Unmapping the Last Best West


  • Exhibition July 12 - September 17 2016
  • Artist Talk, Reception + Welcoming Event July 20 2016 / 6:00pm
  • Creative Residency July 1 - 30 2016
  • Where is Here? symposium July 20 - 22 2016
  • Artist Talk at NIC Shadbolt Studios July 14 2016

These pieces make up a body of experimental cartographic and video performance work that restories colonial imaginaries. Maps taken from archival sources are abstracted, recomposed, and erased to re-imagine, redefine, and restory colonial cartographic representations of land. The performance video shows the arduous labour of digging into colonial legacies in contemporary sites. Unmapping the Last Best West inhabits the gap between the beautiful fictions of colonial imaginaries and historical and contemporary reality to offer alternate fictions of land.

As a professional intermedia artist, my current projects focus on cartographic representation and embodied relationships to land. Typically seen as scientific, objective, and absolute, in reality cartographic representation is anything but. A cartographer is tasked with communicating visual information, synthesizing a variety of source material to visually support the communication of a specific idea. Someone decides how some place should be represented and the cartographer makes it so. I know something about this – cartography was my profession for twenty years, and every map I drew was fiction.

A central fiction to every map is that the truth of a place—the undulating terrain, dust caught in a twist of wind, the growth of a tree, or the sound of an animal—all embodied experience, must necessarily be translated to static and two dimensional representation. My current projects investigate the tensions in conventional cartographic representation and explore the potential for wider expression in representing place.

As an exhibiting artist July 15 to August 27 2016 at Comox Valley Art Gallery, my show Unmapping the Last Best West shapes a series of experimental embodied cartographies: two dimensional works on canvas, performance video, and video animation. As an artist in residence with Comox Valley Art Gallery, North Island College Fine Arts Department and the McLoughlin Gardens AIR residence for the month of July 2016, I propose to extend my engagements with cartographic representation and embodied relationships to land. My plans involve developing a series of works including but not limited to, sketch, video, and projected works, as well as temporary site responsive installations. As presenter on the panel Mapping/Unmapping and Creative Practice at the Where is Here? symposium July 20-22 2016, I will discuss some of my recent projects and involve symposium participants in a short cartographic collaboration. As a Make Art Project workshop facilitator with North Island College and Comox Valley Art Gallery, I propose to collaborate with other artist facilitators and workshop participants to explore and express the potential for expanded and embodied cartographic representation.

Barbara Meneley

Barbara Meneley is a prairie-based Canadian visual artist whose interdisciplinary site responsive work engages with the landscapes and foundations of contemporary society and culture. Her work evolves through theoretical inquiry and contemporary intermedia art installation, media, performance and engaged practice.



The artist extends sincere thanks to Joanne Bristol and Angela Somerset, the wonderful staff and volunteers at the Comox Valley Art Gallery, and to the K’ómoks First Nation. Thanks as well to the McLoughlin family, Sara Vipond and the faculty at North Island College, and the organizers, participants, and volunteers of the Where is Here symposium. Finally, deepest gratitude to the Saskatchewan Arts Board, whose generous funding has made this work possible.
sask arts board