In the nineteenth century, as the Industrial Revolution swept Great Britain and then its colonial
peripheries (including Canada), the free and fast labour of machines, as well as the cheap and exploitable
labour of the working classes, resulted in greater amounts of money and leisure time for the middle class.
This growing middle class participated with gusto in the burgeoning consumer market of luxury goods
(here defined as anything that is not necessary for basic survival). In this ramped-up capitalist economy
property ownership, wealth accumulation, and showy demonstrations of social status were major
motivators for middle-class consumerism. In the middle-class home, the hearth was the nucleus around
which much of the family’s social life revolved. Mantel pieces over fire places became the spaces where
valuable and symbolically meaningful objects and ornaments were displayed. The tradition of hanging a
large gilt-framed mirror above the mantel became popular as a device that would enlarge the appearance
of the living room space, as well as replicate and accentuate precious and ostentatious ornaments. Another
popular item that many of us are used to seeing on mantel pieces are decorative clocks. In the nineteenth
century, industrialization affected the perception of time as the sweeping synchronization of labour
demanded the precise and efficient regulation of the day’s hours.
In the context of the Living Room, the ceremonial pipe in the shape of three smokestacks made by
Mi’kmaw artist Charles Doucette placed on the mantel piece makes a powerful comment on the impact of
colonialism and environmental racism on Indigenous communities near K’jipuktuk/Halifax. Industry is a
functional pipe made of concrete and steel resembling the three red and white painted smokestacks of the
generating station in Tuft’s Cove, Halifax harbor. When the pipe is lit, smoke rises from the smokestacks
as well as the steel bowl. Colonial processes of modernization and industrial development drastically
interrupted and transformed the daily life, social organization, relationship to land, and cultural practices
of Indigenous societies across Turtle Island (North America). With Industry, Charles directly references
the impact of industrialization on the Mi’kmaw community of Kepe’kek/Turtle Grove, which once existed
at Tuft’s Cove and was destroyed in the Halifax Explosion of 1917.