There is an arresting spectacle happening under the north side of the Cambie Bridge in Cooper’s Park. Uninterrupted is a cinematic art installation directed by Vancouver’s Nettie Wild, an award winning documentary film maker recognized internationally. Images of the life cycle of salmon are digitally projected onto the columns and underside of the bridge.
In 2010, Wild was stimulated by her amazing experience watching a massive salmon-run on the Adams River, a major salmon spawning ground near Chase, BC. She felt the salmon run as the “pulsating heartbeat” of a natural phenomenon. It was a life-changing experience and she has tried to help us sense its import with her film. Her work is filmed in hyper slow motion under water allowing us a surreal yet stunning view of the salmon cycle.
It’s necessary to understand the role salmon play in our eco-system to appreciate why it is essential for their life cycle to continue “uninterrupted.” Not only do we fish, eat and sell salmon but for over 10,000 years it has been a mainstay of the diet of west coast Indigenous people. For them, salmon are a symbol of abundance, fertility, prosperity and renewal and Indigenous people served and still serve as the caretakers of salmon’s life-cycle.
In the ocean, salmon provide food for orca whales, sea lions and seals. The salmon and their carcasses feed eagles, crows, ravens, gulls and bears, to name a few. The waste discharge from these creatures provide essential nutrients not only to our forests but to all its vegetation and creatures. Traces of salmon nutrients have been found as far inland as the Rockies. It’s therefore essential to ensure our creeks, streams and rivers where salmon return from the ocean to spawn remain as healthy as possible through sound forest and farming practices. Our oceans need to remain free of contamination from infected fish farms and oil spills. Global warming has affected our seas with warmer water and this in turn reduces healthy conditions for salmon.
Wild’s film does not lecture us on the negative aspects of the salmon cycle but instead creates a wonder in us by viewing this phenomenon in a city setting. It’s a transcendent experience to see salmon succeed to reproduce and continue their cycle in spite of overwhelming obstacles, both natural and man-made. As late as 1900, this spawning, migratory process could be viewed in the same location as today’s film, before the heavy industrialization of False Creek. But now they return again in Wild’s film. Near the end of Uninterrupted we are presented with a huge red salmon egg juxtaposed on city towers which fade out leaving only the egg. It gave me a shudder as potent as I experienced watching Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. A powerful new, yet simultaneously ancient beginning.
Uninterrupted is running every night till September 24 for 25 minutes starting at 10 pm. The only exception is during the Celebration of Light fireworks. From August 15, it will start at 9 pm. For more detailed information on the film and its talented team, visit: uninterrupted.ca
Note: This will be the last Street Photography photo and text by Denis Bouvier and Don Richardson after 7 years and 147 issues. We have enjoyed our journey immensely and hope we have brought some pleasure and knowledge to our readers as well.