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

Featured

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

 

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.”

 

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!

 

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?

Top 10 Fine Arts stories for 2014

2014 sees the end of another busy year here at the Faculty of Fine Arts, where there was always something afoot. Five departments and hundreds of annual concerts, theatrical productions, readings, exhibits and lectures by visiting artists, academics and professionals means Fine Arts is always one of the busiest faculties on campus when it comes to community engagement. Here’s a quick wrap-up featuring some—but certainly not all—of the leading Fine Arts stories of the year.

“Hear us roar!”

UVic President Jamie Cassels and Vikes mascot Thunder present Rally Song winner Colleen Eccleston with her iPad  (photo: Armando Turo)

UVic President Jamie Cassels and Vikes mascot Thunder present Rally Song winner Colleen Eccleston with her iPad (photo: Armando Turo)

To the cheers of a tight game and the applause of a packed house, the winner of the School of Music / Vikes Nation Rally Song Contest was decided at the Vikes men’s basketball game way back on January 10—and first prize went to the School of Music’s own songwriting instructor Colleen Eccleston. With 18 submissions from across campus—including entries by students, faculty and administration alike—the top three finalists were performed live at half-time by fourth-year Music student Josh Lovell. Eccleston picked up a brand new iPad for her winning song, “Vikes Nation” (“We are Vikes Nation, hear us roar!”) as chosen by judges UVic President Jamie Cassels, Director of Athletics and Recreation Clint Hamilton, Director of School of Music Dr. Susan Lewis Hammond and varsity athlete Kyle Irvine. Attendees now hear a recorded version of Lovell’s rendition before the starting lineups of each Vikes home game.

On the button blanket

The button blanket receiving its inaugural dance at UVic's First Peoples House (Photo Services)

The button blanket receiving its inaugural dance at UVic’s First Peoples House (Photo Services)

It may have been nicknamed “the big button blanket project” by Art History & Visual Studies, but the creation and subsequent exhibit of Adasla: The Movement of Hands at the Legacy Galley garnered a great deal of attention in the community and the media. Both the blanket’s inaugural dance at the opening ceremonies of UVic’s annual Diversity Research Forum in February at First People’s House and the accompanying exhibit—featuring a special contemporary performance collaboration between Governor General’s Award-winning performance artist Rebecca Belmore, former Audain professor for the Department of Visual Arts, and blanket co-creator, Tahtan Nation artist Peter Morin—represented one of the strongest examples of community engagement of the year.

A name you can trust

Chancellor-designate Shelagh Rogers meets the media. Credit: UVic Photo Services

Chancellor-designate Shelagh Rogers meets the media. Credit: UVic Photo Services

It was the kind of news that would warm the heart of any arts supporter when famed CBC Radio host Shelagh Rogers was named the University of Victoria’s 11th Chancellor in May. “To speak in a very non-chancellorian way, I’m thrilled out of my bean,” Rogers said at the time. “I feel like over the last little while I’ve been dating UVic—I’m glad now to be in a relationship with you.” Nominated by Fine Arts Dean Dr. Sarah Blackstone and Associate Dean Dr. Lynne Van Luven, Rogers’ term begins in January 2015. “As UVic’s chancellor, Shelagh Rogers will enhance the excellence of our university,” said Blackstone. “She will bring tremendous energy and great insight to her new role. Her national reputation as an advocate for Canadian arts and culture will serve the university well. UVic could not ask for a better ambassador as we build on our reputation for excellence in teaching, research, and community engagement.”

Getting an A in Queen B

Melissa Avdeeff

Melissa Avdeeff

There’s nothing like a little controversy to spark interest in a course, as School of Music instructor Melissa Avdeeff discovered when word broke in July that she’d be teaching a course on the music of Beyoncé at UVic, resulting in some less than positive comments (“I think I just gave up on Western culture!” “Truly a waste of education and money!”). It didn’t take long for media outlets ranging from the CBC, CTV and Macleans to the Globe and Mail and the Huffington Post to jump on the Beyoncé bandwagon. “I don’t see studying popular culture as any less academically or socially relevant than studying other forms of musicology like historical musicology or music theory,” Avdeef told the Globe. “It’s important to have these courses. They get people thinking more critically about how they are engaging with media.”

Art on view

"Hit for the sculpture!" Stillwell's piece in context of the baseball diamond

“Hit for the sculpture!” Stillwell’s piece as it appears from the baseball diamond

It was a busy year for professors in the Department of Visual Arts, with a number of exhibits and new sculptures being unveiled. Both Jennifer Stillwell and Robert Youds debuted new pieces of public art—Stillwell’s High Five began reaching for the sky in Winnipeg back in August and Youds’ For Everyone a Sunset was unveiled at the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Offsite in October—while departmental chair Paul Walde‘s Requiem For A Glacier installation appeared in Nelson in January, was written up in a  Times Colonist UVic Research feature in July, ran from September to November at the Evergreen Cultural Centre in Coquitlam, then ran at Laval University Art Gallery in Quebec City until the end of December. Meanwhile, photographer Vikky Alexander opened two photography exhibitions this fall—a show of new work Theatergarden Bestiarium in Los Angeles and the retrospective The Temptation of St Anthony in Vancouver—and will have two more shows opening in early 2015 in both Calgary and Montreal.

All for Two 4 One

Bradley considering a shot on set  (photo: Arnold Lim)

Bradley considering a shot on set (photo: Arnold Lim)

Department of Writing professor Maureen Bradley‘s locally lensed debut feature film, Two 4 One, had  its world premiere at the 2014 Calgary International Film Festival in September, before moving on to its BC premiere at the Vancouver International Film Festival in October, and the Eastern Canada premiere at Montréal’s Image + Nation Film Festival in November.
Coming up in February 2015, it will be the opening gala film at the Available Light Film Festival in the Yukon and local audiences will be able to see the film—described as Canada’s first transgendered romantic comedy—as part of the Victoria Film Festival, also in February. Two 4 One is written and directed by Bradley and produced by digital media staffer Daniel Hogg.

The best exotic intergenerational theatre company

Theatre PhD Matthew Gusul (centre) at the field school in India

Theatre PhD Matthew Gusul (centre) at the field school in India

Department of Theatre PhD candidate Matthew Gusul attracted attention with his field school to India in October. Gusul and 13 undergraduates spent two months in the Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry regions to create the country’s first intergenerational theatre company. By positively highlighting the life experiences of residents at the Tamaraikulam Elders’ Village and the students of the Isha Vidhya Matriculation School, Gusul and his students worked with a team of Indian directors to encourage these seniors and rural youth to perform their own stories, develop strong community relations and create new lines of dialogue across generations. Stay tuned for an update on their efforts, coming the first week of January.

World War I history mystery

Marcus Milwright with JM's diaries

Marcus Milwright with JM’s diaries

When Art History and Visual Studies professor Marcus Milwright began planning his November exhibit The Arts of World War I, he had no idea that his use of a two-volume leather diary set featuring illustrations of life during the Great War—signed only by the initials “JM”—would generate so much publicity. But Milwright’s search for JM’s identity sparked a flurry of international media attention, which you can read about here. His hunt for JM’s identity also earned Milwright a spot on UVic’s own Top 10 News Stories for 2014. The Arts of World War I continues to March 2, 2015, in the McPherson Library’s Legacy Maltwood Gallery, and will be a featured part of UVic’s IdeaFest in March.

National honours

Arleen Paré accepts her award from the Governor General

Arleen Paré accepts her award from the Governor General

The Faculty of Fine Arts was remarkably well-represented in national awards this year, thanks to the nomination of five Fine Arts faculty and alumni in the 2014 Governor General’s Literary Awards—Writing professor Bill Gaston, Writing alumni Garth Martens & Arno Kopecky, and Department of Theatre aluma & playwright Janet Munsil, as well as eventual Poetry winner and Writing alumna Arleen Paré. But there was also Writing professor Tim Lilburn‘s induction as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, retired Writing professor Patrick Lane receiving the Order of Canada and Department of Visual Arts student Kim Adams winning the 2014 Governor-General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts. “Having so many areas of the Faculty of Fine Arts recognized illustrates the strength and vibrancy of fine arts at the University of Victoria in particular and in British Columbia generally,” says Dr. Lynne Van Luven, Acting Dean of Fine Arts. “Such achievements are all the more impressive given budget cuts for fine arts programs overall.” Add to that new books by Writing professors Lee Henderson (The Road Narrows As You Go), Bill Gaston (Juliet Was a Surprise) and Kevin Kerr (Tear The Curtain).

Fine Arts can be a picnic

Evocative 1940s costumes made Picnic a winner in the Spotlight Awards (photo: David Lowes)

Evocative 1940s costumes made Picnic a winner in the Spotlight Awards (photo: David Lowes)

Finally, Phoenix Theatre rounded out another busy year of productions in the Department of Theatre with their 1970s revamp of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by professor Fran Gebhard, which followed their latest Spotlight on Alumni production The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe—which was so popular that it had to be held over! Both their spring productions—Picnic (directed by professor Peter McGuire) and Unity (1918) (written and directed by Writing professor Kevin Kerr)—were well-received and recently earned nominations and a win for Best Costumes in Victoria’s annual Critic’s Choice Spotlight Awards.

Here’s looking forward to an equally busy 2015!

Running with honours

Fourth year Department of Writing student Grace Annear was recently announced as the only Faculty of Fine Arts student named to the 2014 University of Victoria Vikes Honour Roll. Annear specializes in cross-country running and track, and was one of 69 student-athletes honoured at the November 19 event at the University Club.

4th year Writing student Grace Annear has been named to the  Vikes Honour Roll

4th year Writing student Grace Annear has been named to the Vikes Honour Roll

“I was recruited out of high school, but I came to UVic because of the Writing program and the varsity athletics,” says Annear.

Student-athletes can only earn a place on the Vikes Honour Roll by achieving a minimum of a 6.6 GPA (80%) during the school year, while training and competing at the highest level of sport. This is Annear’s third year being named to the Honour Roll—and, since she is also a Canadian Interuniversity Sport athlete, she was awarded a CIS Academic All-Canadian Certificate signed by His Excellency, the Right Honorable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada.

“It’s a lot of work,” she admits. “I have to be really focused with my time management—and my time management skills have increased dramatically, especially as the word counts increase in my upper-level courses. As an athlete, you’re used to doing a lot of homework on Friday and Saturday nights, so I don’t have as much of a social life as most university students might have. I guess my training is my social life.”

But while running may be the athletic passion of this Hampton, New Brunswick native—her athletic achievements include Canada West First Team All-Star, CIS First Team All-Canadian and a trio of gold-medal wins for both 400- and 800-meter races—Annear’s writing focus is clearly set on fiction. “Ian McEwan’s Atonement was the book that made me want to be a writer,” she says. “I read it when I was 13 and it was my first real ‘adult’ book. Before that I was reading things like Twilight, but Atonement was my immediate launching point into the world of real literature.”

Annear with Acting Dean of Fine Arts, Dr Lynne Van Luven at the Honour Roll luncheon (photo: Armando Tura, APShutter.com)

Annear with Acting Dean of Fine Arts, Dr Lynne Van Luven at the Honour Roll luncheon (photo: Armando Tura, APShutter.com)

Annear sees a lot of parallels between her athletic and creative pursuits. “Being a distance runner is like being a writer—you have to be completely self-motivated,” she explains. “With running, it’s all about what you can do within yourself and then bring to the table on race day; with writing, it’s about how much you can pound out a good story. You don’t rely on anyone else, it’s just what you can do. If you’re motivated, and you want it bad enough, you can achieve in both areas.”

And has her running crossed over onto the page yet? “Every time I have a new professor, they ask, ‘Oh, have you written about running?’” she says with a laugh. “And I have—for every single prof—so now I’m trying to write other stuff.”

Annear says there is definitely a running/writing niche, but it’s not one to which she’s particularly drawn. “A lot of time it’s about marathoners and the self-reflection and peace and flow that comes with running—which is kind of true, but it’s very different than being a track athlete,” she says. “That’s a lot more intense, a lot more about launching yourself into the mind-numbingness of pain, to postpone that eternal struggle while you’re slogging through it.”

once a runnerShe can only point to one book that parallels her own experiences. “There is an iconic book called Once A Runner by John L. Parker Jr., which is basically about an American university miler during the 1960s, so it has a lot of historical context—but it’s more about what every college runner wants, this journey we all undergo. It’s the only book I’ve ever read that has captured what it actually feels like to be in a race, to undergo months and months of long training.”

This year marks the 10th annual Vikes Honour Roll Luncheon, but only the second time an associated $500 Vikes Honour Roll Award has been associated to each award, thanks to the generous support of UVic and the on-campus partnership between Nike, T. Litzen Sports and the UVic Bookstore.

In 2013-14, a record 2,863 CIS student-athletes across Canada achieved the prestigious Academic All-Canadian status, eclipsing the previous mark of 2,695 set a year ago.

Writing alumna Arleen Paré wins Governor General’s Award

Department of Writing alumna Arleen Paré has been announced as the winner of the 2014 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry for her newest book, Lake of Two Mountains (Brick Books). On top of national recognition and a trip to Ottawa’s Rideau Hall to receive the award on November 26 from His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, Paré also receives a cash prize of $25,000.

Arleen Paré accepts her award from the Governor General

Arleen Paré accepts her award from the Governor General

“We are all thrilled with this national recognition for Arleen’s unique poetic vision and her commitment to the craft of writing,” says Writing chair David Leach. “The fact that the Writing department had four nominees this year for Governor General’s Awards—three alumni and a faculty member—emphasizes how UVic is an incubator of literary excellence in Canada.”

The other Faculty of Fine Arts representatives nominated include Department of Writing professor Bill Gaston, Writing alumni  Garth Martens (BFA and MFA) and Arno Kopecky (Harvey Southam diploma grad), plus Department of Theatre aluma and playwright Janet Munsil—each of whom will receive $1,000. In all, Fine Arts had five out of 18 nominees in the Fiction/Poetry/Non-fiction/Drama categories of this year’s awards.

“Having so many areas of the Faculty of Fine Arts—poetry, with Arleen’s win; poetry again with Garth’s nomination; fiction with Bill Gaston’s and drama with Janet Munsil’s— illustrates the strength and vibrancy of fine arts at the University of Victoria in particular and in British Columbia generally,” says Dr. Lynne Van Luven, Acting Dean of Fine Arts. “Such achievements are all the more impressive given budget cuts for fine arts programs overall.  Wonderful news all around!”

"A poem of sustained beauty”—jury comment

“A poem of sustained beauty”—jury comment

The jury praised Lake of Two Mountains as being “a poem of sustained beauty, an almost monastic meditation on the overlapping centres of human and natural reality. Whether she is describing the Oka Crisis, bullfrogs, sunbeams or religion, ‘anything that passes through [this shape-shifting landscape] is transformed,’ including the reader.”

Paré’s first book, Paper Trail, won the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize and was shortlisted for BC Books Dorothy Livesay Prize in Poetry. She has also written the novel, Leaving Now (Caitlin Press, 2012). Her fourth book, a collection of poetry titled Face in the Funeral Car,, is forthcoming from Caitlin Press in fall 2015. Her writing has also appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies in Canada.

Department of Writing poetry professor—and fellow Governor General’s Literary Award winner—Tim Lilburn fondly recalls Paré’s time as both an undergrad and graduate student, working on early drafts of what would become her now award-winning poetry collection. “I remember working on some of those poems with her in workshop, and I think that’s where the idea for this book started,” says Lilburn. “Lake of Two Mountains is essentially her thesis that she’s added onto.”

Fellow GG nominated poets Kevin Paul (left), Melanie Siebert & Garth Martens

Fellow GG nominated poets Kevin Paul (left), Melanie Siebert & Garth Martens

Lilburn is also quick to point out the success of the Department of Writing’s MFA program. “We’ve had uncanny success in terms of the Governor General’s Awards since we started the MFA program in 2008,” he says. “We’ve had four GG nominations—Melanie Siebert, Kevin Paul, Garth Martens and Arleen Paré—and now one winner. All have been poets, and all four of them were undergrads, too.”

Lake of Two Mountains is a praise poem in 45 parts that contemplates landscape and memory, officially described as “a portrait of a lake, of a relationship to a lake, of a network of relationships around a lake. It maps, probes and applauds the riparian region of central Canadian geography that lies between the Ottawa and the St. Lawrence Rivers. The poems portray this territory, its contested human presences and natural history: the 1990 Oka Crisis, Pleistocene shifts and dislocations, the feather-shaped Ile Cadieux, a Trappist monastery on the lake’s northern shore. As we are drawn into experience of the lake and its environs, we also enter an intricate interleaving of landscape and memory, a reflection on how a place comes to inhabit us even as we inhabit it.”

Arleen6Retired Writing professor Patrick Lane lauded Paré’s poems as being “monastic prayers of forgiveness, intense simplicities that praise all we have lost, all we have left. She is a gift the world has given us. Read her and then in deep quiet read her again.”

Originally from Montreal, the 68-year-old Paré lived for many years in Vancouver, where she worked as a social worker. She is currently the director of Victoria’s Cool Aid Society, which works to end homelessness in the Capital Region.

She told the local Times Colonist newspaper in this interview that she was “amazed” to learn of her win. “It was actually shocking in that way you find yourself at the end of a parachute or something,” she said. “I felt weightless.” When asked what she’ll do with the prize money, Paré said she’ll use it to buy a heat pump for her cottage on Mayne Island.

“I love using language and trying to make it sparkle off the page,” Paré says in this Victoria News interview. “I love trying to use the right word in the right place. This is the puzzle that I work with all the time, and I enjoy that challenge very much.”
Paré will also join in a public reading with the other English-language winners at the Canada Council in Ottawa on November 26.

Write on at Writers Fest

A thousand words simply wouldn’t be enough to describe the picture of literary luminaries gathering for the annual Victoria Writers Festival—and, not surprisingly, our own Department of Writing will be well-represented at the event. More than just faculty, however, the Writers Fest also features a number of alumni and sessional instructors as well—18 in all!

writers-festRunning Thursday, November 6, to Saturday, November 8, at Oak Bay United (near the intersection of Foul Bay Road and Oak Bay Avenue), the Victoria Writers Festival offers 10 events and seven workshops, including three evening gala readings, six panel discussions, and the annual Carol Shields Lecture.

GG finalist Bill Gaston  (photo Jen Steele)

GG finalist Bill Gaston
(photo Jen Steele)

Foremost among the participants is current Governor General’s Literary Award nominee and senior faculty member Bill Gaston, alongside fellow faculty members Lee Henderson, Kevin Kerr and Joan MacLeod.

Alumni participants include two more 2014 Governor General’s Literary Award nominees—poets Arleen Paré and Garth Martens—as well as noted novelist Aislinn Hunter, recently published author Aaron Shephard, poets Anne-Marie Turza, Kayla Czaga and Gillian Wigmore, queer writer Ali Blythe, playwright Dave Brock and writer Eve Joseph. Fine Arts alumna playwright Janet Munsil—also nominated for a 2014 Governor General’s Literary Award—will be there as well.

Our participating sessional instructors include Giller Prize-nominated author John Gould, Marita Daschel (former Centre for Studies in Religion and Society Artist-in-Residence), and 2013 Southam Lecturer and acclaimed CBC broadcaster Jo-Ann Roberts.

There’s plenty to hear, and think about, so be sure to check out the list of events.

Alumna & book prize sponsor Aislinn Hunter

Alumna & book prize sponsor Aislinn Hunter

And in other Writers Fest news, congratulations go out to to Department of Writing student Meghan Casey, who was recently announced as the winner of the 2014 Books Matter Prize. The one-time prize for UVic students—sponsored by alumna Aislinn Hunter, with support from Munro’s Books and the Victoria Writers Festival—offers a $500 gift certificate for Munro’s Books. Students were asked to submit an essay about a book that has made a difference to their writing life, and Casey’s submission—which starts with a distracted bathtub reading of Tim O’Brien’s short story The Things They Carried—caught Hunter’s attention.

Better still, Hunter was so impressed by fellow Writing student Claire Horwood‘s submission about Marina Keegan’s The Opposite of Loneliness, that she created a “runner-up” prize of $100 and a place in her masters fiction workshop, Whatever Happens, Remember That Your Voice Is Unique, which she will give at the festival on November 8.

You can read Casey and Horwood’s winning pieces here.

Honourable Mentions go out to third-year Writing student Cara Marks (inspired by Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test), second-year student Sam Dodd (Richard Ford’s Independence Day), and first-year Writing students Sarah Hughes (John Vaillant’s The Golden Spruce); and Emma Carter (Charles Bukowski’s Fear is a Dog from Hell).

Is that meant to be funny?

If you think there’s nothing funny about censorship, Mark Leiren-Young would like to change your mind. A prolific freelance journalist, screenwriter, playwright, memoirist and award-winning author, Leiren-Young is this year’s Harvey Stevenson Southam Lecturer in Journalism and Nonfiction for the Department of Writing. And while his current Writing course Finding the Funny focuses on humour writing, his upcoming public lecture will examine the fine line between comedy and censorship.
Mark Leiren-Young is the latest Southam Lecturer

Mark Leiren-Young is the latest Southam Lecturer

“I’m fascinated by the question of, ‘Where’s the line?’,” says Leiren-Young. “What can you make fun of? What can’t you make fun of? What’s taboo? How soon is too soon?” By way of example, Leiren-Young looks east to Toronto’s frequently lampooned mayor. “Rob Ford and his tumor—too soon for jokes?”

As the author of the 2009 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour-winning memoir Never Shoot A Stampede Queen: A Rookie Reporter in the Cariboo and one-half of the long-running satirical comedy duo Local Anxiety, Leiren-Young well knows the fine art of funny. A graduate of both UVic’s Writing and Theatre departments, he is also the first UVic alumnus to hold the Southam position.

His October 15 annual Southam public lecture You Can’t Say That!? Comedy, Censorship and Sensitivity in the 21st Century will draw not only on his own experiences as a journalist and performer but also on examples from popular culture to illustrate how the line between comedy and censorship keeps shifting.

“Think about the first time you ever saw South Park,” he says. “We all said, ‘Oh my god, you can’t say that on television!’ And that’s one of the thing I’ve told my class—you can critique anything you want, just don’t tell me it’s not funny. It’s okay to say you’re offended by it, but I’m not talking about anything that people haven’t laughed at.”

After writing three plays about censorship and spending the past 25 years on the Freedom to Read organiztion’s free expression committee, it’s a topic that’s clearly close to Leiren-Young’s heart. “It gets at the heart of what we are ‘allowed’ to write, and why we write,” he says. “Riffing on what’s funny versus what’s offensive is going to make for a great conversation.”

Mark Leiren-YoungThe secret, he says, always lies in context: given our rapid-fire media messaging and instantaneous technology, it’s all too easy for a joke to cross the line. “These 10-second Youtube clips that are killing careers now—all too often they’re taken totally out of context. It’s one thing to be funny in a comedy club, but play that same joke on the evening news…”

As the eighth Southam Lecturer for the Writing department, Leiren-Young follows in the footsteps of the likes of CBC Radio’s Jo-Ann Roberts, author Richard Wagamaese and sports journalist Tom Hawthorn. And, given the topic, will his public lecture actually be funny?

“It better be,” he chuckes wryly,” or I’m already in deep trouble.”

You Can’t Say That!? Comedy, Censorship and Sensitivity in the 21st Century 7:00 pm Wednesday, Oct. 15 in room A240 of the Human & Social Development Building. Admission is free.