Arrogation (The Full Weight of Reason)
This is the third body of work in a continuing series titled “A Pale Caress (Deconstructing the Landscape)”. The series documents and considers, via image and text, the implications of changes to the natural (and coincidentally, cultural) environment of this land. The different bodies consider a variety of issues revolving around ideas of “The Land”.
What began (in the two earlier bodies) as an investigation into more universal issues of colonization, land use and ownership etc. became (in this new work “Arrogation …”) a more
specific consideration of issues of transition, sense of place, my own personal relationships to the land and the role of narrative in my understanding of these relationships. The crux of this investigation though, is the exploration of these ideas vis-à-vis the construction of our history and the role that various narratives play in this process.
Ken Jeannotte 2002
Arrogation Gallery 44:Toronto Contact festival, 2002 - Michael Maranda: Editor, Fuse Magazine
Arrogation Gallery 44:Toronto Contact festival, 2002
Contact Festival 2002
“(Arrogation) The Full Weight of Reason”
Michael Maranda: Editor, Fuse Magazine
(Arrogate): ”to adopt as a child” 
I may not be the right person to be writing about this particular work. For one thing, I recognize too much of the imagery - the ad
hoc monuments of rusted vehicles, the cairns found at ironically named ”points of interest,” which, in their sameness, erase more
history than they recall. For another, I know that ambiguous feeling which permeates the Prairie landscape. You see, like Jeannotte’s
family, mine immigrated to Saskatchewan near the turn of the last century, lured by the slick advertising of the Canadian government
and the promise of land free for the taking unencumbered by historical entitlement (the flip side of those other promises made to be
broken by the same). Even the route taken, stopping in the Red River Valley along the way, was the same. Jeannotte’s family settled
around Cutknife, mine, in Fishcreek (a stone’s throw from Gabriel’s Landing). Unlike Jeannotte (who photographed these sites, in
part, as either a reclamation or re-enactment of his familial memories) and his kin, my family remained in the lands covered by
Treaty 6 - (see www.kstrom.net/isk/map/cantreat.html). Thus my sense of identification upon reading Jeannotte’s artist statement:
“[I] feel most profoundly my own sense of place when I am out there under that great big sky.” My memory of these places,
however, is in the first person.
Given this recognition, I perhaps lose some of the uncanny-ness that this imagery holds for the less
complicit viewer. These images, befitting their source, are large-to be measured in feet, not inches. Starting with ’traditional’ Prairie
landscapes, the artist disrupts the transparency of these scenes through various techniques. Misaligned frames surround seamless
images. Seamless frames encase misaligned horizons. Allegorical silhouettes float in skies. Motifs of rusting cars, tractors, and
combines (all now impotent as vehicles) repeat. These are not the images of the untrammelled Prairie, empty of the effects of
occupation. Although it is apparent that Photoshop was used extensively, all the images are returned to the heavier photographic
medium-enacting the truth-value of the silver print (see my ”As if through a Glass,” BlackFlash 16:1 ). Each image includes a
black band along the bottom in which disjointed handwritten texts appear. The texts themselves, fragments really, suggest both first
person accounts of the homesteading experience and a second generation re-thinking of that history. The most successful
integrations of text consist of a short phrase or single word. One image in particular - The Full Weight of Reason - stays with me (for
more than the brilliant title, although that too seduces). Measuring 81 x 210 cm, the left side of the image consists of a standard
Prairie scene, the horizon pushed up against the top edge. The right side consists of similar scenery, shifted downward so that the
horizon marks the bottom third of the space.
Slightly above this horizon hovers an early twentieth-century tractor. The text repeats the title. It took me several viewings of this
image to notice the lack of support under the tractor, a rather precarious balancing act. There was, for as long as I can remember, a
similar tractor propped up by the highway that passed near Batoche, a relic some farmer erected for unknowable reasons. In
memory, I can’t recall what supported this particular signpost … thus explaining the utter naturalness of Jeannotte’s version for me,
where rusted steel floats just above the Prairie.
Jeannotte’s earlier series, A Pale Caress (Deconstructing the Landscape), 1995, explored, in his own words, ”universal issues of
colonization, displacement, and transition.” With (Arrogation) The Full Weight of Reason, he literally writes into the record (for it is
his texts that ground this work) a personal engagement with the history of this space, a history woven from distantly remembered
These images have the unsettling quality of Atget’s Paris-less landscape, more crime scene. What happened? What civilization moved
through this place, marking the space, leaving monuments to ….. to what? An easy reading would take the adoptive definition of
arrogate and turn this work into a reverie of childhood memories, a nostalgic attempt at forging a link between history and self.
Indeed, the poetic phrasing of the texts would suggest such a project. And yet at the same time, the disjointed narrative distances us
from an easy assimilation of the story being told. I would suggest that this is because the story, despite referencing a specific period
of colonization, is more of the present. It deals not with nostalgia, not arrogate, but rather arrogation: ”The action of claiming and
assuming without just reason. Unwarrantable assumption.” 
And here, the work demands that the ’viewer’s share’ come into play. The bare clues offered in place-names and images (although,
perhaps, I am being ambitious in thinking that the wider public knows the significance of the names already mentioned in this text -
Fishcreek, Cutknife, Gabriel’s Crossing) begin to participate in a deeply conflicted relationship to a land, a land scarred by promises
made and rarely kept-the obvious promises, the Treaties, but the less obvious ones as well, namely, the offer of free land without
clarifying that the land thus obtained was not free of liens. (This is not to excuse the homesteaders and their descendants of their
obligations-caveat emptor. It is to reaffirm that these obligations are more extensive, an issue for more than just Westerners.) This
work acknowledges the coexistence of multiple histories within the same space as well as multiple significations within the same
Reaffirming that I, like Jeannotte, feel most at home on the Prairie, I feel compelled to add that that doesn’t mean that when I am
there I necessarily feel at-home. Rather, I guess I feel most at home when I feel not-at-home. Perhaps this explains why, despite
seeing the disjunctures within these images, I don’t quite recognize their strangeness as strange.
Michael Maranda 2002
Michael Maranda is an artist and editor currently residing in Toronto. Born on the Prairies, he studied political science at the
University of Ottawa, photography at Concordia University, and Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester (NY) and
ASCA (Amsterdam). After prematurely finishing his studies at Rochester, he worked as managing editor for BlackFlash magazine
(Saskatoon) for three years and is currently managing editor at Fuse magazine (Toronto). Most recently, his studio work was on
display at the Mendel Art Gallery (Saskatoon) in a solo exhibition titled Decoy.
Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography is a non-profit artist-run centre committed to the advancement of photographic
art. This exhibition, “(Arrogation) the full weight of reason” was exhibited as part of the city wide Contact Festival an annual
photography symposium. The centre is supported by its members and patrons, and by The Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario
Arts Council, and the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council.
 Oxford Dictionary, 2nd Edition
"FIELD WORKS": Kelowna Art Gallery, Kelowna B.C., 2003
“FIELD WORKS”: Kelowna Art Gallery, Kelowna B.C., 2003
Linda Sawchyn: Curator, Kelowna Art Gallery
The exhibition “Field Works” brings together the work of two artists –
Vancouver photo-based artist Ken Jeannotte and Saskatoon painter Grant McConnell. While the works of these two artists have never been brought together before, there is a common interest shared between them regarding issues involving land use and ownership and, in particular, the Canadian landscape, its settlement and its history. Both artists are interested in the impact on the land made by colonization and human settlement, the exploitation of natural resources, the development of agriculture and the increasing use of technology in the name of progress. While they choose to work in different media (photography and painting) and reside in different provinces (British Columbia and Saskatchewan) the works of Ken Jeannotte and Grant McConnell are connected by an awareness and regard for the significant personal, social, political and economic relationship we all share with the land.
“(Arrogation) The Full Weight of Reason”
Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all shaped by the landscape and are influenced particularly, I think, by the real or imagined landscape of our childhood. Growing up on the prairies I remember the long hot road trips from Saskatoon to the southeastern Saskatchewan landscape of my parents’ youth. Gazing out the car window, I recall driving past the crumbling frames of abandoned houses and barns. I thought about what these places might have been like once, when parents, children and extended families filled their rooms with talking, laughter, cooking, music, dancing and tears, and when the sounds and smells of animals lingered close by. These thoughts continue to surface in my mind when I now make this same journey for my mother’s biannual family reunions held at the original early 20th century homestead under the watchful, but now empty, weathered and lonely house that once was home to 17 children. Not surprisingly, similar thoughts spring to mind when I look at a series of photographs by Ken Jeannotte entitled (Arrogation) The Full Weight of Reason. Produced in 2000, the series is comprised of 10 black and white landscape-based photographs with text. The panoramic format of this series references the sort of historical photographs one expects to see in the local museum. They emit similar timeless and quiet qualities that automatically entice the viewer to contemplate what we commonly perceive of (often in error) as simpler and better times. After all, I suspect it is easier to think fondly of the land and the life depicted in such photographs of the early settlement of this country if one did not actually live the experience of it. It is easy to forget how physically and emotionally hard life really was back then and how the experience of colonization and settlement impacted both people and the landscape. But unlike the tranquil images we encounter in the history museum, Jeannotte’s photographs portray a more complicated and compromised landscape.
The landscape depicted in “(Arrogation) The Full Weight of Reason” is of the area around the Cutknife-Poundmaker Reserve and the farming community of Cutknife, Saskatchewan, where the artist’s father grew up in the first half of the 20th century. Jeannotte made a pilgrimage to this familial place in the late 1990s to locate the house his father grew up in and his experience and memory of this journey inspired this series. In the first photograph, entitled Searching for the Source, we are presented with a sweeping panorama of an overgrown field surrounding an old house with “hollow windows gazing out over the land.” It was in here that Jeannotte’s father was born and it was this house that was filled with the sounds, stories and myths of his father’s youth told to Jeannotte when he was growing up and which continue to live on with the artist today. The text scripted along the bottom of the photographs is derived, in part, from the memories of these stories as well as the artist’s own experiences of this landscape. The words prompt the viewer to see beyond an abandoned homestead and an uninhabited prairie landscape. While many of the photographs of (Arrogation), such as Rise and Wind and the Wheel imply human presence by the inclusion of the remains of early 20th century buildings or farm machinery, Searching for the Source is the only photograph in the series that actually includes the human figure. About a dozen or so adults and children stand in the overgrown grass. They have, in fact, just located the opening of an old well – a source of water and of life (A la Recherché La Source). Located at varying distances on either side of the house featured in this photograph stand two smaller structures. On closer inspection one realizes that these buildings and the bushes that surround them are actually one and the same. Employing Photoshop technology, Ken Jeannotte has created a landscape that does not exist. It is a fabricated landscape that has come out of the artist’s imagination to serve a purpose other than the documenting of a place. Unlike the historical panoramas that influenced this series of work, the objective here is not to record who, where and when but to probe why and at what cost.
According to Jeannotte, the “spirit” of Arrogation (The Full Weight of Reason) “inhabits a time when the landscape was in transition; from the hunter/gatherer culture of the indigenous people, through the commercial hunter/agriculture of the Métis, to the influx of the European settlers who brought industrialization to the land.” In his own way, Jeannotte is attempting to visualize this transition and the impact it has had on the land and the memory of the people who have chosen to live on it and who have chosen, or have been forced – by man or by nature – to abandon it. Jeannotte’s text, along with the sometimes odd juxtaposition of machines and tools across the prairie landscape and sky, as in Burnt Wood and The Full Weight of Reason, functions much like our selective memories often do – a fragment of a story we heard, or of a house we visited once when we were young or were told about by our fathers, are brought together where they were not before. The photographs that comprise Jeannotte’s Arrogation (The Full Weight of Reason), like our memories, construct a narrative that is based, in part, on fact, in part, on desire and in part, on a need for understanding our own place in the landscape. Linda Sawchin, 2003
Ken Jeannotte gratefully acknowledges the support of Eveline Wolterson. Grant McConnell gratefully acknowledges the support of the Saskatchewan Arts Board. National Library of Canada Cataloguing in Publication Jeannotte, Ken, 1948-Field works: Ken Jeannotte & Grant McConnell.
Includes curatorial essay by Linda Sawchyn.
Catalogue of an exhibition held at the Kelowna Art Gallery, Jul. 26-Sept. 21, 2003.
- Jeannotte, Ken,1948- -Exhibitions. 2. McConnell, Grant, 1958- –
Exhibitions. I. McConnell, Grant, 1958- ft. Sawchyn, Linda m. Kelowna Art Gallery
- Title. N6545.6. J42 2003 759.11 C2003-905342-3
The Kelowna Art Gallery gratefully acknowledges the support of the following towards its on-going operations, exhibitions and programming: The City of Kelowna, The Canada Council for the Arts, The British Columbia Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, The Government of British Columbia through the British Columbia Arts Council, Human Resources Development Canada, Cultural Human Resources Council, The Canadian Museums Association, Department of Canadian Heritage, School District #23, The Central Okanagan Foundation and our individual and corporate sponsors.
"(Arrogation) The Full Weight of Reason". long statement
“(Arrogation) The Full Weight of Reason”
Ken Jeannotte 2002
This is the third body of work in a continuing series titled “A Pale Caress (Deconstructing the Landscape)”. The series documents and considers, via image and text, the implications of changes to the natural (and coincidentally, cultural) environment of this land. The different bodies consider a variety of issues revolving around ideas of “The Land”. What began (in the two earlier bodies) as an investigation into more universal issues of colonization, land use and ownership etc. became (in this new work “Arrogation …”) a more specific consideration of issues of transition, sense of place, my own/my family’s personal relationships to the land and the role of narrative in my understanding of these relationships. The crux of this investigation though, is the exploration of these ideas vis-a-vis the construction of our history and the role that various narratives play in this process.
My father was born on the land, on the prairie, as was his father before him. My mother’s family immigrated to a farm out there too. I was also raised on the land, on the northern prairie, and feel most profoundly, my own sense of place when I am out there, under that great big sky.
In 1996, on the occasion of an exhibition of my work at the Photographers Gallery in Saskatoon, I took the opportunity to explore Saskatchewan, the land of my father’s birth. I traveled northeast from Saskatoon, as far as La Ronge and then turned southwest to the Battlefords and then west to Cutknife. I photographed the land, visited museums and historical sites both “official” and “vernacular”, as well as sites that hold a rich personal historical significance. The core images (and impetus) for this work grew out of that trip to Saskatchewan and a return to the same area in 1997, and originate from three key locations: Waneskewin (a first nations historical site north of Saskatoon); Batoche (a historical centre of the Metis culture in the old North West Territories); and the area around Cutknife Creek, Poundmaker Reserve, and the farming community of Cutknife – where my great-grandparents, grandparents, great uncles and aunts settled, and my father, his siblings and cousins grew up; an area and time brought to life in my childhood through their many stories.
The spirit of the work inhabits a time when the landscape was in transition; from the hunter/gatherer culture of the indigenous people, through the commercial hunter/agri-culture of the Metis, to the influx of the European settlers who brought industrialization to the land. In this work I explore the physical changes visited on this land as well as the political, cultural and economic forces that shape these changes.
Inextricably linked to these changes are the narratives of the transitory nature of human relationships to these particular landscapes (from appropriation and forced removal, to voluntary abandonment and economic displacement).
My underlying interest though is in the resulting myths and histories of these relationships; of loss and gain, of success and failure – the narrative construct of our history, really. And the more I delve into these issues – through photographic investigation, historical research and experientially (in situ) – the more evident the importance of these narratives become in the formation of our cultural myths. Myths that define our society and in many cases distort history, deny injustices and disregard consequences; myths that also keep many truths lurking in the shadowy recesses of our history.
The work is presented in the form of simulated or putative museum pieces, employing the perceived veracity of the photograph supported by the authority of text. Ultimately this work questions official historical myths through the exploration of these significant sites, playing on the ideas of “Museum as language” as a tool in the framing of our image of ourselves as a society. With the development of a personal narrative of these sites, the work explores the use of this language. A language complicit in the construction of not only our cultural myths but also our “History”
As with the earlier bodies of work of “A Pale Caress…” the foundation of “(Arrogation)…” is a series of landscape-based, photographic, constructed panoramas and text. In this case the images were gathered on film and have been scanned and assembled digitally. The hand written text is also scanned and added in the digital stage. The images are then output via laser light-jet, direct to black and white photographic prints from the digital files