National symposium at UVic addresses acting methods

If you’ve ever seen actors at work—on stage, on screen, on the street or on television—you’ve seen the results of the kind of pedagogy happening daily in the Department of Theatre. But now a first-of-its-kind national symposium co-organized by theatre professor Conrad Alexandrowicz is questioning and examining traditional acting methods, as it addresses what’s been described as “the crisis of actor training in Canada

Conrad Alexandrowicz

Conrad Alexandrowicz

From March 6 to 8 at UVic, Acting Training in a Shifting World will welcome 34 instructors from the majority of Canadian post-secondary drama institutions, ranging from universities and colleges to conservatory programs. “Basically, we’re looking at who we’re teaching and what we’re actually training people to do,” says Alexandrowicz.

Following up on the October 2014 issue of the journal Canadian Theatre Review, which was dedicated to changes in actor training, the UVic symposium will address issues ranging from diversity in gender, sexuality, physicality and ethnicity to funding challenges, new teaching methods and philosophies, postgraduate and company-based training models, and the gap between acting institutions and the professional world.

“We want to reflect a much broader picture: who’s actually living in Canada and what kind of theatre people are making across the board, not just what goes on at festivals and mainstream stages,” he continues. “We’re training people to do a range of things and we need to include a whole different set of approaches to realize that goal.”

For his part, Alexandrowicz specializes in innovative performance techniques that address issues central to the human journey—relationships, gender, power and the nature of the performance event itself. “Realism is only one style of theatre,” he says, “yet we treat it as though it’s a given, as though it’s the sine qua non, when it’s not.” Rather than accept conventional theatrical procedures and forms, Alexandrowicz instead draws from a number of genres and disciplines, deconstructing and recombining them in startling ways—as seen in his direction of last month’s widely lauded Phoenix Theatre production of Lion in the Streets and 2014’s Mother Tongue, his SSHRC-funded interdisciplinary work based on the poetry of Lorna Crozier and Erin Moure. He is also the artistic director of Wild Excursions Performance.

Alexandrowicz working with students

Alexandrowicz working with students

Admitting that both the US and the UK are ahead of Canada in these study areas (“I hate to say it, but it’s true,” he grumbles), Alexandrowicz is keen to affect change from within. “Why are university acting programs simply reproducing all these discriminatory and oppressive patterns that operate in the larger culture?” he asks. By way of a positive counter-example, Alexandrowicz points to Diana Belshaw, head of acting at Humber College and co-editor of the 2014 CTR issue, who notably reconfigured Humber’s theatre department into a performance lab and workshop for creating new work. “We need to diversify our approach so we’re covering more bases.”

As a member of one of Canada’s leading theatrical training institutions, Alexandrowicz is also excited the symposium is coming here. “It’s good for UVic to host a discussion where we’re questioning all the things we’ve taken for granted for decades—that acting always comes out of a printed script,” says Alexandrowicz. “We’re under a lot of pressure to think of theatre training as a greater part of a liberal arts education, so we should be including people from all across campus, people who want to learn about performance but have no interest in professional acting per se.”

He points to the potential performance benefits to be gleaned by forging connections with faculties like law and business, and the increasing popularity of events like TED Talks and UVic’s own IdeaFest, where scientists and thinkers need to be able to effectively communicate their ideas and research. “I really want us to offer this kind of experience to students across campus; we need to democratize how we teach acting to make the experience of learning about performance available to a whole range of people from other disciplines.”

Alexandrowicz pauses and chuckles. “One person even asked if we should still be teaching Shakespeare, so pretty much everything is on the table right now.”

This piece originally ran in the March 2014 issue of UVic’s Ring newspaper

Undergrads in focus at JCURA

While much of the high-profile research and creative activity on campus tends to happen at both the faculty and graduate student level, let’s not discount the foundational work being done by our undergrads. As such, the Faculty of Fine Arts is once again proud to feature the work of 10 students from four separate departments in the annual Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Awards.

March 4_JCURAFirst instituted in 2009-10 as the Undergraduate Research Scholarship program by then Vice-President Academic and Provost—and now UVic President—Jamie Cassels, the JCURAs are designed to provide support for exceptional undergraduate students who might otherwise not be able to obtain a direct research experience as a part of what we anticipate should be a truly formative learning experience. With the award nomination process administered by the Learning and Teaching Centre, on behalf of the Provost’s Office, the annual JCURA symposium is one of the highlights of IdeaFest.

You can read full abstracts on all 110 entries here, from almost every department on campus, but we’re just going to note the Fine Arts contributions—which you can find out more about in person at the JCURA symposium running 11:30am-3pm Wednesday, March 4.

The Department of Art History & Visual Studies is in the lead with three JCURA students this year. Aimee Hawker (supervised by department chair Catherine Harding) is focusing on the Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi for her JCURA project. “An essential site of veneration and pilgrimage, it is visited by thousands of pilgrims each year,” she writes. “It also houses the most expansive narrative program that survives in Italy from the 13th and 14th centuries, with masters such as Giotto, Cimabue, Simone Martini and Giunta Pisano taking part in the Basilica’s decoration.” Her project examines the current research on the degradation of the frescos of the Upper Basilica and the restoration and conservation efforts carried out by the Istituto Centrale per il Restauro (I.C.R.).

A clip from Holly Cecil's William Morris film project

A clip from Holly Cecil’s William Morris film project

Fellow AHVS student Holly Cecil (supervised by professor Erin Campbell) presentation is “A Joy to the Maker and the User”: The Arts & Crafts Movement in Canadian Collections, which traces the origins of the British Arts and Crafts design movement to its reception in Canada, by analyzing several representative objects in our Legacy Art Galleries collections. “Uniting beauty and function, these works of art allow us to trace the movement and its appeal to Canadian collectors,” writes Cecil.  Her project will culminate in website-friendly short films, like this foundational William Morris film project she created.

When planning the summer 2015 Legacy Art Gallery exhibit on Katharine Maltwood and the Arts and Crafts movement, curator Caroline Riedel notes, “The inclusion of Holly Cecil’s work . . . also underlines the mandate of the Legacy Art Galleries to foster research and learning through art and, where possible, to showcase the work of faculty and students who work with our collection.”

At work on VISA's Peoples Apothocary

At work on VISA’s Peoples Apothocary

And AHVS’s Laurie White (supervised by professor Allan Antliff) is considering the aesthetic and ideological role community gardens play in our contemporary visual culture. “Through the aesthetic medium of the garden, these shared outdoor spaces promote social interaction and connection to nature and are in this sense works of ‘social sculpture’, a term coined by German artist Joseph Beuys,” she writes. “Whether they grow food or flowers, community gardens are an outlet for creative and political self expression and form an important part of counter-cultural struggles in the West today.” She will be looking at gardens as works of art in themselves, both on an aesthetic and socially transformative level, and will consider local community gardens with artistic connections, such as Vancouver Island School of Art‘s People’s Apothecary.

Meanwhile, Department of Writing student Cody Gies (supervised by professor Lee Henderson) proposes to write and illustrate a weekly/bi-weekly alternative webcomic that will explore and make use of various structures and techniques of the medium. “Inspired by ‘rubber hose’ animation and the highly imaginative works of Jean Giraud (Moebius) and Brandon Graham (an influential Vancouver cartoonist with Victoria connections), I hope to write a surreal fantasy focused on the journey and relationship of two protagonists,” says Gies. “I plan to research and incorporate an interactive narrative experience through use of links, gifs, games, etcetera, embedded in the sequential art.” You can check out both a digital and limited-run print version of the comic at the JCURA fair.

Watch out, Writing profs—Flexer has diagrams

Watch out, Writing profs—Flexer has diagrams

Also in Writing, Jerry Flexer (supervised by Writing chair David Leach) will be examining the very thing he spends days listening to: creative writing pedagogy, with an emphasis on creative nonfiction. “My research will consider two dominant approaches,” he writes. “The product-focused approach invites students to read published works and emulate, while the process-focused approach relies on a step-by-step process to gradually develop learners’ creative writing skills. One area of debate is whether a method based on a process of any kind can be effective. Some creative writing instructors, as well as some published writers, attribute artistic writing to talent and hard work, something instruction does not provide. I will argue for the importance of including a process focus in creative writing instruction because research suggests it better meets the expectations and needs of learners.”

Over in the Department of Visual Arts, Elizabeth Charters (supervised by professor Robert Youds) is examining sculptural practice is space. “I’m interested in how we interact with the space of the constructed environments we find ourselves in,” she says. “Inspired by everything from street lamps and neon signs to the objects displayed on a living room mantle, I am curious about the physical and psychological impacts that various artificial environments­­ have on our way of living. How we move through and interact with the space that is immediately found around us, whether it is in the private or public realm, can be reflected in our body’s relationship to the space and the objects within it.” Charters’ eventual goal is to challenge the viewer’s ideas about lived spaces, providing a platform for both a bodily and psychological understanding of the self within the space of an urban setting.

instagram-to-compete-with-snapchat-with-new-bolt-appAnother Visual Arts student, Hovey Eyres (supervised by professor Lynda Gammon), is looking at the impact of Instagram. A social media application that produces 60 million photographs per day from 200 million users around the world, Eyres notes that “love” and “me” are two of the most popular tags used to describe these photos, with “selfie” not far behind. “These photos reflect my generation’s desperate search for identity and acceptance in today’s society,” she says. “By reproducing these images with pencil and paper, I redefine their context and provoke questions about Instagram, identity, and society. The images’ content is recognizable and familiar, yet the materials make them surprising and stimulating.” Her drawings ultimately reflect issues including publicity versus privacy, appearance versus reality, and the individual versus society.

One last Visual Arts student is Olivia Prior (supervised by Jennifer Stillwell) whose work in the realm of art and technology focuses on “the cohesion of technology, space, and light, by creating interactive installations that generate results unique to each engaging participant.” Her JCURA presentation will use light to examine the control that the physical presence of each participant has in a space, by using various methods to measure values of proximity, sound, or touch. “The light and methods of physical measurement will aim to remove the notion of control, and use technology as a way to reflect the ongoing activity in the space.”

Jerzy Grotowski

Jerzy Grotowski

Finally, we have two Department of Theatre students presenting their research. Emma Leck (supervised by Theatre professors Allan Lindgren and Conrad Alexandrowicz) will be examining the theories of two international theatre artists: Polish experimental director Jerzy Grotowski and Soviet director Vsevolod Meyerhold to determine how external actions can inform emotional states. “This research promises to augment the actor’s process and illuminate issues involving the relationship between body and self,” she says.

And Chase Hiebert (supervised by professor Jan Wood) is engaged in a project that will “explore a technique of acting that engages and involves the audience in a cathartic experience. This research promises to reframe the actor/audience relationship in ways that emphasize the need for empathy.” You’ll have to visit the JCURA symposium to find out more on that.

Faculty Research Symposium looks at digital scholarship

Digital scholarship is one of the big buzzwords on campuses everywhere these days. But how is scholarship being transformed and expanded by digital possibilities? What are the significant challenges in digital scholarship? Those are some of the key questions being explored by the Department of Art History & Visual Studies in the annual Faculty Research Symposium happening on February 27.

Highway Signpost Mentorship“The digital turn is already here,” says department chair and symposium organizer Catherine Harding. “We need to get in there and really claim a presence as Fine Arts—and that’s the hard part. That’s why we need these conversations at the faculty level, to discusses these questions of what digital scholarship looks like for the fine arts.”

Running from 9:15am to 3:45pm in the Haro Room of UVic’s Cadboro Commons building, New Directions in Digital Scholarship offers a range of interdisciplinary presentations from Fine Arts faculty members plus guests from across campus, as well as a keynote address by guest Orion Lecturer Fabrizio Nevola of the University of Exeter.

“The faculty research symposium used to be just for us, but we’ve expanded out in the past few years and it’s been really cool to hear what other people in Fine Arts are doing,” says Harding.

The day is broken into three programs—Digital Initiatives in Fine Arts, Digital Pedagogy and Digital Initiatives in Fine Arts and Humanities—wrapping up with Dr. Nevola’s final presentation, “Seeing and Being in the Renaissance City: Digital Tools for a Context-aware History of Material Culture.”

Among the Fine Arts presenters are Kirk McNally (School of Music) on “Music Archives in Higher Education: A Case Study”, Associate Dean Eva Baboula with student researcher untitledElsie Mountford (Art History & Visual Studies) on “Design and Process in Building an Online Research Tool: the Ottoman architecture of southern Greece”, Dennine Dudley (Art History & Visual Studies) on “Dr. Strangeworld or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying, and Love the Technology”, Department of Writing chair and gamification expert David Leach on “Enter the Labyrinth: The promise and perils of video games in higher education”and School of Music director Susan Lewis Hammond with student researcher Bradley Pickard on “Searching for Claudio Monteverdi in Cyberspace: Digital Bibliography and Early Music.”

Also presenting are Kim McLean-Fiander (English) on “Something Old, Something New: Digital Innovations in Early Modern Scholarship” and Lisa Goddard (Libraries) with “A Second Look: Library Services to Support Digital Scholarship in the Visual Arts.”

AH FRS_2015Harding says she was inspired by attending a digital scholarship for departmental chairs seminar last summer, although she does admit that she’s “slower to embrace the potential” than some of the newer faculty members. She also points out that digital scholarship is particularly tricky in Art History, given the dynamic work being done by UVic’s own Dr. Ray Siemens in the Digital Humanities.

“We are working on digital projects in Art History, but we’re a bit shy about it because we don’t feel we’ve done anything really extraordinary yet,” she says. “No question, Digital Humanities is way ahead of us. But I wanted to create a space with this symposium where we could safely explore these issues without any performance expectations. Digital scholarship isn’t owned by any one area, as we see by the involvement of the English department and Libraries.”

Harding is particularly looking forward to the presentation by Lisa Goddard, recently appointed as an associate university librarian specializing in digital scholarship and strategy. “The question really is, how do we embrace multidisciplinary knowledges? I’ll be interested to see whether she means just art history or if she is indeed able to platform in a way that works for visual arts too.”

App_use_Florence_1_jpg-1024x576Another highlight of the day will be Nevola’s presentation. The creator of Hidden Florence, a website and free smartphone app that takes you on a unique tour of the Renaissance city through the eyes of a “contemporary” guide—a 1490s wool worker called Giovanni—Nevola’s intention is to use digital scholarship to allow visitors the chance to engage imaginatively with Renaissance Florence as a lived experience, while going to places that most tourist guides tend to neglect.

screen5-en-1397248071Department of Writing professor Kevin Kerr tackled a similar project with his Circa 1948 National Film Board collaboration with multimedia artist Stan Douglas, which allows viewers to virtually explore such former districts and Vancouver landmarks in as Hogan’s Alley and the original Hotel Vancouver in 1948.

“There are digital projects already happening in the fine arts, as evidenced by these presentations,” Harding says. She points to What Jane Saw, a reconstructed digital exhibition based on Jane Austen’s 1813 text of an art exhibit she visited, complete with room diagrams and art. The project was created by the University of Texas at Austin’s Department of English. “It’s extraordinary what people are doing with digital pedagogy.”

Department of Art History & Visual Studies Faculty Research Symposium
9:15am – 3:45pm Friday, Feb. 27, Haro Room, Cadboro Commons
All are welcome • Free • Lunch provided

Fine Arts at IdeaFest 2015

IdeaFest 2015_web buttonBack for its fourth year, UVic’s IdeaFest is celebrating ideas that can change everything. Organized by the Office of the Vice President Research, IdeaFest runs March 2 to 7 at various venues across campus and offers over 50 panels, workshops, exhibits, lectures and tours presented by UVic thinkers, innovators and artists. Join us as we explore dozens of world changing ideas!

Fine Arts is heavily involved IdeaFest once again, with five separate presentations as well as participation in two exhibits and the annual Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Award fair. (See our full-lineup below.) But with over 50 events at IdeaFest as a whole, the hardest part will be choosing which to attend. Keep in mind, all events are free (unless indicated) and no advance registration is required.

Graphic IdeasGraphic ideas @UVic
12:30-3pm Monday, March 2 • UVic Bookstore

If you love graphic novels, comics, or cartoons, don’t miss this comic book fair with presentations from students, profs and visitors! Writing professor Lee Henderson will be on hand to discuss his new comic strip-focused novel, The Road Narrows As You Go.  Come with your favourite graphic work for a discussion between readers and creators about graphic art. Organized by the departments of French, Curriculum & Instruction, Indigenous Law Research Unit, Hispanic & Italian Studies, Germanic & Slavic Studies, and Pacific & Asian Studies, with support from the Bookstore and Libraries.

new photo_testing 1,2,3Testing 1, 2, 3: New approaches to music courses in the 21st century
6-8pm Monday, March 2 • MacLaurin B037

From Beyoncé and the Beatles to jazz legends and rock divas, our School of Music is always looking for new approaches to its music courses. Through a look at course content, shifting tastes and audience demands in popular music, this illustrated lecture will demonstrate the need for innovative course design. Featuring Music professor Patrick Boyle and instructors Melissa Avdeeff and Colleen Eccleston.

Medieval Minutes
12:30-1:30pm Tuesday, March 3 • McPherson Library A003

Marking an evocative time in history, the medieval period lasted from the 5th to 15th century. Fast-forward to modern day and imagine a large circle of people coming from diverse areas of the campus and the community, some even dressed in medieval attire. All have a medieval story, memory or performance to share. Join the Medieval Studies Program and Art History & Visual Studies professors Jamie Kemp and Catherine Harding for this open-mic event—everyone wishing to step into the circle is welcome and has three minutes to be “medieval”.

The mythology of the mad genius: Five myths about creativity
4-6pm Tuesday, March 3 • MacLaurin D110

Mad GeniusWhere do ideas come from? Do you have to suffer for your art? And are all artists really that eccentric? Find out when moderator and Acting Dean of Fine Arts Lynne Van Luven deconstructs the myths of creativity in this zesty and informative panel discussion featuring one faculty member from each Fine Arts department: Christopher Butterfield (Music), Kevin Kerr (Writing), Brian Richmond (Theatre), Paul Walde (Visual Arts) and Erin Campbell (Art History & Visual Studies).

Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Awards symposium
11:30am-3pm Wednesday, March 4 • the SUB’s Michele Pujol room

Join us in celebrating the outstanding research produced by 110 Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Awards scholars. Fine Arts will be ably represented by Holly Cecil, Aimee Hawker & Laurie White (Art History & Visual Studies), Jerry Flexer & Cody Gles (Writing), Elizabeth Charters, Hovey Eyres & Olivia Prior (Visual Arts) and Chase Hiebert & Emma Leck (Theatre).

Liar Wins thumbnailThe best liar wins: Hidden information and role-playing
1-3pm Wednesday, March 4 • Phoenix Theatre Lobby

What happens when the audience becomes the performer? Join Theatre professor Anthony Vickery for a fun and dynamic role-playing event where audience members must make a decision with limited information—your figurative life is on the line as you engage in lies, acts of deception and leaps of faith. Members will engage in a battle of wits where they role play a villager in the midst of a crisis and ultimately try to out-perform their peers. This event involves participating in the performance as a villager with guided direction from a leader, followed by a discussion of the performative aspects of role playing.

March 4_Inside JM's DiaryInside JM’s Diary: Researching a WWI “History Mystery”
4:30-6pm Wednesday, March 4 • McPherson Library Special Collections A003

Join Art History & Visual Studies professor Marcus Millwright as he shares clues and tips from around the world that may help him solve a long-standing UVic historical mystery—the search for the true identity of the now-famous “JM,” the author and artist of a World War I diary. The two-volume diary, currently on display at his Legacy-Maltwood exhibit The Arts of World War I, will be on hand so participants can view first-hand over 130 watercolour illustrations and pen and ink drawings detailing the author’s life during the war.

Computers and art_thumbnailCan computers and art produce aesthetic work?
10-11:30am Friday, March 6 • Room 150 of the Visual Arts building

Visual Arts professor Lynda Gammon is joined by colleagues and students from the departments of Computer Science and Visual Arts to discuss projects using computation to produce artwork difficult to make with traditional media. This includes a Flowsnake algorithm that creates detailed single-line drawing with a digital pen, and a composition motivated lighting algorithm that renders animated light patterns from a single sketch. Feel inspired as artists and scientists discuss the symbiosis between the groups and give a demonstration of the creation process.

Light and Colour
Running March 2-7 • Audain Gallery, Visual Arts Building

Visual Arts instructor and exhibit organizer David Gifford invites you to discover a broader understanding of light and colour through a diverse showcase of student-led exhibits. The exhibit includes a presentation by James Tyrwhitt-Drake on particle wavelength duality, a demonstration on synaesthesia by Music student Gowan McQuarrie, and a workshop on LEDs by Olivia Prior. Interactive elements include a camera obscura tent, a rainbow competition and a device that tells the time through colour.

d. bradley muir, The Supernova Scene

d. bradley muir, The Supernova Scene

In Session – ONE
Running 10am – 4pm March 4-7 • Legacy Art Gallery

Step out of digital overload and explore the significance and power of photo-based art. Come explore a showcase of  new works by Visual Arts sessional instructors Megan Dickie, Laura Dutton, d. bradley muir and Tara Nicholson. Note: this event takes place off campus at the Legacy Art Gallery Downtown, 630 Yates St.

Please come out and support our Fine Arts faculty and students. And be sure to check out the rest of the fascinating options on view at IdeaFest 2015.  What’s your idea that will change the world?

IdeaFest 2015_web banner

 

“Brilliant” reviews for Lion in the Streets

It’s another strong batch of reviews for Phoenix Theatre’s latest production, Lion in the Streets. “Brilliant,” “brave and intrepid” and “tremendously successful” are just a few of the accolades that have been rolling in from local theatre reviewers.

Lion in the Streets director Conrad Alexandrowicz on CTV VI

Lion in the Streets director Conrad Alexandrowicz on CTV VI

Lion in the Streets is directed by Department of Theatre professor Conrad Alexandrowicz, who uses his extensive background in physical theatre to fuel his compelling direction of Canadian playwright Judith Thompson’s award-winning play. This is third production in Phoenix‘s 2014/15 season and continues until February 21.

CBC Radio’s On The Island theatre reviewer David Lennam was utterly effusive in his praise for the production, the cast and the direction, noting he could describe it in “one word: brilliant. It’s simply one of the best productions of the year.” Lennam praised the “really professional ensemble acting” and director Alexandrowicz‘s “lively, emotionaly gripping direction.” You can listen to the full review here.

The cast of Lion in the Streets (photo: David Lowes)

The cast of Lion in the Streets (photo: David Lowes)

Times Colonist theatre critic Adrian Chamberlain gave the show four out of five stars in this review, noting “the production, skilfully directed . . . offers a variant on magic realism. Scenes begin in a naturalistic manner, then shift to a nightmarish realm as Thompson plunges into unconscious worlds. This is where the playwright is at her best—her subterranean visions are unrelentingly honest, brave and highly imaginative . . .”

Chamberlain also praised Alexandrowicz’s direction. “The directorial approach, here and elsewhere, is tremendously successful . . . . Alexandrowicz has a thorough understanding of the play—the extra physicality adds much.” Summing up, Chamberlain felt “this is one of the most consistently strong student casts in recent memory . . . . this show will be enjoyed by open-minded, intelligent audiences. It’s not easily forgettable . . . . the excellence of the production makes it all worthwhile.”

The cast of Lion in the Streets (photo: David Lowes)

The cast of Lion in the Streets (photo: David Lowes)

And local theatre blogger Janis LaCouvee also felt the entire production was top drawer in this review, noting “cast and crew have succeeded beyond measure. Lion in the Streets is dark, disturbing, revelatory and illuminating—it demands an audience equally as brave and intrepid.”

LaCouvee also praised the design elements of the show, singling out Colette Habel’s “brooding sound design [which] immediately sets a mood of disquiet and unease, a portent of the tales to come” and Allan Stichbury’s set “[which] oozes muck and mire with sculpted floors and chairs.” She also noted Bryan Kenney‘s lighting (“dark, with narrow slivers of illumination, focusing attention”) and projections (“reminiscent of a child’s drawings, pulling the audience into a world seen through Isabelle’s eyes”), as well as costume designs by Emma Welsh which “bring in elements of the period to punctuate the often-monochromatic colour scheme.”

Lindsay Curl as 9-year-old Isobel in Lion in the Streets (photo: David Lowes)

Lindsay Curl as 9-year-old Isobel in Lion in the Streets (photo: David Lowes)

Lion in the Streets follows Isobel, a lost Portuguese girl wandering around her neighbourhood, frightened and looking for answers. She witnesses a series of dark moments in the intertwined and troubled lives of several strangers in her community as they try to hold on to their own humanity; by watching them, she finds understanding, forgiveness, and ultimately redemption. And although the scenes in Lion in the Streets are set in a Toronto neighbourhood, the play itself brings the audience to a place somewhere between reality and dreams, memories and fantasies.

The production also received strong previews in this Times Colonist article, in which director Alexandrowicz noted his cast immediately embraced playwright Thompson’s dark vision. “Listen, these kids, are you kidding me? Young people these days are, well, they’ve seen it all. They grow up very quickly in a digital age.” Adam Sawatsky of CTV Vancouver Island also offered a preview in this TV interview with Alexandrowicz (skip ahead to the 5:28 mark) and both director Alexandrowicz and set designer Stichbury were interviewed in this Oak Bay News piece. And Gordie Tupper of CHEK TV profiled the Lion in the Streets cast and interviewed Conrad Alexandrowicz in this clip.

Finally, click hear to listen to a recording of director Alexandrowicz’s pre-show lecture about the history of Judith Thompson’s award-winning play and his process of collaborating with the actors to develop this production.

Lion in the Streets continues until February 21 at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre. The show runs 8pm Mondays to Saturdays, with a 2pm matinee on Saturday, February 21. Tickets $14-$24.

Visiting Artist Jessica Eaton

The Department of Visual Arts is proud to present Canadian photographer Jessica Eaton as the latest guest to appear in their long-running Visiting Artist program. Recently described by the UK’s Guardian newspaper as “the hottest photographic artist to come out of Canada since Jeff Wall,” the Montreal-based Eaton is acclaimed for her innovative experiments in color photography.

An example of Jessica Eaton's unique photographic manipulations

An example of Jessica Eaton’s unique photographic manipulations

She’ll be presenting a free illustrated lecture of her work and practices at 8pm Wednesday, Feb 18 in room 162 of the Visual Arts building. All are welcome.

Working with large format cameras, she applies unique analog techniques to manipulate properties of light. By creating photographic practice experiments blending and splitting light using lenses and geometric forms, Eaton creates photographs whose subject is light itself.

In her vibrant images she pushes the rhetoric of abstraction to provoke questions about perceptual experience. “[Analog photography] doesn’t have to be intrinsically bound to the visible world,” she says. “It is full of possibility.”

As noted in the Guardian article, Eaton uses light the way other painters mix colours and her images offer referential nods to colour field painting and the likes of Bridget Riley, Josef Albers and Sol LeWitt. And while her images may look like they came out of a Photoshop experiment, they’re actually the result of technical expertise and “hit-and-miss, old-school technology.”

Jessica Eaton in her studio (photo: Roger LeMoyne, from Canadian Art)

Jessica Eaton in her studio (photo: Roger LeMoyne, from Canadian Art)

“My fuck-up rate is pretty high,” she admits. “On average, one work out of every 200 sheets of film. I think of it as a kind of strategy game. There is a lot of waiting and concentration involved.”

Born in Regina and trained at Vancouver’s Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, Eaton has shown across Canada and internationally, with recent solo exhibitions in Toronto, Los Angeles and Cleveland, and a solo show at the Photographers’ Gallery/The Hospital Club in London, UK. She is represented by Jessica Bradley (Toronto), Higher Pictures (New York), and M + B Gallery (Los Angeles).

So far this year, the Visiting Artist series has welcomed the likes of Josée Drouin-Brisebois, Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at the National Gallery of Canada, and sculptor Michel de Broin. Coming up next is Nigel Prince, executive director of Vancouver’s
Contemporary Art Gallery (March 4) and painter Melanie Authier (March 18).

 

Celebrated Polish poet spends week on campus

One of the most talented and celebrated younger poets in Europe, the award-winning Tomasz Różycki will be on campus from February 14 to 20, thanks to the collaborative efforts of UVic’s departments of Writing and Germanic & Slavic Studies.

Tomas Różycki

Tomas Różycki

“He really is one of the most remarkable younger poets in Europe,” says Writing professor and tour organizer Tim Lilburn. “He’s published scads of books and they’re almost automatically being translated in English, which is quite rare. He’s really attracting a lot of attention.”

A critic and translator living in the Silesian city of Opole, Tomasz Różycki has published nine books since the mid-1990s, most notably 2004’s book-length Twelve Stations and 2006’s Colonies—both of which are multiple award-winners. His work has been translated into six languages and he is a jury member of the Koscielski Prize (Lausanne) and Prix du Jeune Ecrivain (France).

colonies-cover-imageMira Rosenthal’s 2013 English translation of Colonies was also long-listed for the 2014 PEN Poetry in Translation Award, shortlisted for both the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize (UK), and won the Northern California Book Award for Poetry in Translation. Różycki has also been nominated twice for the NIKE Prize (2005 & 2007), and once for the Paszport Polityki, Poland’s top literary award.

Lilburn says he first ran across Colonies at a Seattle book store in 2013 and was immediately captivated. “I thought, ‘Whoa—what’s this?’,” he recalls. They then met at an international poetry festival in Hong Kong. “I was really impressed by him,” Lilburn says. “He seemed to be a perfect fit for us here at UVic. There’s also a lot of interest in his visit by the local Polish community as well.”

Open WordDuring his February 14 to 20 week on campus, Różycki will be meeting with faculty, students and the local poetry community, as well as doing a number of readings. First up is his appearance at the long-running Open Word: Readings & Ideas series at 7:30pm Tuesday, Feb 17, at Open Space (510 Fort, by donation). Following a reading of his work—in Polish, followed by English translations (“his English is serviceable, but the translations are lovely,” says Lilburn)—who will also conduct a live interview with Różycki after the reading.

Różycki’s next presentation is with the Department of Germanic & Slavic Studies, speaking on “History and Memory in Eastern European Cultures” at 3:30pm Thursday, Feb 19 in Clearihue C112. “His family comes from Eastern Poland, and most were uprooted after WWII and transplanted into Silesia while Germans were moved further west,” explains Lilburn. “That was his parent’s and grandparent’s generation, but it really shapes his work; you can tell he’s afflicted with nostalgia.”

Finally, Różycki will present an Orion Lecture for the Faculty of Fine Arts on “Post-war Polish Poetry (or, To Write a Poem After the End of the World)” from 3 to 4:30pm on Friday, Feb 20 in room 103 of the Fine Arts Building (free, all are welcome).

“It’s good to bring international poets of this prominence to the city,” concludes Lilburn, himself an internationally recognized poet of note. noting the 2009 visit by renowned Chinese poet Xi Chuan as one of UVic’s Visiting Scholars. “We’re all quite excited about his visit.”

 

Notes in motion, and emotion

While many teachers may have words which inspire them, the life, teaching and research of School of Music professor Adam Con are all guided by an apparently simple motto: “Music is more than notes in motion; music is notes in emotion.”

New School of Music professor Adam Con

New School of Music professor Adam Con

But as with every motto, there’s more going on here than first meets the eye. “It’s all about being comfortable with the uncomfortable,“ Con explains. “All things are living, like language is living. Music is the same—you adjust to the moment, how the emotions are affecting you, how the music is working or not working. In Western culture, we think of music being static notes on the page, that we practice them to make them perfect and then perform them, and that’s it. But that doesn’t really make good music.”

The latest professor to join the School of Music, Dr. Adam Con is also a leader in the advocacy of music education, a conductor and a respected teacher of both choral conducting and Tai Chi Chuan. A third-generation Chinese Canadian, his holistic approach to choral music uses a unique blend of kinesthetic whole-body movement and Eastern philosophy to inspire singers of all ages in mind, body and spirit. Con also combines both his Tai Chi Chuan practice and neuroscience research in his choral work.

“It’s all about the flow and balance of harmony, the energy between a singer and conductor as we pass it back and forth,” he says. “The energy relates to how sounds are conveyed, so there’s a connection to what the singer emotes to the audience. My area of research is how neuroscience relates to motor neurons: how the human brain basically fires its synapses as a singer watches a conductor, and a conductor manipulates a singer’s brain, because it’s firing based on what actions they view . . . it’s in that creative process the magic happens.”

Con will be expounding on his practice and research when he presents the latest Dean’s Lecture at 12:30pm Friday, February 13, at the Central Library on Broughton Street. Hosted by UVic Continuing Studies, his free presentation—The Three Components of the Golden Elixir: Mirror Neurons, Tai Chi Chuan and Choral Singing—will explain how he combines and applies his research in those three key elements to provide a powerful elixir fostering a better quality of life.

Learning new things is one of the things Con likes best about the academic environment. “The richness of life is about connecting with other people, and finding your common interests,” he concludes. “It’s about the bigger questions in life—it’s more than about working across disciplines, it’s about thinking beyond our own expertise. How we intersect allows us to find answers to questions that are elusive to us and our society. It’s that constant openness to the possibility and the chance to see what serendipity can bring to the experience.”

A Day in the Life: Iona Hubner

If proof of a rich life is the cultural treasures by which you surround yourself, then Iona Hubner is wealthy beyond measure. As the Visual Resources Curator for the recently renamed Department of Art History & Visual Studies, Hubner has been immersed in the vast and bountiful cultural riches of the entire world for the past 19 years. Her daily task? Assisting the Art History faculty with the visual resources essential to their research and teaching.

Art History's Iona Hubner (UVic Photo Services)

Art History’s Iona Hubner (UVic Photo Services)

On this particular day, Hubner’s desk is cluttered with art books encompassing 15th century Burgundy, the camera lucida, Renaissance tapestries, world architecture and British artist David Hockney. One of her computer screens is always open to DIDO (the Digital Image Database Online she manages for the Faculty of Fine Arts), and the numerous cabinets in her visual resource collection hold over 150,000 photographic slides—outdated technology, perhaps, but many of which still offer unparalleled images ranging from neolithic cave art to rare Qu’ran pages that cannot be found online.

“I sincerely love what I do,” Hubner croons. “It’s always changing, and I love the history in the art. That’s what our department gives people: that extra added visual literacy of looking at the world and seeing it in different ways.”

changing with the times

That ability to see the world differently is what drew the Victoria born-and-raised Hubner away from an intended Classics degree and into Art History after taking a single undergrad elective back in 1990. “One thing I liked—and still like—about our department is the cultural diversity,” she says. “It’s not just the European canon: we’re one of the only places in Canada that specializes in Islamic art, for example. That’s important for visual literacy, because we’re not always referencing European traditions.”

Visual ResourcesAn initial student workstudy position led to being hired after graduation as the Assistant Curator of the Slide Library in 1996—a title that changed to Visual Resources with the transition to digital in 2004 and the development of DIDO in 2005. But with over three millennia of global art, architecture and material culture at her fingertips, much of Hubner’s time this past decade has been spent converting some 64,000 of those slides to digital images.

Indeed, the former History in Art department’s 2014 name change to Art History & Visual Studies reflects the changes in both society and pedagogy. “It’s essential for people to increase their visual literacy,” Hubner insists. “We need to understand the meaning behind an image—why it was chosen, what it means, what it represents—as well as the past cultures it references.”

Art historians in action

Art historians in action

From video games and album covers to costumes, fabrics, stamps, coins, ceramics, architecture, films—the list is endless, really—she reminds us of the importance of an artist’s choices. “If you just see an image as a pretty picture or an interesting design, you’re missing so much. Looking at contemporary artists like Ai Wei Wei and being able to reference back to the Rennaissance or Russian Construcitivism enriches everything.”

Not surprisingly, if you bump into Hubner off-campus, she’s likely to be doing the same thing she does at work: looking at art. Haunting galleries and museums is still a passion, even after 20 years of art management. But rather than be stymied by the changes and challenges of digitalization (“Talk about lost art forms—I know how to mount a slide behind glass,” she quips), the eminently good-natured Hubner sees shifting technology as a means of making resources more accessible. “Because art history is based so much on the visual, and visual literacy so important, it’s essential to have a functional visual database. It’s what our faculty use in their teaching all the time.”

digital scholarship

Highway Signpost MentorshipShifting digital frontiers in both society and academia is what the Art History & Visual Studies department’s annual Faculty Research Symposium will be focusing on come February 27. “New Directions in Digital Scholarship” offers a look at how scholarship is being challenged, transformed and expanded. Featuring a keynote by the University of Exeter’s Dr. Fabrizio Nevola, all are welcome to hear a range of speakers and guests exploring these questions and more in the Haro Room of Cadboro Commons.

For Hubner, digitalization is primarily about future preservation. “Technology always changes,” she says. “In the past 10 years, we’ve gone from slides to digital; I can’t even imagine what we’ll be using in 10 more. But for people studying at UVic, how else would you be able to see these particular images and sites? You can’t just pop to the museum in Dijon on the weekend—but you can look at their images in DIDO.”

Art History’s Visual Resource Collection remains unique on campus for both its size and scope. “Some of our slides are so valuable they can actually be thought of as primary resources,” she explains. “One of our professors, Dr. Marcus Millwright, does a lot of research in Syria and he has images in our collection are of things that no longer exist, due to the conflict.”

Ironically, for someone who spends her days digitalizing images for online use, Hubner’s final thought is particularly poignant. “A local collection is an essential academic tool—much like a solid campus library—as it specifically reflects the faculty’s research and teaching here,” she says with a sly chuckle. “And, despite what people think, not everything is available on Google.”

This piece was originally published in the February 2015 issue of UVic’s Ring newspaper

Victoria Film Fest features Fine Arts filmmakers

Like spring rains and sleepy groundhogs, the Victoria Film Festival is back and is once again featuring a number of contrbutions from the Faculty of Fine Arts. As well as representation on the VFF jury by current Writing MFA playwriting candidate Leah Callen and recent MFA filmmaker Connor Gaston, a number of faculty and alumni filmmakers are well represened in this year’s fest, running Feb 6-15 at various venues around the city.

Who is Theatre's Leslie Bland with Alex Trebec?

Who is Theatre’s Leslie Bland with Alex Trebec?

Up first is the feature documentary Gone South: How Canada Invented Hollywood, co-directed by Department of Theatre alumnus and instructor Leslie D. Bland. Created with bestselling local humourist Ian Ferguson (author of How To Be A Canadian), Gone South seeks to expose the dirtiest secret in all of Hollywood—who is secretly Canadian?

A hilarious history of Canada’s contributions to Hollywood from the early 20th century onwards, Gone South documents the role Canadians played in founding Tinsel Town, and the roles Canadians continue to play to this day. From Alex Trebek and Monty Hall to Neve Campbell, Howie Mandel, Tommy Chong and Alan Thicke, Gone South features funny and frank interviews with some of the most famous actors, directors, musicians and producers who share this secret heritage. No surprise, Canadians are everywhere in Los Angeles . . . you just have to know where to look.

This is another kudo for Bland, who was recently awarded a UVic Continuing Sessional Lecturer Scholarship from the Learning and Teaching Centre. Gone South screens at 6pm Friday, Feb 6, at the Vic Theatre. Read more about it in this Globe and Mail article and in this piece from the Times Colonist.

Bradley on the set of Two 4 One  (photo: Arnold Lim)

Bradley on the set of Two 4 One (photo: Arnold Lim)

Up next is Department of Writing professor Maureen Bradley and her transgender romantic-comedy Two 4 One. Frequent readers of this blog will have followed Bradley’s debut feature film from its inception at the National Screen Institute’s Features First initiative through its filming during her study leave in early 2014 and its world premiere in Calgary and popular screenings at follow-up festivals. Just before their appearance at the VFF, Two 4 One will be the opening gala at the Available Light Film Festival in Whitehorse, Yukon—Canada’s largest Film Festival north of 60—an event at which Bradley and producer/Fine Arts staffer Daniel Hogg will be on hand.

two 4 oneA bittersweet romantic comedy, Two 4 One finds its transgender hero in an unimaginable predicament when ex-lovers Miriam and Adam have an ill-advised one night stand that sees them both end up pregnant. Featuring a standout performance from Gavin Crawford (This Hour Has 22 Minutes)—who was recently nominated for an ACTRA Award for his role in Two 4 One—Bradley feels the fact that she could write and shoot her film in Victoria is a strong indicator of the growth of the local film scene.

“There are a lot of amazing filmmakers locally now, and many are coming out of the Writing department,” she says, noting the likes of alumni Connor Gaston, Stacey Ashworth, Amanda Verhagen, Jason Bourque and Scott Amos. “It’s engaged learning at its finest; my students learn so much from being on set in my classes. Plus, they’re good writers. The department creates great poets, great fiction writers, great CNF and now we’re getting great screenwriters.”

You can hear Bradley discuss her film on CBC’s All Points West “Creative Class” column with Amanda Farrell-Low (skip ahead to 4:58), as well as in this CFAX 1070 interview with Pamela McCall (at the 48:00 mark).

Two 4 One has a Valentine’s Day screening at 6:30pm Saturday, Feb 14, at the Odeon  and noon Sunday, Feb 15, at the Vic Theatre. Bradley and Hogg will be attendance at both screenings for a post-show Q&A.

Connor Gaston's Godhead

Connor Gaston’s Godhead

Speaking of alumni filmmakers, Connor Gaston recently wrapped his own locally lensed debut feature, The Devout, and his intriguing short film Godhead will be seen at the VFF. Gaston has been making a name for himself of late thanks to the popularity of short films like the award-winning (and UVic created) ’Til Death.

Godhead will screen as part of the “Grander Schemes” short film program at 8:45pm Saturday, Feb. 15, at the Vic Theatre.

The triple-alumni creared Gord's Brother

The triple-alumni creared Gord’s Brother

The busy alumni filmmaking team of Jeremy Lutter, Ben Rollo and Daniel Hogg are back again with their latest short film, Gord’s Brother. This same team of Writing grads earned film fest kudos back in 2011 with their robot charmer Joanna Makes A Friend and will now debut Gord’s Brother—created with funding they won through Harold Greenberg Fund’s Shorts-to-Features program. Lutter directs, Rollo writes and Hogg produces what’s described as is described as a “10-minute fantasy” in which “the protagonist discovers his baby brother is a monster, forcing him to visit the City of Monsters, where lessons are learned.”

Gord’s Brother screens as part of the short film program “Tense Times” at noon Saturday, Feb. 14, at the Vic Theatre.

Congratulations to all UVic filmmakers for their continuing outstanding work!