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.”

 

Lion in the Streets moves with the world inside

What happens when we combine movement and dance with complex emotions, darker realities and unhappy experiences? Department of Theatre professor Conrad Alexandrowicz uses his extensive background in physical theatre for his direction of Canadian playwright Judith Thompson’s award-winning play, Lion in the Streets—the third production in Phoenix Theatre‘s 2014/15 season.

Director Conrad Alexandrowicz (photo: David Lowes)

Director Conrad Alexandrowicz (photo: David Lowes)

Alexandrowicz has always loved the powerful combination of dance and theatre working together. With a BFA in Dance and an MFA in Directing, he is also the founding artistic director of Wild Excursions Performance and, since 2008, the Theatre department’s professor of movement and physical theatre. Alexandrowicz was interested in staging Lion in the Streets for the current season, and wanted to explore the possibilities for impactful movement and choreography in this challenging piece. “Theatre provides a forum of common experience—and really good theatre should ask difficult questions and challenge audiences at the very foundation of their beliefs,” says Alexandrowicz. “It should shake you to the core.”

Learn more about Alexandrowicz’s vision when he discusses his collaborative directing process in a special pre-show lecture at 7pm, Friday February 13.

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.

Read more about the Phoenix production of Lion in the Streets in this Times Colonist article, which also features an interview with playwright Judith Thompson. And both director Alexandrowicz and set designer Allan Stichbury were interviewed in this Oak Bay News piece.

“At first glance, this play seemed to be a series of fairly realistic scenes contained within a completely non-realistic frame, amounting to a kind of allegory,” says Alexandrowicz. “But then I realized that nothing about this play is realistic. This sits well with me as, coming from a background in dance and text-based performance, I am compelled by the possibilities of scripts that emphasize the physicality of the actor.”

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

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

Prior to rehearsals, Alexandrowicz consulted the playwright herself to talk about the real-life inspirations for the play. Thompson described the personal memory that sparked the need to tell this story and give voice to the victims of horrible crime: while living in Toronto in 1983, a nine year-old girl named Sharin Morningstar Keenan was abducted and murdered in her neighbourhood. “We lived on Brunswick Avenue at that time, very near the park where she was taken,” Thompson recalls. “All night we heard the police van’s pleas: if anyone has seen a nine year old  girl . . . and while we listened, she was being murdered a block away. That is inscribed on my soul.”

It is dark memories like this that remain with Thompson and inspired her to pen Lion in the Streets in 1990, which tackles the incredibly challenging subject material with a sense of poetry and allegory. “Yes, the play portrays violence, but it strives to put it in to a context, a continuum, in which the emotional violence within different relationships has the potential to lead all the way to murder,” notes Alexandrowicz. “That smaller interpersonal and emotional violence have the capacity to generate lethal physical violence across generations.”

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

Dynamic movement is a big part of Lion in the Streets (photo: David Lowes)

Going into the rehearsal process, Alexandrowicz remained open to the many possibilities of collaborating with his cast. Many directors approach a play with a very clear idea of what the final product should look like and how the characters should talk and act. Conrad chose to begin with a clear idea of only the themes of each scene and let the specifics arise out of the collaboration with the actors, working together to improvise and experiment with movements and characterization to mould the final product. “This is the way I work all the time”, says Alexandrowicz, who has a strong background in devising new plays from poetry and text. “If you’re not collaborative you’re missing out because everyone has such great ideas.”

While this style of creation is the norm for Alexandrowicz, it was a whole new world for many of the student actors. “Conrad really encouraged neutrality going in, which was absolutely terrifying as a young actor”, says student Lindsay Curl, who plays the nine-year-old Isobel. “Each rehearsal was like trying on different approaches to the character until we found one that fit.” Student Levi Schneider, who plays multiple characters throughout the play, says that the creative process could be challenging at times. “There is a lot of responsibility as an actor. It was sometimes difficult to know which improvisational choices were beneficial to the themes and which should be put on the back burner.”

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

Recreating an Ophelia moment in Lion in the Streets (photo: David Lowes)

After six weeks of rehearsals, the production has captured that poetic sense of existing between reality and dreams, memories and fantasies. In many scenes, several actors move together as an ensemble or tableau to portray the emotional state of one individual character. “I wanted the actors to animate the interiority, the inner landscape, of the character who’s talking and try to make physical their unspoken internal words,” explains Alexandrowicz.

And these internal thoughts – made manifest on stage through the actions of the cast – also help to emphasize the humanity of these characters, casting a light of hope on the darker challenging stories, that hopefully will, as Alexandrowicz says, “shake you to the core.”

This story was written by Leah McGraw, a second year student in both Theatre and Writing.

Lion in the Streets
February 12-21, 2015
UVic’s Phoenix Theatre
8pm Mondays to Saturdays, with a 2pm matinee on Saturday, February 21
Tickets $14-$24

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

Following her bliss: Distinguished Alumni Mercedes Bátiz-Benét

She’s the artistic director of Puente Theatre, the cinematographer for Look At What the Light Did Now—the Juno Award-winning documentary about Canadian singing sensation Feist—and recently won the Canadian Stage Award for Direction at the SummerWorks Festival with her acclaimed play El Jinete: A Mariachi Opera. By day, she’s the poetry, fiction and non-fiction editor at the publishing house Bayeux Arts, and her first children’s book Lunar is forthcoming later this year. Now, Department of Writing graduate Mercedes Bátiz-Benét can add UVic’s Distinguished Alumni Award to her impressive list of credits.

Mercedes Bátiz-Benét, 2015 Fine Arts Distinguished Alumni, (photo: Peter Pokorny)

Mercedes Bátiz-Benét, 2015 Fine Arts Distinguished Alumni, (photo: Peter Pokorny)

“Personally and professionally, it means the world to be named one of this year’s Distinguished Alumni. I am deeply honoured,” says Bátiz-Benét from her family home in Mexico. “There were so many people who told me I wouldn’t last a semester at UVic and in Canada, that I would never be able to do a writing degree in another language, that I had no business doing so and that I wouldn’t have the courage, discipline, and tenacity to endure a life in the arts.”

“And when I think of the girl I was on my first day of university—frightened, overwhelmed, alone, and completely out of place—I don’t know why I didn’t believe all of that myself. But receiving this award has given me the opportunity to look back and realize how much and how hard I’ve worked to be where I am today, of how privileged I am to have an academic background in the arts and in philosophy, and to have a life, a fulfilling career and job in the arts.”

the sum of her achievements

10553522_815192998504382_4015896536161607713_nTruly a renaissance woman, Bátiz-Benét—who speaks several languages—is an ideal choice as this year’s Distinguished Alumni for the Faculty of Fine Arts. Beyond her role with Puente Theatre, productions of her own plays include Faust: Ignis Fatuus (part of 2005’s international Faustfest), Cruel Tears/Lágrimas Crueles for Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre, the roundly lauded El Jinete: A Mariachi Opera, which she wrote and directed, and, as co-writer, The Secret Sorrow of Hatchet Jack MacPhee for Caravan Farm Theatre, The Erotic Anguish of Don Juan for the Old Trout Puppet Workshop, as well as both The Umbrella and Gruff for the Kaleidoscope Family Theatre Festival.

Alumni Week 2015—the eighth annual spotlight on the positive impact of more than 100,000 UVic grads—runs from February 1-7. In addition to the Distinguished Alumni Awards, there are over a dozen other events including lectures, workshops, reunions and a featured evening with Chancellor Shelagh Rogers. “Some of our most meaningful connections happen through education—and this is true for both students and professors,” says Dr. Lynne Van Luven, Acting Dean of Fine Arts. “To be alumnus is to be part of something vital:  memories, friendships, awakenings, ideas. Alumni Week captures all such excitement.”

“It’s an immense honour to be recognized by my faculty in my professional life, and in my life after university; I am truly humbled,” says Bátiz-Benét. “The 10 years I spent at UVic were some of the most fruitful, fulfilling and difficult years of my life, and the most important years of my formation as a woman, an artist, and a human being. I absolutely loved every second of my life at UVic, and to be now named one of the Distinguished Alumni is like putting a giant bow on the immense gift of my academic and professional lives. I love what I do, and I wouldn’t be able to do it had I not attended every class, read every book I read and engaged in every discussion I did.  It fills me with pleasure and joy to know that my faculty and my alma mater feel proud about who I’ve become through their help.”

Mercedes speaking at the Distinguished Alumni Awards  (UVic Photo Services)

Mercedes speaking at the Distinguished Alumni Awards (UVic Photo Services)

Joining Bátiz-Benét at the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Awards Night on Wednesday, February 4, at the Hotel Grand Pacific will be the other noted thinkers, changers and difference-makers being honoured: Victoria Wells (Continuing Studies), Anne Tenning (Education), Josh Blair (Engineering), Kim Henderson (Human & Social Development), Lucas Aykroyd (Humanities), Douglas S. White (Law), David Day (Libraries), Dr. Tom Rimmer (Medical Sciences), Robert Beecroft (Science) and Susan Cartwright (Social Sciences).

a Mexicanadian perspective

Born and raised in Mexico, Bátiz-Benét moved to Canada in 1997 to attend UVic, where she earned a BFA in Writing (both poetry and drama), as well as a BA (with honours) in Philosophy. She also completed a Diploma in Film Production from the Pacific Film & New Media Academy. Approaching expression from as many angles as possible, she has worked as writer, dramaturge, theatre director, translator, adapter, actor, puppeteer, multi-media artist, screenwriter, film and video editor, cinematographer and director. Not that any of that was the plan, of course.

A scene from her mariachi opera, El Jinete

A scene from her mariachi opera, El Jinete

“I never intended to live in Canada,” she says. “But I chose UVic because of its writing program and because it was on an island in the Pacific. The prospect of studying and reading the great masters and thinkers, while being able to develop my own writing amidst a forest of pines by the ocean, was a dream come true.”

“Moving to an entirely different culture, language, way of thinking, and country, did wonders for my growth as a person and as an artist,” she continues. “I was able to find out who I was and what I was capable of doing away from the comfort and security of home, family, my culture, and my language.  I feel very grateful and lucky I was able to study as many things as I did, and to learn and experiment with as many things as I did.“

As one of the many international students who contribute to UVic’s rich tapestry of success, Bátiz-Benét never regrets choosing to come here to learn. “I think it’s paramount for local audiences to learn from other cultures, especially in the multicultural experiment that is Canada. “We need to learn from each other so we have a greater and better understanding of what it means to be human,” she says. “Every culture experiences life from a different angle, from a different point of view and, in my experience, the more points of view you have, the more your understanding expands and deepens.  I have a Mexican way of understanding and viewing the world, as well as a Canadian one, which enables me to develop a third point of view—a ‘Mexicanadian’ one, if you like.”

Bátiz-Benét and Brian Richmond (photo: Times Colonist)

Bátiz-Benét and Brian Richmond (photo: Times Colonist)

Blue Bridge Artist Director and Department of Theatre professor Brian Richmond worked with Bátiz-Benét in 2014 on Cruel Tears/Lágrimas Crueles. “Mercedes is scary smart,” he says. “I have not only had the great privilege of working with her in Mexico and Canada on two very different productions of the musical Cruel Tears/ Lágrimas Crueles, but have watched her remarkable work with Puente Theatre with admiration and respect. She is an amazing asset for the Victoria, British Columbian and Canadian theatre community.”

exploring many paths

But how did she go from her original plans to specialize in poetry and journalism, to a career in theatre and film? “I actually found theatre and film during my time at UVic,” she explains. “Writing 100 changed my life—not only did I have to write poems, but also a play for the very first time, and a short story. It opened my eyes to new worlds of possibility, learning and expression, and when the time came to choose my major, I couldn’t let theatre go.”

Bátiz-Benét's cinematographic work helped this Feist film win a Juno Award in 2012

Bátiz-Benét’s cinematographic work helped this Feist film win a Juno Award in 2012

Deciding on a double-major (poetry and drama), Bátiz-Benét was able to direct a staged reading of one of her plays at the Phoenix. “I knew then and there that I wanted to write and, one day, direct plays. I was hooked; I wanted to do anything and everything that had to do with theatre. Similarly, it was in a writing for film class that I made my first ‘film’ and, for the very first time, had hands-on experience in that field.”

Switching her minor from journalism to film studies, she then took as many literature and film classes as she could in other departments—including Germanic and Slavonic Studies, Latin-American Studies and French Studies. And, she says, her Philosophy degree provided her with the necessary tools and foundation needed to expand her own thinking, and creativity, as well as developing the capacity to doubt, question and find her way through her own thoughts, art and life.

“I am deeply grateful to UVic for allowing me to discover who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do,” she says. “I developed as an artist beyond anything I could’ve imagined on my first day of university, and have grown to be the person that I am, with the life that I have, thanks to everything I learned and experienced in my 10 years of full-time studies at UVic.  Without my BFA, I never would’ve come to know these worlds, and I would’ve become a very different person.”

following her bliss

CRUELTEARS_001While Bátiz-Benét says it would be “impossible to list all the invaluable advice” she received from fellow students, staff and professors, when asked for one notable piece of advice she received while a student, she singles out two of her “greatest professors, mentors and friends:” Derk Wynand and the late Brian Hendricks, both of the Department of Writing. “Derk always told me to write about what I knew, and to always keep learning, so that I could in turn expand my writing,” she recalls. “And Brian told me to follow my bliss—words to live by.  I try to follow their advice every day and with everything that I do.”

On the flip side of that, what’s one piece of advice she’d offer current Fine Arts students? “Never close yourself to learning, work hard every day and, in the words of Brian Hendricks, follow your bliss.”

When asked what the key is to succeeding in the arts, Bátiz-Benét admits her own life continues to be a work in progress.

“I don’t really know what the key to succeeding is . . . but I think the key to creating in the arts is to work hard and persevere, to always be open to new ideas, possibilities, and learning, and to follow an idea through to its logical conclusion,” she says. “Our curiosity, our willingness to dive into the unknown, our love and our need to create, understand and express an idea—those are the things that make us artists. The blank page is a frightening thing, but if one pushes through with the aid of passion, and perseverance, one can discover infinite marvels and possibilities beyond our wildest dreams.”

She advises current Fine Arts students to not be nervous about their chosen paths, but to instead follow their passion, work hard and persevere—and trust the rest will fall into place.

Mercedes with Acting Dean of Fine Arts Lynne Van Luven (UVic Photo Services)

Mercedes with Acting Dean of Fine Arts Lynne Van Luven (UVic Photo Services)

“There’s no doubt about the ‘risky’ nature of a career in the arts—not only due to budgetary constraints and funding cutbacks, but also because of the saturation of the field, scarce job opportunities, and the huge importance of being in the right place at the right time,” she cautions. “Money and security are not what artists should be after, but experimentation, creativity and the creation of meaning . . . . We should be worried about ideas, stories, images, feelings, concepts, thoughts and dreams, about the intangible. Money and stability are not what stories are made of. Don’t be afraid; instead, invent, experiment, learn, be willing to fail and push through to the other side.”

Looking back, Bátiz-Benét concludes with a simple but evocative thought befitting her latest honour as a Distinguished Alumni. “I graduated with a BFA because I fell in love with more than one field in the arts, and I wanted to begin a journey into the unknown,” she says. “And what better way is there to create, than to thrust yourself into the unknown?

Fine Arts Wellness Day

Even though much of academic life is focused on classes, assignments and performances, it’s also important to maintain a sense of wellness. Physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing will keep you in top form to meet the demands of life as a busy university student. It’s especially tough here in the Fine Arts, where we also have the added pressures that come with a creative life—rehearsing for and giving performances, for example, or presenting our creative work to general audiences.

Wellness Day 2015Fortunately, UVic has a full range of wellness resources to assist students and help them maintain a healthy balance in life. From recreation and fitness opportunities to counselling and spiritual services, we are committed to your health and success.

As such, Fine Arts is proud to be hosting our own Wellness Day from 10:30am-1:30pm on Wednesday, February 4. Organized and hosted by the School of Music, there will be a full range of information, drop-in sessions and services for you to discover in the MacLaurin B-Wing lobby & various rooms. Here’s what’s lined up:

• You can speak to friendly and helpful representatives from Health Services, Counselling Services, the Resource Centre for Students with a Disability, Multifaith Services and Peer Helping during our Resource Fair. They’ll all be happy to provide information about their various on-campus wellness options. That runs throughout the event, from 10:30am-1:30pm in the B-Wing lower lobby (downstairs)

puppy• Henri Lock from Multifaith Services will be leading a meditation session from 11am-noon in Mac B115—the upstairs lounge just outside the Phillip T Young Recital Hall.

• What’s the best way to de-stress? Cuddle with a puppy! Yep, you can get some therapy dog lovin’ from 10:30am-12:30pm in B037 (downstairs)

• Take in some free yoga! Two separate sessions will be happening at the same time, 12:30-1:30pm: one with an instructor from Athletics & Recreation in the Phillip T Young Recital Hall, and one with Theatre alumna & sessional instructor Shona Athey in the Phoenix Theatre movement studio. Be sure to bring your own mat!

Of course, all Fine Arts students, faculty and staff are welcome to attend all of these sessions.

wellness_wheel_1As Dr. Lara Lauzon of UVic’s School of Exercise Science, Physical and Health Education told the well-attended January 21 lunchtime wellness session, For the WELLth of It, “Wellness is something you shape for yourself, wellness helps you reach your potential. And healthy individuals help to make a healthy community.”

Please join us for this beneficial day for all—a great run-up to Reading Break!