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by Gerard Peter PaS — 2005

As Canadians, we pride ourselves on the game of Hockey. In fact, it is generally considered by most Canadians as “Our Game”. If you never played a game of hockey in your life (like me) the rules and terms of the game are known by all here, it is almost a national right of passage. Hockey is our Game, hockey is our national sport.

In 2002 at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, U.S.A., Canada finally ended its agonizing 50-year wait to win the Olympic gold by beating the United States Hockey team. It was quite a match and much of this country was aware of the game and its outcome as the media was in full swing telling us at every opportunity. When that final game was won the streets filled with joyous revelers pronouncing their joy in a chorus of “We Won!” I had learned long ago that notion of “we won” was a cagey game. I very distinctly remember living out Ben Johnson’s 100 metre dash at the Seoul Olympics in 1988 and at the finish being enthralled at how “we had won”. The next day when he was caught for doping it was as though all that joy evaporated and no one was pontificating how “we had been caught for using steroids.” The fact we beat the Americans to me was no different than if we beat the Russians. It was our National team that won that game and nothing more as it has no reflection of me as I can’t even skate. Kudos’ to them for winning but I can’t live my life vicariously through that win.

Soon after, a national brewer took on a series of advertisments that simply promoted being Canadian. The campaign went under the moniker of “I AM…” finished with the word “CANADIAN”. You’d see a guy making comparisons between the U.S. assumption of what made up the Canadian culture or sentiment; the Americans were portrayed as being completely ignorant of what happened in or made up the country just north of their border. The ad always finished with the slogan “I AM CANADIAN”.

I have always resented any form of Nationalism which puts forth the notion that one culture could be superior to another. I find that the intrinsic generalities which this form of Nationalism takes are often deeply rooted in a form of Xenophobia. In fairness to the ad and so as not to be too serious, this ad campaign could also be considered humour; which is also thought of as a strong national characteristic here. That said I find that any type of Nationalism tends to lead to trouble and it cause me great alarm when I see it raise its ugly head. The Nazi’s where nationalists and I despair at what they did with it. I hate the same attitude in the U.S. where I have seen it fester over these last few years post-911. What angered me about the Canadian ad was that it seemed to say that to be proud of what makes us Canadian we had to use a comparison with our cousins to the south in the U.S.A.
What makes a culture is not, not being another culture. What I mean is that I am a Canadian because of a long history, of culture, art and a people not simply because I’am not an American. It is a weak kneed notion which I find simple minded and repugnant at the underlying nationalism behind it. I have so many good friends in the U.S. that know a great deal of this country and whom respect me for being a Canadian Artist. It insults me and them when such hyperbole is used in the mass media to insult both Canadians and Americans alike. Maybe it says more about the customer that brewery is trying to attract but no matter how you slice it, it is an ugly form of nationalism, which simply says I am Canadian because I am not American and that Americans are stupid.

I made this work to poke a stick at this notion (no pun intended). Nationalism is a crutch and if hockey is our national sport then a hockey crutch seemed like a fitting icon. I do not dislike hockey and why would I, it is a fast and wonderful game. I just hate any philosophy which motivates people to hate or think lesser of their neighbour. Our American neighbours may have problems but it is not their exclusivity: there are three fingers pointing back at us when we point the one at them. I think that to use the same hateful lexicon that I so hate in the American culture as our own in Canada is an anathema. I am a Canadian because of hundreds of years of history. I am a Canadian because of a strong tradition of art of which I was raised in under artists like Greg Curnoe or further back to Emily Carr. I am a Canadian because I understand our national literature without using a glossary of terms. I am not a Canadian because I’m not an American. How simplistic!

I AM A CITIZEN OF THIS WORLD AND A BROTHER AND SISTER TO ALL IN IT. Yes, I have a unique culture in being a Canadian and a Dutch immigrant here. Of those things I am proud but most certainly not arrogant of. I have seen much of this great world and realize that we all have much to be proud of. If anything maybe that is indeed why nationalism breeds its ugly head because we somehow feel inferior and to compensate we put ourselves above others. Canadians are generally a modest bunch and the truth be known that’s another reason why I’am proud to be one.

Gerard Pas - London, Canada


I Am... - click to view

I AM... Canadian
by Gerard P. Pas 2004-05
wood, metal, rubber and hockey tape
size is varied: approximately 2 metres

... please click on the image for an enlargement ...

I Am... - click to view
I Am... - click to view
I Am... - click to view I Am... - click to view
This wooden crutch is able to transform from a regular walking aid to a hockey stick by reversing the middle section which is both a rubber tipped crutch end and a hockey stick. The premise is that both crutches can transform so as to enable the user to walk and also skate; while playing the game of Ice Hockey.
... please click on any image for an enlargement ...

all images where taken using a nikon CoolPix 990 digital camera
and remain the copyright of Gerard Pas ©

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