Moving

Moving

Margot Leigh Butler, Moving, 1993
Location:
Various, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Artwork creator(s): 
Leigh Butler, Margot
Text author(s): 
Leigh Butler, Margot
Installation year: 
1992
Remarks on location: 

Installed in brochure racks on the British Columbia Ferries, at the Vancouver Tourist Information Centre and at various other locations (post offices, community and daycare centres).

Description: 

Flyers placed in various displays

Text of the artwork: 

Eliza approached the gangplank,
the last in the queue of women, some with child
some without. Parcels and bundles were carried
from a blue ship by new immigrants from England
to Canada just after World War I. Right from the
beginning Eliza sent parcels back home. But as the
Depression reduced her prairie town, the large
parcels became smaller. She developed the skill of
concise packaging: Compressing volume, increasing the
‘necessities’, and fabricating space by innovative,
even artful doublings-up. Only after sending dozens
of these small parcels did she make the connexion:
While cinching the string, tying the same handles
that circle their shoulders, she realized that the
cardboard box was the same size and shape as the
boxes which held gas masks carried daily by her
mother, her sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends,
the same folks who were receiving her parcels.

She sent clothing and
linens and saucepans to
replace Saucepans for Victory
and she sent food to offset the
ration which lasted from 1940
to 1953. Some of these items were
easy, such as nuts and candied fruit
for Christmas cake. Others, the more
fragile, the more volatile, required some
tricky packing. She filled empty baking
powder tins with melted lard. Holding
fresh eggs gently between thumb and
fingertips, she released them into the
warm fat where they nestled against
the side of the tin, making a single
point of contact with the lonesome
shells of their neighbours. Later,
the congealed fat would conceal
and protect the passengers.
Only the most discerning
eye could detect the
slightest bulge
in the sides
of the card-
board tin.

She knew the sequence.
How long it took to prepare
and wrap. To write the linen
address label India ink and sew on
the burlap with the long and crooked
needle given her by her mother. The after-
noon journey to the post office, winding the
ring which circles her finger with rosy gold.
She wonders – will the parcel ever arrive?
The question hung inside her. The men
behind the wickets, anticipating her
monthly visits, didn’t seem to care
what was in the parcel. Instead,
they looked to see what she
had painted onto
the burlap.

Eliza’s trunk
had been wrapped in
loose sackcloth during her
long sea voyage. For the first
years she had wrapped the parcels
home with pieces of this coarse sacking
which had little blue Liner insignia stamped
across the surface. Forced to acknowledge the
inevitable end of her resources, she imagined
painting little blue ships onto the burlap
parcels, then painted bigger blue ships,
then turbulent imaginary coastlines.
She painted after the final wrapping,
using the crossing string as lines of
latitude and longitude, so that
readers turned the parcel
round several times
in order to try
and situate
themselves.

Text theme: 
Caring for relatives
Artwork theme: 

Realities and stereotypes of domestic and maternal labour; trivialized women’s labour; emotional realities of child rearing; questionning myths on motherhood

History: 
Exhibition Out of Place, organized by the Association for Noncommercial Culture

July 1, 1992-June 30, 1993
Event date(s): 
1993

Dimensions:

Height: 
0.21m
Width: 
0.27m
Document(s): 

Out of Place

Larson, Jacqueline, Monika Kin Gagnon, Sandra Edmunds (1993).  Out of Place. Vancouver : Association for Noncommercial Culture