Orphan Train - Trained Tales (1999)

Orphan Train is a complex and highly interactive piece that uses the movements of an animated train to weave through numerous animations and texts.

Full Description

The Orphan Train travels on a Figure 8 Traintrack, with intersecting double loops making reference to the orphan/adoptee's dual history. The traintrack makes six Stop-Overs on the Tour: The Orphan Train Station, The Bed Box Theatre, The Bingo Staircase, The Home for Little Wanderers, The Dresser & the Closet, and The Bad Blood & Ghost Limbs Graveyard presenting a dreamscape architecture informed by childhood fantasies of a secret and parallel life. The assemblages are made up of disparate and reclaimed materials, as there is a play on using found objects with a fragmented or unknown past, to reflect the adoptee's own blurry knowledge of her/his genealogical history.

At each Stop-Over, the artist uses animated vignettes, fueled by dreams, imagination and 'what if' scenarios from childhood to deal with issues around identity. The manipulation of found-objects reveal the influence of Joseph Cornell's window box constructions and the films of Jan Svankmeyer and the Brothers Quay. Simple animations are used to play on the lost/found identity shift and explore the mythology of orphans in popular culture. The project also explores the stigma of illegitimacy and infertility in literature and uses humour and a frustrating series of links and dead-ends to reflect the bureaucracy and red tape of the Adoption Disclosure Registry today in Canada.

The web site delves into the history of the closed adoption system, the growing adoption law reform movement in North America and the Orphan Train Movement and its ties to adoption today in Canada. The artist approaches the project from her own personal experience as an advocate for adoption law reform, and as an adoptee who has been engaged with the search process, both on a Passive government registry and on an active search.

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Artist Statement

In keeping with the project's theme , I used "orphaned" materials; that is, found objects for the most part: discarded toys, old furniture, scraps of fabric, paper, etc. I photographed my artwork in the round and often simply placed objects on the flatbed scanner and rotated them in space.

Though I was using Flash, I chose a low tech approach, producing very simple animations that called up the not too distant past. Instead of focusing on complex visual effects, I wanted rather to concentrate on the atmosphere, to capture a fleeting glimpse of possible scenarios. Nostalgia for a world that never was...

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