Lance Blomgren’s Operation Northern Shield (ONS) is a speculative research project investigating the possibility of new settlements in the Canadian arctic. Inspired by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s well-publicized obsession with Canadian sovereignty in the far north—not to mention its wealth of resources and economic potential—ONS depicts a world where ice is both material and idea, building material and commodity, a matter of life and death.
This excerpt looks to the inhabitants of a new polar colony to offer a few perspectives on life in the new north, its utopian premise and dystopian promise. Part fiction, part essay, ONS imagines a settlement and national security plan that combines the history of igloos, ice architecture and arctic settlement with ideas of northern ingenuity and the rhetoric of right-wing protectionist culture.
From Operation Northern Shield
By Lance Blomgren
A light flickers in the window of the third floor of the lone office building. The consultant puts some Ravel on the phonograph, sits at her desk and lifts her pen. The fox nudges its face against her knee before slumping on the floor at her feet. Outside the snow is crystal and there are only two truths: the enemy in the dark, the needs of a population. Strength in numbers, yes, she writes, the power of shared purpose and community, yes, but also shelter, commerce, sites of socialization and conviviality, places of trifle and whimsy, unstructured amusement and curiosity to interrupt the status quo or even improve it. The requisite of fortification and lines of communication. What we have, she writes: the entwined complexities of water, light and energy, the architectural perfection of the igloo and the natural social sites offered by the pingos, room to grow, a free market, a mandate. The consultant doodles a design for a new territorial flag. Domed roofs run to the horizon.
The Museum of Discarded Valuables honours citizens who choose to part with their possessions of value: diamonds, gold and other precious minerals or jewelry; TVs, stereos and personal computers; art and domestic decorative items; colourful or impractical garments; heirlooms and items of nostalgia. Each item is frozen in a block of ice and stacked into something approaching the ancient towers of Petros. The civil servant oversees a staff that freezes the items, manages the tower’s evolving construction, and ensures that all patriotic citizens who liberate themselves from the useless and profane are acknowledged for their service and are approved for their tax break. He takes reports from the head of the security detail, whose job it is to ensure that these items are not taken back by the criminals who have had a sudden turn of heart. The civil servant works in an unassuming office that is also made from blocks of ice, a bureaucratic version of a winter palace. He spends his days signing papers with a battery heated pen that prevents the ink from turning to crayon.
Operation Northern Shield was published in its complete form – essay, short fictions and recruitment poster – as part of Petite enveloppe urbaine no. 17: Architectural Follies/ Les Follies architecturales, CRUM projects, Montreal, 2008. Reprinted with permission of the author. Lance Blomgren (Dawson City) is the author of Corner Pieces (2004), and Walkups (2000), through Montreal’s Conundrum Press. He publishes regularly in Canadian and international literary journals, and has produced numerous chapbooks. His radio drama, A Room Full of Birds, was produced for CBC Radio in 2003. He has created writing installation projects for Dare-Dare and the Saidye Bronfman Centre for the Arts in Montreal, and at Sox36 Gallery in Berlin.