UVic’s Digital Fabrication Lab the first of its kind in North America

UVic is once again leading the pack with the creation of the Digital Fabrication Lab (DFL). A collaboration between the Department of Visual Arts and the preexisting Maker Lab in UVic’s Electronic Textual Cultures Lab, the DFL is the first of its kind to encompass the arts and humanities in North America. Additionally, no university or college in North America yet has a computer numerical control (CNC) lab in the humanities, meaning the DFL is the first humanities facility of its kind on the continent.

It's early days for the DFL in Visual Arts

It’s early days for the DFL in Visual Arts

“There are far-reaching effects for this type of technology in just about everything we do,” says Department of Visual Arts chair Paul Walde. “Photography was the first area where there was almost a complete paradigm shift towards digital, and we’re now seeing digital technology move into every aspect of visual arts production. This represents a way for us to move forward not only with new sculptural techniques and projects but also printmaking and even certain kinds of painting.”

The DFL will include CNC routers, an industrial grade 3D scanner, a laser cutter, a milling machine, and 3D printers, together with various machining tools. “Visual Arts is a leader in material practices and material culture,” says Walde, who notes they already have extensive workshops and the necessary support staff to expand into this area. “We have purpose-built facilities for the safe handling and research of these applications. It’s a perfect fit for us . . . it’s an investment in the future.”

Materials for making a small solenoid (photo: Maker Lab)

Materials for making a small solenoid (photo: Maker Lab)

The Maker Lab at UVic, housed in the Technology Enterprise Facility, is a collaborative space of new techniques and old technologies involving the invention of imaginative and often outsized revisions of objects that don’t always exist in the world. Because its research is innovative, multi-faceted and occasionally intangible, it does not easily fit a simple definition.

The lab is inspired by experimental art, design and D.I.Y. cultures. The inter-disciplinary research team from UVic English, CSPT and Visual Arts includes faculty as well as undergraduate and graduate students who use physical computing and digital fabrication for cultural research.

The lab was launched in September 2012, under the leadership of director Dr. Jentery Sayers, an assistant professor, English and CSPT, with funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Canada Foundation for Innovation and the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund.

Sayers describes the Maker Lab as an “intersection of cultural criticism and comparative media studies with computation, prototyping, electronics and experimental methods. Its design is anchored in blending a humanities research lab with a makerspace—a design that affords its team of students and faculty opportunities to build projects through various modes of ‘knowing by doing,’ such as programming, markup, new media production, data modeling, 3D printing and circuit design.”

The lab’s research will ultimately “inform policies on the ethics, distribution, licensing and derivation of 3D objects,” says Sayers, policies which currently do not exist in Canada. The lab also trains students in physical computing and desktop fabrication in non-STEM fields. Sayers points out that fabrication and physical computing are popular in STEM fields, but are virtually unknown in the humanities.

Paul Walde (photo: Times Colonist)

Paul Walde (photo: Times Colonist)

The Maker Lab and DFL are two of several initiatives at UVic—including the Humanities Computing and Media Centre (HCMC); Electronic Textual Cultures Lab (ETCL); Implementing New Knowledge Environments (INKE); Modernist Versions Project (MVP); Internet Shakespeare Editions; Map of Early Modern London; and the annual Digital Humanities Summer Institute—which continue to position the university at the forefront of digital humanities.

“I’m very excited about it,” says Walde about the DFL and this new Visual Arts collaboration with Humanities. “I can’t wait to see what the possibilities are with this equipment. That’s usually what gets the imagination stirring.”

—Tara Sharpe, with contributions by John Threlfall

This story was originally published in a longer form in UVic’s Ring newspaper

Music for Mycologists

It sounds like a Zen koan: What kind of music would a mushroom make? The answer isn’t to be found in meditation, however, but at this week’s Music for Mycologists concert.

The Experimental Music Unit

The Experimental Music Unit

American composer John Cage—an avid mycologist—often quipped that music and mushrooms have nothing to do with one another . . . except for the fact that they appear next to each other in the dictionary. The Experimental Music Unit (EMU) puts the veracity of this statement to the test with Music for Mycologists, a collection of musical works by local composers Paul Walde and Tina Pearson, Czech composer Vaclav Halek—described as “the world’s most prolific composer of mushroom songs”—and the EMU trio. Music for Mycologists explores relationships between music making and mushroom hunting, exposing the sometimes fragile process of discovering sounds of rare and raw beauty that exist just beyond perception.

The Music for Mycologists CD release concert begins at 8pm Saturday, June 6, at Open Space. Tickets are $11-$16 advance or $15-$20 at the door. There will also be “mushroom-themed” refreshments (we’ll leave that to your imagination), signed CDs available for purchase and informal discussions with the artists.

EMU is the core ensemble of LaSaM Music, which has been producing adventurous music events since 2008, and three of the four members hail from UVic: Visual Arts chair Paul Walde (bass guitar), School of Music audio specialist & recording engineer Kirk McNally (live electronic processing), Computer Science professor George Tzanetakis (bass clarinet), plus composer Tina Pearson (flute, voice). Known for its themed projects informed by aural tradition and improvisation, LaSaM explores the relationships between the natural world, sound and music, acoustic ecology and the provocative ideas of music practitioners from many times and places.

m4m-coverMusic for Mycologists features Walde’s piece “Interdeterminancy (for John Cage)”, the musical realization of a set of eight large mushroom spore printed panels designed as a graphic notation, which appeared as part of the Legacy Gallery’s 2013 Visual Arts faculty exhibit Paradox. Also on the bill is Pearson’s “Hunt (3) Chanterelles”, a set of sonic textures that reflect the sensations, sounds, colours, smells and attention states inspired by her mother’s memories of lifelong mushroom hunting. Balancing the program are “Mycelium Running,” a sonic enactment of the life cycle of a single mushroom from mycelium through spore, three short Halek compositions from his collection of short melodies transcribed from sounds he heard directly from mushroom species near his home, as well as live electronic processing by audio artist McNally.

In EMU’s Music for Mycologists soundworld, intentional microscopic attention is paid to typically peripheral instrument and body sounds, such as the nuances of breath, pre-tone whispers and whistles, the tap of instrument keys, the sound of a bow slowly crunching, and the charged pause of acute listening. You can listen to an excerpt below.

Whether performing in the Royal BC Museum’s natural history exhibit or exploring the sonic life of spores, the Experimental Music Unit always lives up to its name.

EMU and LaSaM are known for their original themed projects inspired by relationships between the natural world, sound and music, and the provocative ideas of music practitioners who work outside the margins; and the act of listening itself. Previous major projects include Dark Listening (2014), Music for Natural History (2012), In a Large Open Space (2011), “And Beethoven Heard Nothing” (2010), and Removing the Demon (2009) among others.

Community sings over Troubled Water

What do you get when you combine one of the best-known songs of the past 50 years with the latest technology? A fascinating art installation by Visual Arts sessional instructor Yoko Takashima: Bridge Over Troubled Water, continuing until May 30 at UVic’s Legacy Art Galleries Downtown.

Bridge Over Troubled Water (family), 2015

Bridge Over Troubled Water (family), 2015

An interactive video and sound installation project developed using Cycling74’s MAX and JITTER with other computer software and a Microsoft Kinect for interactive data collection, Takashima produced this new form of video installation in close collaboration with Visual Arts alumna Ruby Arnold.

“In this project, no identical image or performance is seen,” says Takashima. “More significantly, this technology allows for unexpected narratives to be constructed through the constant self-generation of the video and sound.”

Takashima will be giving an artist talk about her project, beginning at 7pm Thursday, May 14, at Legacy Downtown (630 Yates).

Described as a “so-called music video” of Simon & Garfunkel’s classic “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Takashima video-recorded 37 volunteer community singers—friends, family, choir groups, folks in the theatre community, both professional and semi- professional singers—in a variety of age groups all with the same framing: face centred and looking directly at the camera lens. The artist then used a green screen and chroma keying of the footage to provide the collage of singers with a background of moving images of ambiguous hybrid landscapes, which act as “visual metaphors of our modern reality, encompassing anxiety, horror and hope.”

Bridge Over Troubled Water (Chris), 2015, Video still

Bridge Over Troubled Water (Chris), 2015, Video still

“It is significant for me to explore the shifting role of artists in the digital era,” explains Takashima. “In a time of saturated images, information and ‘high-speed fetch’, our role is now focused on selecting and preparing guidelines and then witnessing what technology can provide and manipulate. I am interested in exploring how technology used this way can produce effects beyond the artist’s authorship and premeditated aesthetic.”

Takashima felt the lyrics of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” convey a message of friendship and support, which she describes as “fundamental, ageless human needs. In exploring new technology with this song, we celebrate the up-lifting spirit in humanity and the new ways of delivering it.”

The exhibit is organized by Legacy director Mary Jo Hughes as the second of her continuing IN SESSION exhibits showcasing the work of the many sessional instructors in the Department of Visual Arts. But far from an exhibition of static work hanging on a wall, Hughes feels it’s the viewer who really brings Takashima’s work to life.

Bridge Over Troubled Water (Thomas), 2015, Video stillI

Bridge Over Troubled Water (Thomas), 2015, Video stillI

“When the darkened exhibition space is vacant, the audio plays quietly while the video is reduced to black and white,” she explains. “When someone enters the space, the sound level and colour intensity are gradually increased—the nearer one approaches the projection, the louder the sound becomes. To retreat is to attenuate the volume. The layered faces fill the wall in magnitude larger than life.”

“We see the singing human faces as beautiful in their openness and sincerity, while verging on the ridiculous in scale, proximity and unexpected combinations of over-layered facial features. The space is filled with their presence,” Hughes continues. “While interactivity has been integral to some of her past works, the constant regeneration of this work is new to Takashima’s 20-year video-based practice. It represents her desire to push video installation art beyond simple screening pieces placed within a space to offering infinitely-varied experiences involving the whole space with the viewer.”

Takashima's "Islands Burning" (1998), installation

Takashima’s “Islands Burning” (1998), installation

Hughes notes that, over the past two decades of work, Takashima has consistently “focused on her own body over various stages of life to explore her place as an individual while concurrently delving into the universalities and depth of human existence.” Video works such as Brushism (1996), As If (1996) and Islands Burning (1998) saw Takashima presenting her body as non-narrative subject, “performing within a limited or unidentifiable context, often truncated, anonymous, and isolated in an unnervingly close proximity.”

Bridge Over Troubled Water, says Hughes, represents the artist’s “continuing interest in using technology as an artistic tool in her ongoing research into new modes of expression. In this work, Takashima involves us in an unending performance that personifies the interconnectedness of a larger more encompassing humanity . . . . The installation suggests that through family, friends, and basic human connections, we can provide for each other the support that will get us through the fear and discord that otherwise characterizes our world.”

Feeling the Reverberations

Looking for the very best in emerging contemporary art practice? Don’t miss the annual MFA exhibit at the Department of Visual Arts, this year titled Reverberations. A group show featuring the work of four graduating students in the Master of Fine Arts program, Reverberations encompasses a dramatic range of photographic and video works, sculptural installations and intermedia practices.

Reverberations kicks off with a 5-7pm opening reception on Friday May 1. The exhibit then runs 10am-4pm daily to May 8 throughout UVic’s Visual Arts Building.

“Pinna” by Ebony Rose

“Pinna” by Ebony Rose

Reverberations is composed of four solo exhibitions: “The Longing of Stone To Be Lively Again” by Rebecca Bergshoeff; “Autopoiesis” by Nicole Clouston; “Between There and Now” by Emily Geen; and “Pinna” by Ebony Rose. But the pieces on display are really just a fraction of the work produced during their two-year residency.

“We’re looking for artists who want to engage with contemporary art dialogue in an environment that really promotes independently driven, rigorous studio investigation in the service of research creation,” says Visual Arts chair Paul Walde.

“The Longing of Stone to be Lively Again” by Rebecca Bergshoeff

“The Longing of Stone to be Lively Again” by Rebecca Bergshoeff

With “The Longing of Stone To Be Lively Again,” Rebecca Bergshoeff playfully engages with trace and process, suspending her works in a state of flux where the instability of material and the oscillation of form between the pictorial and the sculptural, the surface and the edge, present themselves with a certain structural transparency, immediacy and generosity.

“Autopoiesis” by Nicole Clouston

“Autopoiesis” by Nicole Clouston

Nicole Clouston’s “Autopoiesis” explores the beauty of chemical and biological processes, as well as the value that can be found in these experiments when their ability to communicate specific information is stripped away.

In Emily Geen’s photographic installation and video works “Between There and Now,” she uses the inherent materiality of glass to abstract and deconstruct recorded images, regenerating them with the peripheral and perceptual nuances of lived experience.

“Between There and Now” by Emily Geen

“Between There and Now” by Emily Geen

Finally, with Ebony Rose’s “Pinna,”contemplative spaces and subtle interventions proffer a renewed discovery into natural phenomenon and the things that surround us.

UVic’s MFA is an intensive degree predicated on immersive experiential learning combined with critical discussions and one of Canada’s leading Visiting Artist programs.

 

In Search Of . . . new artists

Looking for new approaches to art? Come In Search Of at the annual University of Victoria Visual Arts BFA Graduation Exhibit. Kicking off with a 7pm opening reception on Friday, April 17, the exhibit will then run 10am to 6pm daily through to Saturday, April 25, in UVic’s Visual Arts building.

"This is for Youds" by Elizabeth Charters will be seen in the annual BFA exhibit

“This is for Youds” by Elizabeth Charters will be seen in the annual BFA exhibit

With a wide variety of art created by more than 30 graduating BFAs filling UVic’s entire Visual Arts building—including painting, photography, sculpture, drawing, installation and extended media works—In Search Of not only offers a glimpse into the future of visual art but also shows the originality of vision that comes with being mentored by some of Canada’s top contemporary artists.

“I’m really glad that title was picked,” says graduating BFA Kaitlyn Corlett, one of the exhibit’s student organizers. “It’s ambiguous, exploratory and kind of open-ended—which is how a lot of our work has come about over the past few years.”

Kaitlyn Corlett with one of her In Search Of pieces

Kaitlyn Corlett with one of her In Search Of pieces

Corlett notes the actual process of preparing the exhibit—from choosing a title for the show and preparing the catalogue to the selection and preparation of pieces—has been an education in itself. “For a lot of us, it’s our first time having that hands-on experience of developing a show. We’ve been doing critiques and getting work ready for assignments, but this is the first time we’ve been preparing for the public—it’s been a great process to consider an audience beyond our teachers.”

In Search Of is curated by Visual Arts faculty members Sandra Meigs and Robert Youds. “This year’s graduating students once again set an excellent high bar for their contemporary quest to wonder, doubt, and remember, through the practice of art-making,” says Youds, a Visual Arts department alumnus himself. “This exciting exhibition represents a broad and yet challenging display of diversity and passion from each and everyone of these young voices of the future.”

the business of art

Corlett, who is also doing a Business minor and participating in UVic’s Co-operative Education Program, understands the importance of putting her creative practice and critical thinking skills to work after graduation. “I’ve always been an artist but I’ve grown up with a real business side, so I’ve always had that duality between rationality and creation,” she says. “My desire to be professional is driven by my desire to be in the business world too.”

Kaitlyn Corlett installing one of her sculptural pieces

Kaitlyn Corlett installing one of her sculptural pieces

While her own ambition is to become a curator—something she’ll be working towards by traveling and studying art history after graduation—Corlett notes that some of her BFA peers have already been accepted into MFA programs or going on to study in related fields like architecture.

But she’s quick to credits the Co-op program with affording her important and relevant opportunities. “I’ve gotten a lot of work experience through UVic’s Co-op, where I’ve had really amazing experiences and great opportunities. I feel really blessed and lucky to have had that.” Her work placements included both the North Vancouver Community Arts Council and the Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art. “Those were perfect experiences for me, to understand what curation actually means for non-profit organizations. I’ve been really lucky in finding those niches that have helped me understand where I want to work.”

A close community of artists

In Search Of . . . the proper angle

In Search Of . . . the proper angle

Corlett also praises the experiences she’s had pursuing her Visual Arts degree these past four years. “I love the range of teachers that I had,” she says. “They’ve really pushed my work to the limit to get it to a more professional level. Getting to work with leading artists like Paul Walde and Robert Youds and Daniel Laskarin and Sandra Meigs has just been amazing. You’re seeing them teach but also learn from you, and vice versa. And they’ve got their own careers and professional practices that are continuing to grow.”

In Search Of . . . the perfect lighting

In Search Of . . . the perfect lighting

Meigs, one of the 2015 Governor General’s Award for Visual & Media Arts, agrees with Corlett’s assessment. “We have some of the top contemporary artists in the country here and we have very high standards,” says Meigs. “We focus intensely on studio practice for the students . . . it’s hard for the general public to get that, but it’s all very exciting. That’s the great strength of UVic’s Visual Arts program—walk through any of the studios and you’ll feel it.”

UVic’s size was another advantage for Corlett. “The scale and closeness of the Visual Arts building and department is a real strength, and one of the reasons there’s such a strong network of artists here,” she says. “Having a community of artist who are all growing at the same rate has also been fantastic—I’ve now got 30 people I can talk to in a couple of years who I could ask to put on a show with me.”

“Priorfriends" by Olivia Prior can be seen at In Search Of, May 1-8

“Priorfriends” by Olivia Prior can be seen at In Search Of, May 1-8

While Corlett admits she was originally being “pushed to go to Emily Carr” by her family, she feels justified in ultimately deciding on UVic. “I wanted the opportunities to go into Business or Art History, and UVic had enough crossover points for that. I’ve always loved Victoria—it’s far enough from but close enough to home that I could have my own life here—and coming straight out of high school, it’s been a nice place to grow up a bit more. And I love the campus here—it’s such a beautiful place.”

in search of . . . an audience

In Search Of . . . the correct Jenga stack

In Search Of . . . the correct Jenga stack

Ultimately, says Corlett, In Search Of has been the perfect conclusion to her BFA degree process—even if that means taking a few creative risks. “It’s been a very humbling process for a lot of us. It’s tough to put your work forward for critiquing and to accept that kind of legitimate criticism. It’s like putting our entire education up on the wall for this show.”

But she’s pleased with how it’s all come together and is looking forward to opening night. “Our main goal was to have a show that wasn’t explicitly for the art community. We should be open to everybody, so we’re hoping to have a lot of new people from the university and the community come out and see it.”

In Search Of, the Annual Visual Arts BFA Graduation Exhibit, opens with a 7pm reception on Friday, April 17 and continues 10am-6pm daily to April 25. It’s free and open to the public.

New afternoon Artist Talks

Visual Arts is kicking off a new short series of free Afternoon Artist Talks with a pair of visiting artists this week—Risa Horowitz and Colin Miner. While the full lineup is still being formulated, the plan is to present a pair of artists twice a week, likely in the weeks of April 27 and May 11. All are welcome to attend.

Risa Horowitz with her Trees of Canada series

Risa Horowitz with her Trees of Canada series

First up is Risa Horowitz, who will speak from 3:30-4:30pm Monday, April 13, in VIS 107. Her extended practice is contextualized by conceptualism, duration, collection and an interest in how visual and information systems frame knowledge. She has lived and worked in seven Canadian provinces as an artist, educator, writer, and gallery programmer.

Most recently, 20 of her paintings in a series called “Trees of Canada” were installed as part of a permanent display at Canada House in London, England. Horowitz travelled to London in February this year to attend the unveiling in the presence of the Queen. “One of the things that I really love about the work is that they don’t look like paintings upon first glance,” she told Regina’s Leader-Post newspaper in this article. “They actually look like screen prints. When you get closer, you can see the brush strokes. So they’re a bit uncanny in that way.”

Horowitz's "Afternoon Sun, August, 3 2013"

Horowitz’s “Afternoon Sun, August, 3 2013″

Currently teaching at the University of Regina’s Department of Visual Arts, Horowitz’s recent scholarly research responds to the disciplining of art practice through its ongoing entrenchment within university structures, blurring boundaries between expert-amateur, hobby-work, and leisure-productivity. She is an active tournament Scrabble competitor, vegetable gardener and amateur astronomer—all of which inform her art practice. She has been awarded numerous grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and several provincial funding bodies, the K.M. Hunter Award for excellence in Visual Arts in 2006, and a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship for her research in visual arts and practice-based scholarship.

She is currently represented in Toronto by MKG127 Gallery, and her work is held by the collections of Canada House, London, the Canada Council Art Bank and the Saskatchewan Arts Board.

Colin Miner

Colin Miner

The next visiting artist this week is Colin Miner, who will be speaking from 3:30-4:30pm on Wednesday, April 15, also in VIS 107. Miner recently completed his PhD in contemporary photographic practices at Western University, and holds an MFA & BFA from UBC. His work draws attention to photography’s relationship to the scientific, as well as to the materiality of photographs. Alongside his art practice, he works on writing, artist projects and the online publication Moire.

The Toronto-based Miner has also lived in Beijing, is the recipient of numerous awards and grants including the Roloff Beny Award for Photography and the Barbara Spohr Memorial Award, as well as the recipient of an emerging visual artist grant from both the Toronto and Ontario Arts Council, and the Canada Council. He is also a participant in the artist research group Immersion Emergencies and Possible Worlds, which engages water as culture and resource through contemporary art.

Miner's "Afterimage 21" and "Afterimage 22"

Miner’s “Afterimage 21″ and “Afterimage 22″

Miner has attended thematic residencies with international artists Lucy & Jorge Orta and curator Celine Kopp, both at the Banff Centre. He has presented solo exhibitions in Canada, most notably at the Ministry of Casual Living (Victoria) and the McIntosh Gallery (London). Miner’s work has been included in group exhibitions within Canada at locations such as Art Metropole, The Belkin Satellite, Gallery 44, Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, and Rodman Hall. Additionally, he has participated in international group exhibitions at Postdamer Platz (Germany) and The Beijing Center for the Arts (China).

Stay tuned for more details about upcoming Afternoon Artist Talks.

Visual Arts professor honoured with prestigious Governor General’s Award

Department of Visual Arts professor and nationally renowned painter Sandra Meigs has been named one of only eight winners in the annual Governor General’s Awards for Visual and Media Arts by the Canada Council for the Arts.

2015 Governor General's Award winner Sandra Meigs in her studio (photo: Michelle Alger)

2015 Governor General’s Award winner Sandra Meigs in her studio (photo: Michelle Alger)

“It’s such an honour to be recognized in this capacity for my career as an artist,” says Meigs. “You get benchmarks of recognition as you go along—a big review in the Globe and Mail, a major Canada Council grant—but this is something very ceremonial, very special. I feel totally thrilled.”

Highly regarded for her expressive, eclectic and interdisciplinary contemporary artworks, Sandra Meigs is best known for large-scale works like The Basement Panoramas and Strange Loop. Primarily working in the mediums of acrylic and oil, she has led a distinguished 35-year career with over 40 solo and 60 group exhibitions in Canada’s most culturally relevant institutions. Her work has been collected by the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Banff Centre, the Canada Council Art Bank and the Musée d’art contemporain. She is currently represented by the Susan Hobbs Gallery in Toronto.

“You can call it a lifetime achievement award, but in a way I see it as the beginning of a new lifetime,” says Meigs. “Some artists make brilliant work in their last 20 years, so for me it’s less lifetime achievement and more career achievement.”

Director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts Simon Brault praises the 2015 recipients. “This year’s winners are profoundly shaping Canada’s cultural identity. We applaud their innovative and powerful work, which invites us to question the state of our world and our own personal destinies in ways that we never would have imagined.”

Click here to watch a short video about Sandra Meigs’ creative practice (Directed by Ryan Mah and Danny Berish for the Canada Council, it will play at film festivals across Canada throughout the year and will be seen on Air Canada’s in-flight entertainment system starting in May 2015.)

Open Space will be honouring Meigs with a reception from 5 to 8pm Wednesday, March 25, at 510 Fort Street. All are welcome.

"Red. 3011 Jackson. (Mortality)" from the 2013 series The Basement Panoramas

“Red. 3011 Jackson. (Mortality)” from the 2013 series The Basement Panoramas

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1953, Meigs has lived in Canada since 1973. She left the Rhode Island School of Art to study at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where she earned her BFA. NSCAD had just become internationally acclaimed as a place of critical stimulation and theoretical discourse, where the methodologies of contemporary art were in the process of being reinvented; the spirit of this rambunctious art school became an essential part of Meigs’ thinking, and contributed to her MA in Philosophy at Dalhousie University in 1980. A former Chair of UVic’s Department of Visual Arts (1997-2002), she continues to bring that critical eye to her classes.

Meigs (photo: Michelle Alger)

Meigs (photo: Michelle Alger)

“We have some of the top contemporary artists in the country here and we have very high standards for all our sessional instructors, who are all very good,” she explains about the dynamic learning environment upon which the Visual Arts department is built. “We focus so intensely on studio practice for the students versus doing a lot of theoretical lecturing
. . . we look at everything very carefully, and talk about it in a constructive but critical way—how it’s related to current art context and theoretical ideas of contemporary art. It’s hard for the general public to get that, because you don’t get that unless you’re here, but it’s all very exciting. That’s the great strength of UVic’s Visual Arts program—walk through any of the studios and you’ll feel it.”

Hear Meigs speak about her own creative practice in this video from the Faces of UVic Research series.

"In the Highest Room" by Sandra Meigs

“In the Highest Room” by Sandra Meigs

A member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Artists who also represented Canada in the Fifth Biennale of Sydney, Meigs has been a professor with Visual Arts since 1993 and feels that working in Victoria is one of the factors that set her work apart. “There’s not a huge contemporary art community here, and I like the sense of delight or freedom that gives me in my studio,” she says. “I take what I do here and show it in Toronto and people always say, ‘Oh, that’s so fresh!’”

Meigs is only the second UVic scholar to be awarded a Governor General’s Award for Visual Arts, alongside sculptor and now-Professor Emeritus Mowry Baden in 2006. She has taught painting, sculpture and foundation courses at Halifax’s Dalhousie University, Toronto’s York University and the Ontario College of Art, and the University of Toronto, Scarborough. She has also been a mentor for generations of artists, among them UVic alumni Patrick Howlett, Althea Thauberger and Marianne Nicolson—all of whom have work in major public collections. Former student Kim Adams also won the Governor General’s Award for Sculpture in 2014.

Sandra Meigs' "Baby" (installation view, 1994)

Sandra Meigs’ “Baby” (installation view, 1994)

“This award represents ours country’s highest honour in our profession, and publicly recognizes a lifetime of achievement and contribution to this field of research,” says Paul Walde, Chair of the Department of Visual Arts. “Throughout her career at UVic, Sandra has continued to distinguish herself and the Department through her outstanding work as an artist and professor.”

With 18 catalogue essays and over 60 articles and reviews, Meigs’ artistic output has been covered in influential journals such as Artforum, Canadian Art, Border Crossings, The Globe & Mail, C Magazine, Parachute and the National Post. She has been awarded major grants, is a sought-after member of peer assessment committees, and has advised boards of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, CARFAC and the Canada Council For the Arts. In addition to her studio practice, Meigs writes, researches and occasionally curates. Her most recent major local exhibition was The Basement Panoramas at downtown’s Open Space gallery.

Viewers considering Meigs' work at Open Space (photo: Jacquelyn Bortolussi)

Viewers considering Meigs’ work at Open Space (photo: Jacquelyn Bortolussi)

“Just when you think you have a handle on how Sandra will next explore psychological or physical space, her passion and focus changes shape and direction,” notes Dr. Lynne Van Luven, Acting Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts. “The University of Victoria is fortunate to have an artist of such strong national and international reputation on its faculty.”

Award nominator Helen Marzolf, Executive Director of Open Space, has long admired Meigs’ work. “With each successive series she surprises, jolts, and transforms how we think about the world. I have always been in awe of her confidence and audacity,” says Marzolf. “Her brilliant philosophical paintings always breathe vernacular air—anyone, no matter what his or her background, is susceptible to them. How fitting, and how exciting, for her to win the GG in Visual and Media Arts. Aren’t we lucky to have Sandra Meigs in our community?”

Meigs' "The Newborn, The Brook" (detail, 2001)

Meigs’ “The Newborn, The Brook” (detail, 2001)

In response to her exhibit The Newborn in 2001, noted Toronto art writer John Bentley Mays expressed his ongoing astonishment at Meigs’ ability: “There is art and duty and sorrow and surprises and, always, the unceasing wonder—in everything, in fact, catalogued in this remarkable and intelligent installation. Ms. Meigs is a painter who thinks critically about everything—painting and thinking included.”

As Open Space’s Marzolf wrote in her nomination package, “Meigs’ artistic process resolutely follows the barest whiff of imaginative speculation into uncharted intimacies. Meigs wills us into spaces of profound, mischievous curiosity from which there is no escape. Her agnostic, non-transcendent politics offers a quantum expansion of the psychogeographies of Canadian identity.”

Meigs at home (photo: Nik West)

Meigs at home (photo: Nik West)

Meigs will be presented with a $25,000 cash prize and unique commemorative medallion by His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on April 8 and will also participate in a special curated exhibit of 2015 winners at the National Gallery of Canada, running April 9 to August 30.

This year’s other Visual and Media Arts Award winners include Louise Déry, Robert Houle, Micah Lexier, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Paul McClure, Rober Racine and Reva Stone.

The Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts were created in 1999 by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Governor General of Canada. The awards celebrate Canada’s vibrant arts community and recognize remarkable careers in the visual and media arts.

Undergrads in focus at JCURA

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

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

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

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

A clip from Holly Cecil's William Morris film project

A clip from Holly Cecil’s William Morris film project

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

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

At work on VISA's Peoples Apothocary

At work on VISA’s Peoples Apothocary

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

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

Watch out, Writing profs—Flexer has diagrams

Watch out, Writing profs—Flexer has diagrams

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

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

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

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

Jerzy Grotowski

Jerzy Grotowski

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

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

Faculty Research Symposium looks at digital scholarship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fine Arts at IdeaFest 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

d. bradley muir, The Supernova Scene

d. bradley muir, The Supernova Scene

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

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

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

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