Electronic Totem

Mike MacDonald

1987, 20:00 minutes, Colour, English


Just as traditional totem poles outline the story of a clan or family, Electronic Totem outlines the culture of the Gitksan Wetsuwet'en people of British Columbia. The poles occur frequently in this work and we see totemic representations of animals and birds at the same time adjacent screens show the real creatures that inspired the carvings.
The five videotapes take us to fish-camps, berry grounds, pole fields, beaver ponds, the haunts of the black and rare white Kermodei bear, and even to the tops of the highest mountains in the area, the Seven Sisters.
The work shows us only positive images of the culture and land and both appear much as they would have before contact with European culture. We don't see the vast areas of clear cut forests or the trains and logging trucks speeding past the reservation children but we see the enduring aspects of the culture, things these people have done for centuries and will continue to do.

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Critical Writing

Pe'l A'tukwey: Let me...tell a story
by Robin Metcalfe. Arts Atlantic, Winter 1994, v. 12, no. iss. 48 no.4.
VIVA award will help Mike Macdonald's video work bloom
by Peter Wilson. Vancouver Sun, May 27, 1994.
Neo-Native Art: New Approaches to Traditional Thinking
by Rick Hill. Revisions, 1992. Banff: Paperworks Press, 1992.
Electronic totem pole airs Gitksan culture
by Adrian Chamberlain. Times-Colonist, Aug. 1, 1992.
Earth Spirit cultures celebrate similar visions
by Christopher Hume. The Toronto Star, June 28, 1991.
Share the Blame:: I. "The Spirit Sings II. "Revisions"
by Marie Morgan and Peter Gzowksi. Vanguard, Apr 1988, v. 17, no. 2.
Electronic Totem
by Julie Healey. Video Guide, Mar. 1984, v. 6, no. 2.