Way back in 2002, I tore apart a corporate-funded mural on the University of Alberta campus, in an article written for a magazine published by art gallery Latitude53. I did so politely because...I don't know, I was a U of A student at the time? A citizen of Edmonton? Not confident enough in the written word?
But this shit needs to be changed. Originally known as the Telus mural due to the company's "generous support," it is titled "Trade and Commerce: The History of Edmonton." A signature identifies it as a Tag Kim work dating to 1999. And while the content has not changed since then, its subject matter has not aged well.
The Telus mural, located above the doors to Tory/Business at the north end of HUB International, purports to tell a narrative of Edmonton's development over the ages, from left to right. And people don't seem to notice it anymore.
We begin in the lower left corner, where European fur traders are hawking their wares on Native Canadian savages, seated before them. The Europeans have basically erected a wall isolating these Native people to contain them from the rest of the mural; no trace of First Nations is located outside this corner beyond their tepees giving way to a locomotive. That in itself may seem alarming, but we should look at the Grandin LRT Station murals, where one Europeanist mural whitewashes local history. Controversial, but deserving of erasure? In 2014 when that mural became controversial, it was decided to just add more murals depicting the other side of the equation, adding content that would balance the history books. I raised my voice about the Telus mural, but nobody seemed to give a fuck.
So the mural shows the urbanisation of Edmonton, with the downtown core filling in.
Right in the middle of the mural is a semicircle filled with money, showing a businessman in a suit carrying a briefcase, leaping away from an avalanche of money. It makes me wonder exactly what kind of future the "creative" forces behind this mural envisioned. What do these motherfuckers see as the future of Edmonton?
Fortunately for our curiosity, the mural keeps going. To the right of the money avalanche, we see a computer room full of black-screened CRTs, giving way to people holding cellphones to their faces, giving way to a more advanced looking room filled with what could be primitive LCD screens.
But also, here's where things get fucky. We're introduced to a city vista situated over a river, large enough for a full-sized cruise ship, with an airplane in the sky overhead. But that iconic skyline isn't Edmonton's -- it includes two iconic Twin Towers, obscured partly behind the tail of the airplane. The North Saskatchewan can't fit cruise ships, and that skyline isn't Edmonton's. It is as if Telus accidentally included its plans for expanding outward and ditching Edmonton and that got painted into the mural. As I said in 2002, "Are they so excited about global domination that they just let it slip"? For a mural purporting to depict the history of Edmonton, that in itself is problematic.
But let's look a little closer, now that I don't have to worry about my monthly bills getting jacked up. Why New York? And why the World Trade Center, which when I originally wrote about this mural, was already history. In 2002, it seemed accidental for a mural on the history of Edmonton to include a New York skyline with the WTC; in 2017, it seems unforgivably moronic, further evidence everyone involved forgot about this abortion performed by paint and ladders. This is not something that can be fixed by removing those two towers, even by replacing them with whatever that memorial is that was put in their place. Doing so would just draw attention to the question of, why was another city's skyline included in a "history of Edmonton" mural? Spoilers: there is no acceptable answer. Touching up that portion should require changing the whole motherfucking thing.
Oh yeah, so let's crane our heads a little further to the right. The mural ends in a more abstract sense, with a payphone -- a motherfucking payphone that accepts 35 or whatever cents -- beaming out a map of the world. Meanwhile, a Japanese bullet train races by, heading from right to left, threatening to pulverise a bunch of people toting suitcases at what looks like an airport, probably not YEG.
This mural is a stain on the company, a skidmark on the university's reputation, a joke at the expense of the city. Calling for its removal because the left corner looks like it depicts Native genocide no longer seems like a thing, as that history should be preserved and passed on, but Telus as the corporate sponsor of the piece has the right to cover up the shameless and valueless materialism of the central part, as well as the poorly, poorly outdated depiction of early 2000s futurism as depicted by a corporate body looking to break away from its Edmontonian shackles and go mingle with the world of cruise ships, no 9/11, and payphones. After all, it depicts the telecom's lack of commitment to the city.
Also, how am I the only one in the last 15 years who's thought this weird mural next to the Korean restaurant...
...looks like a dick?
Please remember that these photos are all copyrighted to me. If you want to use them in any way, there's a 90 per cent chance I'll give you my permission, and be able to give you a copy with a higher DPI.Copyright Daehanmindecline 2017