Welcome to the Land of Light employs English and Chinook Jargon (Chinuk Wawa), an intercultural pidgin used extensively along the West Coast during the 19th Century, as a metaphor for the ongoing development of intercultural communications in this region. Underscoring the text was fibre optic cable lighting (from 1997 – 2018) that changed colours, a reference to the then state-of-the-art telecommunications infrastructure that made this site one of the world’s first fibre optic communities. The text speaks about the promise of technology to bring cultures together in the building of a new global village on the site of the former Expo 86 fairgrounds.
In 2022, the public artwork was refreshed with a significant update, as the original fibre optic cable lighting system had been in decline for many years due to its proximity and seasonal submersion in the saltchuck of False Creek, further exacerbated by occasional acts of vandalism. The two rows of aluminum lettering were re-coated and the fibre optics replaced with current state-of-the-art lighting technology employing computer-controlled LEDs. This created an opportunity to re-envision the “message” of the artwork, with the lights functioning as a beacon to others as a place to visit, build relations and perhaps call home.
This new iteration of the lighting system allowed for the creation of a third version of the text in addition to Chinuk Wawa and English with the inclusion of Morse Code. This form of electric telegraphy was developed in the 1830s and became widely adopted by the mid-19th century, concurrent with the widespread use of the west coast trade language. Morse Code was used heavily by the shipping industry and for the safety of the seas up until the early 1990s.
The Chinuk Wawa text was first translated into the dots and dashes of Morse Code, which were then converted into bands of light using the navigation system found on vessels, whether they be on water, in the sky, or in space: RED for portside, GREEN for starboard, WHITE on top and YELLOW on the bottom. These coded phrases flow in one direction with RED as the dominant colour as if the site is a moving vessel seen from its portside. The full message runs for 2 hours and 16 minutes in one direction, then reverses to flow in the other direction with GREEN as the dominant colour, as if viewed from its starboard side. The program runs from dusk to dawn.
Klahowya! Kloshe maika ko yukwa, ka towagh mitlite keekwullie illahee.
Greetings! Good you arrive here, where light be under land.
Alki yaka alta yukwa. Yukwa, maika elip mitlite kahkwa chee.
Future it be now. Here, you begin live like new.
Chako kopa laly ka tillikums wawa huloima, keschi kloshe kunamokst.
Come to time where people talk different but good together.
Spose maika tumtum chako hahlakl, maika iskum chee kumtux.
If you heart mind open, you receive new knowledge.
Maika mitlite kahkwa elektlik eye pe elektlik tumtum pe elektlik wawa latlah.
You have same like electric eye and heart mind and talk sound.
Maika mitlite hyak kahkwa towagh.
You live fast like light.
Nanitch wawa mitlite yukwa, yahwa pe konaway ka kopa ikt laly.
See talk be here there and everywhere at one time.
Nesaika mamook okoke town kloshe, nawitka. Maika halo kwass yukwa.
Us make this community good indeed. You not afraid here.
Yukwa maika elip mitlite kahkwa tyee. Konaway illahee kahkwa kopa maika lamah.
Here, you begin live like chief. World same like in you hand.