The Southern Alberta Art Gallery Maansiksikaitsitapiitsinikssin

Full Bad Moon

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11 MAY 2024 – 22 JUNE 2024

Magic is real, the rest is conjecture

Myrna was astral projecting into my living room. She had been enlisted to deal with a ghost in the corner, who had lately been causing an uproar in the house. “Ghost” might be a derogatory term—Myrna calls them displaced spirits.

I’ve never met Myrna; she was doing her work remotely, and though I was introduced to her by a friend-of-a-friend, I’ve still yet to meet her in real life. She’s never physically been at or inside my house, as far as I know. She texted me when her astral work was done: “Ok Ana, your house has been cleared, and the displaced spirit has been helped to transcend.” And she followed: “Also, might you have mice in your basement? You might want to set a couple traps.” I went downstairs upon receipt of the murine news (somehow more strange than the message about the ghost) to find that mice had indeed chewed their way through the bathroom drywall and in an unfettered fracas, had colonized the basement. I don’t like killing, not even spiders, so I tried to catch the mice in a little cage and release them into the sagebrush down by the river but that proved ineffective so I hired a man to kill them for me, and he set up little boxes of poison throughout my house.

You should know that although mice and voles abound in Alberta, it is a proudly rat-free province. The Rat Control Program was established in 1950 when the first rat—rodent zero—was found on a farm in Alsask, a small town on the border between Alberta and Saskatchewan where today looms the empty dome of an abandoned NORAD radio tower, part of the Cold War era Pinetree Line. The radio tower’s call sign when it was active was November, Jade Ring, which feels like a spell to me, but I digress, dawdle. Alsask is within the Rat Control Zone, a 600-kilometer-long strip of land that runs along the border between Alberta and Saskatchewan.

When the Rat Control Program was founded, the government embarked on a pronged path: funding, education, propaganda, and poison. Those living rurally in the Rat Control Zone were recruited to help obliterate rats in the province for the common good: “You can’t ignore the rat, he’s a menace to health, home, industry. Kill him!” Kill him meant with poison, as deadly to rats as it was to humans. A friend of mine told me a story recently about his grandmother who was part of one such Rat Control Zone family in the 1950s—a memory not his own, but with poisonous echoes that seem to haunt him still, lingering like the ghost in my house. A memory—though a traumatic one—passed down through generations that bears influence still today, much in the way my hands with their long fingers look delicate but have my grandfather buried, and sometimes protruding, in the knuckles. “Meat hooks,” my Dedo used to say of his hands. These are among the things our grandparents leave us with: hands and memories, sometimes difficult ones.

Memories are like magic; they have a vexed relationship with reality (as do I). They are typically at once born of it but at their inception (a moment so like the curve approaching zero, which is to say a moment infinitely unfolding) become enshrined and twisted into the realm of the mind (by which I also mean the body but also mean the expanse of an invisible universe), the mind which may in the end prove to be the actual final frontier, so unlike the Great Plains, “the last best west,” in that the mind cannot ever be tamed, controlled, occupied but like them in the mind’s likeness to the seemingly boundless and variable sky and the grassy expanse that demands the sacrifice of one’s breath if beheld. (I guess in this way, the Great Plains too cannot be tamed, controlled, or occupied, so it was a bad comparison to begin with).

Although our memories glue our otherwise particulate cognitive matter together, help bring us into being, they can be hard to trust because some say they become corrupted: added to or subtracted from over time, embellished or repressed, changed at their core, molded to fit in the ethereal archive. Yet, and in turn, we trundle around living our lives, making decisions, doing things—ripples in the shared space—based on our memories, our beliefs. We make reality from them. I do; therefore I am. In the end, I guess I’m not interested in debating whether memories, or ghosts, or magic are real. If I believe in magic, and live my life accordingly, is that magic not real in its effect on the ripples I make? Are my ripples not real in their bearing on you? Magic then is real. The rest is conjecture.


Exhibition text by Ana Harbec.

Curated by Adam Whitford, Associate Curator & Exhibitions Manager.

Justin Patterson (b. 1978, Rolling Hills, Alberta) is a Vancouver-based artist whose interdisciplinary approach includes sculpture and installation as well as sonics and image-based mediums. Part of his ongoing practice is a reflection on the overlapping of history and fragmentation of time. His artistic influences include Kurt Shwiters, Agnes Martin, and Mike Kelly, and his farm-youth in the Prairie landscape of Southern Alberta on Treaty 7 and Treaty 4 territory.

The works presented here were originally part of Patterson’s exhibition titled Bad Moon Rising, at Dynamo Arts space in 2016. The graphite drawings on canvas depict obscured memory-like meditations on his grandmother’s childhood experience.

We acknowledge the support of the City of Lethbridge, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.


Date And Time

Saturday, May 11 at 1:00 pm to
Saturday, June 22 at 12:00 am

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