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Gopher Hole, North Bank of South Saskatchewan Year 2001
playful art, video art installation, video art, video loop, gopher, gopher hole, juxtaposition, technology as trivial, transmission of image and idea, technology role in alienation, installation, gopher, gopher hole,

Bristol often takes a playful approach in her works that examine the relationships between people and technologies.  This is one aspect of her approach to the video  installationAn art work specially designed to fit in or to make use of a specific type of space. It usually consists of more than one element and relates to the space in which it is displayed.  shown here.

In this exhibit, which was shown at the Mendel Art Gallery in 2001, Bristol set up a small video monitor positioned inside a semi-circular hole, with a ramp of gravel leading up to it from the floor.  The monitor displayed a video loop of images of a gopher hole outside the Mendel. (Note:  the Mendel Art Gallery is located beside the South Saskatchewan River, in Saskatoon).

The gopher hole links the outside world with the gallery space inside, using sophisticated technologies to capture and transmit the images over thousands of kilometres. Considering that a viewer visiting the gallery could simply walk outside and view the gopher hole first-hand, Bristol raises questions about how we use technology, and how technology can separate us from the “real thing”.  In this exhibit, a lot of technology is used to produce trivial results; it’s like using a sledgehammer to hit a very small nail.

additional resources Things to Think About
  • What do you think Bristol is saying about our relationship with technology (and indeed, about our relationship to the real world) through Gopher Hole?  Can you think of other examples of this in real life?  Do you think she has indeed “hit the nail on the head”?
  • Have you ever played Whack-a-Mole at the summer fair, where you attempt to hit as many pretend moles (or gophers) on the head as possible when they pop out of their holes? The one who bashes the most animals (albeit, mechanical ones) wins the prize. What does this say about our attitude toward nature?
  • Have you ever heard the expression, “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”? Does this expression apply to how we use electronic gadgets in our daily lives?
  • Can you think of an example where technology removes you from the real world? How could you change that, or do you even want to? 
Advanced Activity
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Go to the Arizona State University site Artswork (at where you will find many features on cartooning, including a step-by-step “how to” guide. To find and work with the cartooning section:

  • Go to the Political Cartooning lesson

  • To create your cartoon, click on the “Creating a cartoon” link on the left-hand side of the web page, and follow the instructions.

  • Note that on this site, you are invited to send your work for display

Check out this list of Canadian political cartoonists at the National Newswatch site here. Explore some of the websites of the cartoonists linked. Some more political cartoonists’ websites include:

Online Activity
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NOTE:  you will have to download Google Earth if you have not already done so in the past (see near the bottom of this page for instructions).

  • Open Google Earth on your computer.

  • In the Fly to box, type in "North Bank of South Saskatchewan River, Saskatoon".

  • Click on the magnifier icon and “fly” to the satellite map image of the area.

  • Look at and zoom in on various sites to imagine where the gopher hole might be.

To download Google Earth:

  • Go to the Google Earth site (at

  • Download Google Earth (for free!!) by clicking on the “Download Google Earth” button on the top, right-hand side of the web site.  Follow the download instructions as they come up.
Studio Activity
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Bristol’s work comments on society’s sometimes absurd use of technology.   Here are three activities that will allow you to explore our use of technology.  Try all three activities, or just one or two of them.

  1. Write a short story from the point of view of the gopher being observed in Bristol’s piece.

    • As a gopher, how do you feel when you discover what is happening to you, and how do you find out?

    • Are you upset, troubled or angry? Will you take action?

    • If you do take action, could there be serious consequences? What do you know about surveillance in the real world? Who might use surveillance and why?

  2. Make a short video from the gopher’s viewpoint.

    • Pretend you are the gopher and you are spying on the strange behaviour of humans and trying to make sense of what they do.

    • Provide a sound/voice commentary.

    • You might want to work with a partner to do this.

  3. Create a comic strip based on the same idea as in activity two above, choosing one form of human behaviour to comment on (using humour) and the comic strip form as your visual tool. 

    • For example, you might create your comic strip around the observation that humans eat using strange looking things attached to their “claws” (forks/knives), or that they don’t drink like “normal” creatures, but from a strange portable “gopher holes”.

Karlinsky, Amy.  Inversions:  Women and Humour.  Winnipeg, Manitoba, 2002.

Lemecha, Vera.  Ritual Coping.  Exhibition catalogue.  Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan, 1997.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning