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Not forgotten, or forgiven

Adam Johnson
Northern News Services
Friday, March 23, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - Everyone copes in a different way, and for Yellowknife artist Terry Pamplin, a new piece titled Fault Line is a way of exorcising old demons.

"It's how I've always expressed these ideas," he said of his work.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Terry Pamplin's latest project, Fault Line, is dedicated to the memory of the miners who died in the bombing at Giant Mine in 1992. - Adam Johnson/NNSL photo

Pamplin's latest project enshrines the memories and thoughts that have haunted him since Sept. 18, 1992, the day a bomb planted by Giant Mine worker Roger Warren killed nine workers during the ugliest labour dispute the city had ever seen.

He said the piece honours the dead, while protesting the events that led to the explosion. It takes aim at all the players in the labour dispute: the mine, the RCMP, the media, and regular citizens such as himself.

"The total responsibility for the whole thing rests with everybody in town," he said. "We all sort of let it happen.

"I didn't stand up and say, 'hey let's all sit down and resolve this,'" he added.

Fault Line is a work of ice, snow, buried lighting and symbolic artifacts, placed outside of the SnowKing's castle on Yellowknife Bay.

The piece features a group of metal lunch boxes representing the nine miners, set out on a circular snow platform, littered with stakes and fluorescent flagging tape.

Written on the tape is the running theme of the piece: lines ñ fine lines, lines of duty, front lines, fuel lines, party lines ñ that contributed to the disaster.

He said the installation echoes earlier pieces Pamplin has done about the mine, such as the Dump Triptych and No Free Lunch, under a larger project about Giant Mine.

No Free Lunch, for example, was a lunchbox, filled with vials of imitation arsenic trioxide, the highly toxic by-product of gold mining.

An estimated 237,000 tonnes of the substance are sealed underground in the Giant mine site.

On each vial was the name of everyone Pamplin knew in town, establishing his point:

"There's enough arsenic trioxide in there (the mine) to kill everyone I know in town, everyone you know."

Pamplin said this version of Fault Line is "almost like a draft," and he hopes to take it indoors.

He said he plans to make the piece rotating, representing "restless souls constantly revolving around and around and around.

"For the life of me, I don't know," he said of why the event sticks with him. "It disturbs me on so many levels.

While the piece helps Pamplin explore the Giant Mine issue further, it doesn't look like this will be his last artistic endeavour focused on the historic mine.

"To my way of thinking, we haven't had closure on this issue."

Fault Line will be on display at the snow castle until March 31.