January 14 – May 15, 2016 | Curated by Michelle Jacques | The LAB

Paƛšiʔaƛma (The Fire is Just Starting) is a new work by Port Alberni artists Klehwetua, Rodney Sayers and Emily Luce. Constructed from local, rough-cut cedar and fir from two Port Alberni mills, the artists re-sawed and dressed their material before incorporating it into their beautifully considered and executed design. The structure makes reference to two traditions common in British Columbia: the European sauna and the First Nations smokehouse. The artists’ intention to create a thought-provoking, and perhaps even strange and humorous juxtaposition of familiar traditions and practices, is well demonstrated in the functioning of the building: the smoke that is a by-product of the wood stove used to heat the sauna is given new life when it is captured and recycled into the smokehouse to smoke its contents.

Initially presented as an intervention in Gwen MacGregor's exhibition Circumstance in the Spencer Gallery from November 10-21, 2015, Paƛšiʔaƛma (The Fire is Just Starting) was conceived by Sayers and Luce in response to MacGregor's invitation to participate in a conversation with her about what it means to make cultural references across indigenous/non-indigenous lines. Sayers and Luce have noted that “Paƛšiʔaƛma (The Fire is Just Starting) is informed by a long traditions of living off the oceans and lands. The smokehouse was an integral part of coexisting with the oceans. That tradition is thousands of years old. The design of the sauna addresses a simple yet effective approach to light and heat, using only a glass pane for light and a stove that can make the room very hot with just a few branches.” 

Modular in design, the sauna/smokehouse can be broken down and moved, and most components can be lifted by two people. This is an approach to design that is part of the artists’ ongoing philosophy to create works that are simple, accessible, require few tools and create little waste. Paƛšiʔaƛma (The Fire is Just Starting) is the artists’ second work in a series of tiny houses that engage Canadian art history and current issues and ideas. 

Sayers is a member of the Hupacasath First Nation, from Ahswinnis, now known as Port Alberni, BC. Luce is an artist and designer. They live together and occasionally work together on Vancouver Island.