has spliced together Technicolour propaganda films and dour news footage to chart a path that links the town's alien landing pad project with Canada's new immigration policy.

The wacky optimism and radical inclusivity that were the ensign of the age are tarnished when viewed at a distance of half a century. The video includes an interview with a woman who recounts her involvement in a play put on by students at the local residential school to celebrate the opening of the UFO landing pad. Many ethnicities were portrayed in the play, she notes, but depictions of Indigenous people were omitted, which is surprising as St. Paul was founded as a French/Métis farming community.

MacKenzie Art Gallery:
Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn: Space Fiction & the Archives continues until September 10.

Sandee Moore is a nationally exhibited artist, arts administrator, and occasional art writer. She can be followed on Twitter @SandeeMoore.



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