Electric Nebraska

Alannah Clamp, Hannah Doerksen, Jillian Fleck, Caroline Halley, Karly Mortimer, and Adam Waldron-Blain

April 19 to May 25, 2013

Electric Nebraska refers to Bruce Springsteen’s never-released mythic album. Initially intending to produce a rock record with the E Street Band, Springsteen created a sparse acoustic demo for his 1982 album, Nebraska, before assembling his band and re-recording it with electric guitars, drums, bass, and organ. After carrying the demo tape around in his jacket pocket for several weeks, Springsteen decided to release the rough homemade tracks as the definitive Nebraska. In a 2010 interview, drummer Max Weinberg described the lost full-band versions of the songs as “hard-edged” and “killing.”

Essay: Not Dying in a Tornado

One afternoon a few summers ago a tornado formed north of the city. The blue-black cloud began to coalesce, first just large and indifferent, but then increasingly more compact and violent. The wind picked up. A funnel cloud erupted out of the storm. Evil was in the air.

It was happening.

The city, though, still rife with straggling faux-cowboy tourists from the weeks before, wasn’t prepared. There was still nowhere to park and cars choked its hay-littered streets. That’s where I was – in traffic. It was rush hour. And I knew that this was my only chance. I rolled down the windows.

I put my hazard lights on and pulled over. I turned my car off and got out. I looked up in anticipation. This is what mortality feels like, I thought.

The sky, now an enormous, benevolent god, reached out to me in overwhelming providence. It ran its windy fingers through my hair and whispered to me in a soothing, consoling voice:

“You’re going to die.”

Eternity. I smiled. I realized that it didn’t matter what I did or what I said. It was finally over. And I felt as if seeing all of our SUVs, hotels, bridges, girlfriends, and soft-headed children mash together and then disappear into the sky would provide me with some sort of relief. It was truly joyous.

“So,” I said to the sky. “Is this it?”

The sky looked down at my unsheltered, newly deaf body.

“Nah,” it said back. “I just wanted to see the look on your face.”

And then, quite without warning, nothing happened. The wind died down. The gloom cleared up. The funnel cloud, once a thunderous torrent of destruction, folded in on itself and evaporated. People in their cars listened to familiar music. A summer breeze floated by.

The people all looked out at me as if to say: “Is there something we should do?” But I said nothing; I just stared. I had no answer for them, no answer for myself. The traffic was beginning to clear up. The people drove leisurely back to their homes, their jobs, and their lovers.

But I stood there in the street. I was ready for my final, violent death. I was ready to become nothing, to be lost in the sky. But the sky didn’t give a goddamn. The clouds just turned white, the sky just turned blue.

And I felt, in that moment, a bland, flat pleasure: I felt the failure of being alive. I felt the sun shining down. I felt a breeze on my face in the cool of the day.

I got back into my car and put on my seat-belt. I drove home. And in the days that followed I can say that I have lived.

But I can tell, though, that you – you in a sturdy house somewhere, you in a school somewhere, you in an art gallery somewhere – knew how I felt. You were there with me on that street.

We were denied our deus ex machina. And we are still to be denied our spectacular, absurd deaths. There will be no tornadoes here, no great battles, no martyrs – just chapped hands and day jobs and rental apartments and not enough time to go jogging.

We were given another chance. We were exposed to our potential. And now, we ache with hope.

And so, our lives continue toward… toward… toward…

– J.D. Mersault


Alannah Clamp studied Visual Art at Emily Carr University in Vancouver where she received a BFA. Subsequently, she studied Art History at Concordia University in Montreal with a focus in contemporary art theory. Alannah has exhibited in a number of art spaces in Canada and currently resides in Vancouver.

Hannah Doerksen is a multi-disciplinary artist who hails from Calgary and holds a BFA (with Distinction) from the Alberta College of Art + Design. Through exchange programs she studied at The New York Studio Residency Program in Brooklyn, NY and the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, CA. Recently, Hannah took part in a DIY residency and show in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Currently she camps out in her studio as much as possible where she has been using a lot of different kinds of glue and other common things to produce uncommon results. She means well, I swear.

Jillian Fleck is a comic artist currently living in Calgary, she graduated from the Alberta College of Art + Design in 2012. Her work primarily deals with storytelling and the fuzzy space between image and text, it is often described as being very funny or very sad. Presently, she is focusing on a graphic novel and other short-form comic book projects. Jillian sleeps on average about twelve hours a day and has the great pleasure of being about the same height as an Ikea Expedit bookshelf.

Caroline Halley is a kid of the eighties, born and raised in Montréal. She recently completed a BFA at Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver. Prior to her West Coast ‘conquer’, Caroline managed her fair share of bumming around mixed with periods of studies in photography in Montréal and Arles, France. Oceanside winters, forestry related work, wool garments, storm watching, pooch walking, whiskey drinking, surfing, crafts, literature, and life in small remote villages spark much of her interests in life as well as in photography.

Karly Mortimer has a BA (Psychology) and a BFA (Drawing). She has studied at the Alberta College of Art + Design, the University of Calgary, The New York Studio Residency Program, Duncan of Jordanstone in Scotland, and currently works at the Walter Phillips Gallery at The Banff Centre. She spent most of her time growing up competing as an equestrian and every night she dreams about fighting for the future of the world in cosmic battles.

Adam Waldron-Blain is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s Fine Art program. He has since been based in Edmonton and Glasgow. In 2011, he was artist-in-residence in the back lanes and derelict spaces of the Woodlands community in Glasgow, ran games for the IgFest Interesting Games festival in Bristol, and participated in a residency program at the Banff Centre with Icelandic artists Ragnar Kjartansson, Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir, and Davíð Þór Jónsson. Last year he performed in the dusty parking lots and wide streets of downtown Edmonton for Dirt City:Dream City, and spent the winter at residencies on Toronto Island and, for the second time, at The Banff Centre. Adam enjoys games, cycling, cooking, and talking about things he doesn’t actually know about. He is currently planning a trip to Iceland.

J.D. Mersault is a writer from Canada. He suffers from a profuse lack of calcium.