Erin Ashenhurst

• Visual Narrative & Everyday Oddity •

 

DIS/APPEAREANCES ON A HIGHWAY:
A Model Drive

Dis/Appearances on a Highway constructs elements of a road trip from Vancouver to Stewart, BC. Juxtaposing fragments of text describing a personal narrative with photographs of the landscape that appear to be taken from the secure distance of a car, the work explores a terrain experienced as an otherness. The highway does not offer its user an idealized countryside or untouched wilderness, but is instead an artery threading through the province where small towns host tired motels, churches, and abandoned mines. For this driver, the mountains grow into a foreboding presence.

At first glance, the photography in Dis/Appearances could be read as unassuming snapshots, but there is fraudulence and playfulness in their assembly. While photographs taken on location gesture to cinematic staging, the framing of the car interior is done using a Playmobil toy from a kit appropriately titled “City Life.” By disrupting the traditional road-trip snapshot with the illusory layer of the model windshield, the images create a fictional subjectivity from what might otherwise be seen as documentation. While pages of prose juxtaposed with imagery are conventionally used to signal the development of a linear storyline, here the fragmentation of text and the falsity of image test a viewer’s desire to form a cohesive narrative. Indeed, in one image, the glimpse of a plastic deer threatens to push things towards the absurd.

Though the trip described traverses less than two-thirds of the province, it is a distance of almost 1,500 kilometers—the same distance of a drive from Rome to Paris, or less than Madrid to Marrakesh. In Dis/Appearances, the vastness of Western Canada does not signify the journey of an adventurer, but rather an unstable relationship negotiated through the window of an ever-transient vehicle.

 
 

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It was August and it seemed as if we had spent the
summer driving and watching things die. They died all
day in sudden, lonely blasts of yellow cream, and red
jam, and clear jelly. We would comment on how big or
bloody, and then I would yank forward the lever for the
windshield fluid and the wipers would spread their exotic
carcasses in half-moons across the glass.