Napa North, 2008, looks at the mobility of capital, design and taste by examining the meteoric growth of the wine and real estate industries in the interior of British Columbia. Over the course of a year and a half, I interviewed local stakeholders in the wine, land development and cultural communities in the Okanagan Valley to explore their hopes, ambitions and concerns. Key to the artwork is the participation of Modesta Betterton, a syilx elder from the Osoyoos Indian Band who translates language from the wine, land development and First Nations communities into her nsyilxcn Okanagan dialect. Once known as the province’s agricultural breadbasket, this region has experienced rapid urban development while rebranding itself as a destination for luxury lifestyle living.
The result was an exhibition of photographs and 3-channel video accompanied by wine tastings at a custom designed wine bar and a series of complementary events such as a slow food dinner with local chefs, farmers, beer and winemakers, and owners of a nearby abbatoir; cultural education programs by the Desert Cultural Centre in Osoyoos; and nsyilxcn workshops by Modesta Betterton.
Napa North focuses on the meteoric growth of the BC wine industry and the concurrent real estate boom along the Okanagan Corridor. As residents from larger urban centres flock to the region to invest in a less hectic lifestyle in an idealized healthful environment, local orchards and farms are being converted to vineyards and subdivisions. This project asks about the global forces at play in the creation of this ecstatic expansion. What histories are reconstructed when land is prepared for new development? How are individual and cultural identities affected as the Okanagan region shifts away from agricultural production and becomes an increasingly upscale urban space promising the possibilities of luxury living?
Napa North was commissioned by the Alternator Gallery where it was first shown as well as at the Kelowna Art Gallery in June 2008, and moved to the Art Gallery of the South Okanagan in Penticton that fall. In early 2012, it was shown at and received the Award of Excellence at the The 10th Northwest Biennial at the Tacoma Art Museum, Washington.