by Katie Zugic and Nancy Saunders

A person listening to a sculpture.
Artist Rebecca Belmore and Wave Sound © Kyra Kordoski

Wave Sound by Indigenous artist Rebecca Belmore lies at the top of the Southern Headland trail at Pukaskwa National Park, blending seamlessly with rocky outcroppings facing Lake Superior. It invites visitors to reconnect with the land and to listen to the sounds of the north.

Surrounded by the crashing waves and boreal vistas of Pukaskwa National Park lies a large sculpture that seemingly blends into the Canadian Shield with its stone like-appearance. This piece of art offers to channel the sounds of the wilderness to all who will listen.

Wave Sound by internationally renowned Indigenous artist Rebecca Belmore lies at the top of the Southern Headland trail at Pukaskwa National Park, blending seamlessly with rocky outcroppings facing the northern shores of Lake Superior. It invites visitors to reconnect with the land and listen to the sounds of the north rather than passively observing them.

An impressive 170 lbs of aluminum casting, it has a surface emblematic of the rocks of the boreal forest. The piece was flown in by helicopter for the duration of the season and is integrated within the Canadian Shield as a continuous piece of the landscape, symbolizing our connection with the Earth. Its conical shape channels the sounds of the land and Lake Superior to visitors through a hollow core.

Pukaskwa’s Visitor Experience manager, Lyn Elliott, describes her first experience of coming upon it on the trail. “It’s a discovery – a lovely surprise, and a beautiful reflection of Pukaskwa’s landscape. It’s also a way to really tune in.”

Pukaskwa’s is one of four sculptures in Belmore’s Wave Sound series that emphasizes the importance of our relationship with the land, and part of LandMarks 2017, a Canada 150 signature project that invites Canadians to explore their land and deepen their connection to it through a series of contemporary art projects across the country. LandMarks2017 inspires dialogue about the “people, places, and perspectives have shaped our past and are vital to our futures.”

A sculpture on the shore.
Wave Sound sculpture in place © Kyra Kordoski

The other three Wave Sound sculptures are installed coast to coast in Banff National Park (AB), Georgian Bay Islands National Park (ON), and Gros Morne National Park (NL) for Canada 150. Each sculpture has been designed in response to the landscape. Belmore’s concept was to amplify “the living sounds that are particular to the location” and as project curator Kathleen Ritter states, to emphasize our relationship to the land by allowing it to speak to us, for it “has more to say to us than we do to it”.

Belmore believes that the essence of the Canadian experience, and the root of our culture as members of this vast country, is the connection we share with the land over which we roam. Wave Sound is a means of re-establishing the connection that so many of us have lost in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. Being humbled by the seascapes and sitting and listening, relinquishing control back to the elements, reminds us of our roots and the land over which our ancestors explored. According to Belmore, “it’s really about taking a moment to sit on the Earth itself. That’s really what I’m after in terms of this idea that as human beings we are connected to the Earth. It’s pretty simple, but I know it’s huge.”

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