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
“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)
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)
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
Always an exciting part of each semester, the long-running Visiting Artist program in the Department of Visual Arts has announced their fall lineup. Organized by Visual Arts instructor Doug Jarvis and MFA candidate Dani Proteau, all these illustrated talks take place at 7:30pm in room A150 of the Visual Arts Building — and all are free and open to the public. Come join us in exploring the wider visual arts world!
Wolfgang Weileder is an artist whose practice is primarily concerned with the examination and critical deconstruction of architecture, public spaces and the interactions we have with the urban environment. His works are investigations into the relationship between time and space, the interface between permanence and transience, and how these can be explored to question our understanding of the landscape, both built and natural. His work engages with the world through large-scale, temporary site-specific installation and sculpture; temporal recordings of spaces and environments through photography; film, performance and sound installation.
Daniel Kohn & Heather Spence
Daniel Kohn and Heather Spence first met at the NAKFI Discovering the Deep Blue Sea conference in 2016 and began to form collaborative projects around the intersection of art and ocean science and the concept of Ocean Memory. Their previous work in interdisciplinary collaborations as well as background in fine arts (Daniel) and music, marine bioacoustics and neuroscience (Heather) have brought them to think of artmaking and research as simultaneously collective and personal pursuits.
They come to Victoria to explore collaboration with Ocean Networks Canada, to use ONCs audio archive and live data capabilities, and with a wish to connect to local efforts and projects seeking to remap the way in which we think of – and engage with – the ocean.
Cindy Baker is an interdisciplinary and performance artist whose work is informed by a fierce commitment to community engagement and critical social inquiry. Drawing from queer theory, gender culture, fat activism and art theory, Baker’s research-based practice moves fluently between the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Baker considers context her primary medium, and works with diverse materials and techniques from the low-craft (such as latch-hooking) to digital fabrication and perfor-mance, emphasizing the theoretical, conceptual and ephemeral aspects of her work. Cindy Baker completed her MFA at the University of Leth-bridge in 2014, and she lives and works between Lethbridge, AB, Canada and Edmonton, AB, Canada.
Rachelle Sawatsky is an artist and a writer based in Los Angeles and Vancouver. Her solo and collaborative work encompasses painting, writing, ceramics, drawing and movement. Recent solo exhibitions include China Art Objects, Artist Curated Projects, Harmony Murphy Gallery in Los Angeles and at the Material Art Fair in Mexico City. Her work has also been included in group exhibitions at the Tate St. Ives, the Vancouver Art Gallery, and Galerie Mezzanin in Vienna as part of the Curated By Biennale. She is a Lecturer at the University of California, Riverside.
John Eisler completed his MFA at the University of Guelph (2018). He received his BFA from the Alberta College of Art and Design in 1997, with a concentration in painting. He has had a number of solo exhibition at Paul Kuhn Fine Arts (Calgary) and Diaz Contemporary (Toronto), including : Fountain (2013) and Observatory (2013). Recent group exhibitions include : More Than Two (Let it Make Itself) at the Power Plant (Toronto) ; 60 Painters at Humber Arts and Media Studios (Toron-to) ; softcare Hard Edge at East and Peggy Phelps Galleries in Clare-mont, CA and the Art Gallery of Calgary ; 2×2 at the Keyano Art Gallery in Fort McMurray in Alberta. His works are held in collections of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the Macdonald Stewart Art Center, TD Bank Group, as well as numerous private collections.
A still from Farheen HaQ’s “Endless Tether”
Farheen HaQ is a South Asian Muslim Canadian artist who has been living on unceded Lekwungen territory (Victoria, BC) for 20 years. She was born and raised in Haudenosanee territory (Niagara region, Ontario) amongst a tight-knit Muslim community. Her multidisciplinary practice which often employs video, installation and performance is informed by interiority, relationality, embodiment, ritual and spiritual practice. Farheen has exhibited her work in galleries and festivals throughout Canada and internationally including New York, Paris, Lahore, Medellin, Buenos Aires, and Hungary. She received her MFA from York University (2005). In 2014 she was nominated for Canada’s Sobey Art Award.