Mark Ruwedel: Written On The Land

Curated by Karen Love

The exhibition Written on the Land is a sustained photographic exploration of the impact that technologies and cultures have had on the land. It is Ruwedel’s first exhibition representing photographs from his entire oeuvre. At the heart of this project is Ruwedel’s search for the barely visible historical traces that allow viewers a new reading of landscape as a "critical text". As the artist has said, “Landscapes, inscribed with the evidence of many pasts, are historical archives. My work may be defined as an inquiry into the histories, cultural and natural, of places that reveal the land as being both a field of human endeavour and an agent of historical processes.”

The exhibition is organized into three broad categories: The Ice Age looks at the physical evidence of human activity over some 11,000 years of habitation, reaching back to the time of hunter/gatherer societies to groups that lived, for instance, along the shores of the long-disappeared Pleistocene lakes. Addressing notions of time, this section includes locations also marked by Euro-American exploration and settlement, as well as twentieth-century land use, whether military, industrial, agricultural, or social. Westward the Course of Empire is a study of the violent intrusion that was the "conquering"of the West and the landscape architecture it produced, in particular abandoned railway lines and other technologized sites. Pictures of Hell represents the innumerable places named after “Hell” or “the Devil”. Often with no trace of human activity, these photographs are largely about the idea of place and how the act of naming by immigrants and explorers was often an imposition of cultural arrogance, habits and fears, as well as a displacement of previous native names.

Mark Ruwedel is an American photographer and master printer who has lived in Canada for the past twenty years. He currently divides his time between Vancouver and Los Angeles, where he teaches photography at the California State University at Long Beach.

Presentation House Gallery published a 64-page book in conjunction with the exhibition, including a curatorial introduction and texts by Ann Thomas, Curator of Photography at the National Gallery of Canada, and American writer Barry Lopez, author of the award-winning book Arctic Dreams.
Supported by the City of North Vancouver, the District of North Vancouver, the Province of British Columbia through the British Columbia Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.


Saturday September 21 at 2:00 pm | Artists' Talk

Touring Exhibition

Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge, AB - Mar 15 - April 27, 2003

Art Gallery of South Okanagan, Penticton, BC - May 9 - July 5, 2003

Illingworth Kerr Gallery, Calgary, AB - Sept 4 - Oct 4, 2003

Art Gallery of Windsor, Windsor, ON - Jan 15 - March 20, 2004

Machenzie Art Gallery, Regina, SK - May 22 - Aug 15, 2004

Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, MN - Oct 8, 2004 - Jan 2, 2005

Carleton Art Gallery, Ottawa, ON - Sept 12 - Nov 13, 2005

Musee d'art de Joliette, Joliette, QC - Feb 12 - April 16, 2006

Galerie d'art de I'Universite de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, QC - June 17 - Sept 3, 2006

Mark Ruwedel, Written on the Land, exhibition publication
Mark Ruwedel, Written on the Land, exhibition publication
Tonopah and Tidewater #23, 2002
Tonopah and Tidewater #23, 2002
Mark Ruwedel, 'Devil's Gate'.
Mark Ruwedel, 'Devil's Gate'.
Mark Ruwedel, 'Columbia and Western'. (cover of the exhibition brochure)
Mark Ruwedel, 'Columbia and Western'. (cover of the exhibition brochure)

Mark Ruwedel: Written On The Land

Written on the Land presents Mark Ruwedel's ongoing photographic project that looks at the impact of technologies and culture on the land. His subtle yet rigorous, decade-long investigation resulted in a fascinating accumulation of images portraying not only those devastations we have wrought during our own recent history, through military manoeuvres, weapons testing, resource extraction and cultural modifications but also the violent intrusion that was the 'conquering' of the west, in particular the building of the railways and the application of the new site names by European immigrants and explorers. The book covers Ruwedel's work from 1990 to 2001, divided into three sections: The Ice Age; Pictures of Hell; and Westward The Course of Empire. These three series are interrelated, as archeological history, land use and the act of naming places combine to form a picture of human interaction with the land. The publication includes a list of works and biographies and texts by Barry Lopez and Ann Thomas.

Curated by Karen Love

Exhibition dates: September 7- October 20, 2002. The exhibition toured across Canada during 2003 and 2004.

Designed by Alex Hass, Radish Design Studio. Printed by Hemlock Printers.

Mark Ruwedel was awarded the Scotiabank Photography Award, (Canada) and the  John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in Photography, New York in 2014. He is an Assistant Professor at California State University, Long Beach, CA.


Connections, meanings, and challenges.

What was your experience with this exhibition?

Experience The Polygon in the best way possible.

Members are among those who are closest to The Polygon’s work in the community and beyond. By contributing to a strong foundation of support, Members enjoy exclusive front-of-the-line privileges while helping to provide artists with a platform for their work, facilitate lifelong learning opportunities, and so much more.


facebook twitter instagram spotify

Download on the App Store

Get it on Google Play

Visit the Polygon
Ground Floor Gallery and Shop open
Thursday – Friday, 11:00am – 9:00pm
Saturday – Sunday, 10:00am – 5:00pm

101 Carrie Cates Court
North Vancouver, BC V7M 3J4

Situated on the unceded territories of the Skwxwú7mesh, Tsleil-Waututh, and xwməθkwəýəm Nations.

The Polygon Gallery continues the forty-year reputation of Presentation House Gallery in engaging the public with the most visionary artists of our time. A new waterfront landmark on Vancouver's North Shore, The Polygon offers a one-of-a-kind space to encounter contemporary visual art with a focus on photography.

Community Leader for Accessibility Slice 1