‘Tributaries’ video installation features New West waterfront
By Jillian McMullen, Staff Writer
Emilie Crewe, a Vancouver-based artist, may not have grown up in the Lower Mainland, but it has become her home since moving here after grad school. When the City of New Westminster put out a call to artists looking for works that would convey their own feelings of what home meant, she jumped at the chance to add her voice. Her experimental video collage Tributaries, which was first screened late last year, is now part of Be/Longing, a new exhibition at the Anvil Centre’s New Westminster Museum.
The title references a river, but Crewe describes it as “more of a nod to the concept of paying tribute to a larger entity.” The video documents New West residents, narrating the memories and the cultural histories of the people who have chosen the Fraser River area as their home.
In an interview with the Other Press, Crewe remembers becoming obsessed with archival material while gathering content for her video.
“When it was commissioned, I started doing a lot of research in New West, starting with the New West Museum and Archives,” said Crewe. “I was pulling a lot of files that had to do with industry and the Indigenous band that is in the area, which is the Qayqayt band. I tried to gather as many stories I could that had to do with the past and present of the Fraser River.
“I wanted it to feel like a contemporary version of a scrapbook where you might see different pictures and stories throughout,” she said. “That’s why the video is collaged into nine windows.”
Crewe spoke with a variety of different New West residents, including Chief Rhonda Larrabee of the Qayqayt First Nation, and politician Fin Donnelley, who swam the 1,325 km length of the Fraser River in 1995 and 2000.
“I collected tons of different stories from different people. I would find people by word of mouth. People I contacted would suggest, ‘Oh, you should talk to this person,’ or, ‘Go check out this thing, go to this place.’ It turned into a summer of collecting over 40 hours of footage.”
She narrowed her footage down to a 12-minute video, but the full 40 hours of content she collected was added to the archives Crewe consulted at the onset of her project.
The Be/Longing exhibition is the culmination of over a year’s worth of artist collaborations with the City of New Westminster, which commissioned the works that make up Be/Longing in celebration of Canada’s sesquicentennial. It opened on February 18 and will run in the museum until October 8. Considering its proximity to the Douglas College campus (and free admission), there’s no need for residents to travel all the way to downtown to appreciate art—it’s alive and thriving in the City of New Westminster.