Even though much of academic life is focused on classes, assignments and performances, it’s also important to maintain a sense of wellness. Physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing will keep you in top form to meet the demands of life as a busy university student. It’s especially tough here in the Fine Arts, where we also have the added pressures that come with a creative life—rehearsing for and giving performances, for example, or presenting our creative work to general audiences.
Fortunately, UVic has a full range of wellness resources to assist students and help them maintain a healthy balance in life. From recreation and fitness opportunities to counselling and spiritual services, we are committed to your health and success.
As such, Fine Arts is proud to be hosting our own Wellness Day from 10:30am-1:30pm on Wednesday, February 4. Organized and hosted by the School of Music, there will be a full range of information, drop-in sessions and services for you to discover in the MacLaurin B-Wing lobby & various rooms. Here’s what’s lined up:
• You can speak to friendly and helpful representatives from Health Services, Counselling Services, the Resource Centre for Students with a Disability, Multifaith Services and Peer Helping during our Resource Fair. They’ll all be happy to provide information about their various on-campus wellness options. That runs throughout the event, from 10:30am-1:30pm in the B-Wing lower lobby (downstairs)
• Henri Lock from Multifaith Services will be leading a meditation session from 11am-noon in Mac B115—the upstairs lounge just outside the Phillip T Young Recital Hall.
• What’s the best way to de-stress? Cuddle with a puppy! Yep, you can get some therapy dog lovin’ from 10:30am-12:30pm in B037 (downstairs)
• Take in some free yoga! Two separate sessions will be happening at the same time, 12:30-1:30pm: one with an instructor from Athletics & Recreation in the Phillip T Young Recital Hall, and one with Theatre alumna & sessional instructor Shona Athey in the Phoenix Theatre movement studio. Be sure to bring your own mat!
Of course, all Fine Arts students, faculty and staff are welcome to attend all of these sessions.
As Dr. Lara Lauzon of UVic’s School of Exercise Science, Physical and Health Education told the well-attended January 21 lunchtime wellness session, For the WELLth of It, “Wellness is something you shape for yourself, wellness helps you reach your potential. And healthy individuals help to make a healthy community.”
Please join us for this beneficial day for all—a great run-up to Reading Break!
How do arts and visual culture affect surrounding location and communities? That’s the question being asked at the 18th annual Visual Impetus Symposium. Organized by the graduate students of the Department of Art History & Visual Studies, this annual conference provides a venue for graduate students in Art History and related fields to present their research to fellow students, faculty and the greater community. Visual Impetus is open to graduate students at any university, and offers participants the ability to gain experience as presenters and receive the critical feedback that is so valuable to their research.
Participants at 2013’s Visual Impetus
Visual Impetus XVIII will be held January 23 & 24 in room 103 of the Fine Arts Building. It opens at 4pm Friday, January 23, with opening remarks by Acting Dean of Fine Arts Dr. Lynne Van Luven, followed by the introduction of the first panel (Technology & Arts: Engineering the Future) by Art History grad student Regan Shrumm, with a charcuterie-and-cheese reception following at 6:40pm. On Saturday, January 24, sessions start at 9am and will end at 2:30pm and feature four more panels (Craft Communities: Rituals & Collective Memories; Devotion & Violence in Sacred Spaces; Identity in Space & Communities; Imagery Symbolism: Status & Legitimacy in Art).
You can read the full schedule of events and presenters here.
Not a real Cowichan Sweater, but the Olympic-branded knock-off
“The committee tried to feature an interdisciplinary symposium featuring UVic students, so this year’s presentations are on diverse topics, including on textiles of Oak Bay’s St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church, understanding aerial images in historic cities and Jewish iconoclasm,” says organizer Regan Shrumm. “Along with nine Art History and Visual Studies graduate students, we also have presenters from Visual Arts, the School of Music, the Department of Theatre and UVic’s English department. Graduate students from as far away as Riverside, California, and Kingston, Ontario, will also be traveling to present.”
For her part, Shrumm will be presenting the paper, “Knitting for Our Lives: The Appropriation of the Cowichan Sweaters by the Hudson’s Bay Company during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics,” on Friday.
A scene from the recent Applied Theatre field school in India (photo: Laura Buchan)
This year’s Visual Impetus keynote speaker will be Matthew Gusul, PhD candidate in the Department of Theatre. His 1pm Saturday presentation will offer a survey of his recent Indian Field School, which created India’s first intergenerational theatre company.
The department’s graduate students and the Symposium Committee are also honouring Art History professors Dr. Anthony Welch and Dr. Christopher Thomas, for their long service with the department.
The subject matter of the presentations delivered at Visual Impetus reflects the department’s dedication to a global art history. Students engage with a wide array of culturally diverse mediums, including architecture, painting, digital media and the ephemeral arts. Presenters from past symposiums have addressed topics ranging from medieval Persian illuminated manuscripts and contemporary First Nation textiles to Baroque Italian chapels. Due to the diverse nature of the topics discussed, students employ a multitude of theoretical approaches to augment their analyses.
Visual Impetus is free and open to the public. It is supported by the generosity of the Department of Art History & Visual Studies, the Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, and the University of Victoria Graduate Student Society.
While the spotlight often shines on our full-time teaching faculty, it’s nice to see our sessional instructors get a well-deserved moment in the sun. Kudos then to UVic’s Legacy Art Gallery for stepping up with a new series of exhibits focused specifically on the creative practices of our sessional instructors in the Department of Visual Arts—titled, appropriately enough, In Session.
Tara Nicholson, “Tabletennis Berlin”
In Session – One celebrates four UVic sessional artists who work with photography, video and digital media arts—Megan Dickie, Laura Dutton, d. bradley muir and Tara Nicholson. “Sessional instructors enliven art departments across the country with their professional experience,” says Visual Arts chair Paul Walde. “They enable us to expose our students to a much wider array of professional practitioners than would be possible if teaching duties were left to full-time faculty alone. Often students do not realize that many of their favourite instructors are in fact successful professional artists who leave their busy studios to come and teach a few times a week. Their contribution in this role cannot be overstated. It should be obvious to anyone seeing this exhibition that the artists represented are some of the finest practicing in Victoria today.”
Megan Dickie, “The Gleamer”
Running January 17 to March 28 at UVic’s free downtown public art gallery at the corner of Broad and Yates, In Session – One will explore the significance and power of photo-based art in an age where social media and advertising threaten to inundate us with visual overload. The exhibit will also investigate such themes as the relationship between the photographic image and its physicality as an object, light as a material presence, and the relationship between time, space and memory in digital media arts.
Laura Dutton, “Horizons”
“More than 35 years ago renowned writer and political activist Susan Sontag bemoaned the ubiquity of photography: ‘Taking photographs has set up a chronic voyeuristic relation to the world which levels the meaning of all events’,” says Legacy Art Galleries director and exhibit curator Mary Jo Hughes. “What would she have thought of the estimated 55 million images that are uploaded daily on Tumblr, Facebook, Snapchat and other social media sites? Given the popularity of smart phones and the addiction to image sharing amongst the 18 to 39 demographic, the number of images young people see daily is staggering. And yet photography-based and digital media persist and continue to be engaging and relevant as art forms.”
d. bradley muir, The Supernova Scene
Each of the four artists, says Hughes, were chosen to reflect these concerns. “In Session – One looks at how their work rises above the visual overload of popular culture,” says Hughes. “Their varied practices demonstrate the vast possibilities of these genres to achieve subtlety, nuance, and inspiration. These professional artists teach many of the students enrolled in degree programs [and] their sensitive and rigorous teachings guide the next generation of artists to emerge from our city.”
Walde agrees. “[These are] four excellent artists who also happen to be excellent teachers,” he says. “This combination of talents is rare, and as such they represent true assets to the department. We are very fortunate to be able to hire professional artists from within the community to teach on a part-time basis.”
In Session – One is the first of a new ongoing series of exhibitions featuring the artists who work as sessional instructors in UVic’s Department of Visual Arts.
In Session – One opens with a reception from 2-4pm Saturday, January 17 and runs 10am-4pm Wednesdays to Saturdays to March 28, 2015, at Legacy Art Gallery Downtown, 630 Yates St. Admission is always free.
Realities Follies at Open Space (photo: Todd Lambeth)
Curiously, a totally separate local gallery is looking at similar themes in an exhibit which features three alumni of the Visual Arts department.
Realities Follies, running to February 21 at Open Space, is co-curated by Visual Arts professor Lynda Gammon and Wendy Welch, executive director of the Vancouver Island School of Art. Featuring the work of Visual Arts alumni Todd Lambeth, Neil McClelland, and Jeroen Witvliet, as well as local painters Jeremy Herndl and Rick Leong,this survey examines the impact of living in an image-driven world.
“Selfies on Facebook, instant sharing on Instagram and photo albums on Flickr all demonstrate our intense desire to re-present our world,” note the curators. “Through the practice of painting, the artists in this exhibition, each in their own way, are re-presenting and interrogating the meaning of representation, and in turn, questioning our ways of perceiving reality.”
Each artist takes a separate approach to the exhibit’s central concept: Neil McClelland explores and creates relationships between the art historical tradition of the bather and the image-sharing of #beachday photos, while Todd Lambeth challenges prevailing notions of still life by painting images of the backsides of his previously painted canvases and Jeroen Witvliet is inspired by media images of stadiums and other social/cultural architectural icons. Meanwhile, Rick Leong translates the visual language of Asian landscapes to contemporary European formats and Jeremy Herndl employs the historical technique of plein air painting to depict the contemporary urban landscape.
The artists & curators will hold a panel discussion at 2pm Saturday, January 17. Realities Follies runs to Saturday, February 21, 2015, at Open Space, 510 Fort.
It’s been a busy fall for Department of Visual Arts professor and acclaimed photographer Vikky Alexander. In addition to her busy teaching schedule, she opened two recent photography exhibitions and now has the first of two more early 2015 shows open.
Vikky ALexander’s “The Troublesome Window”
Opening January 30 is a solo exhibit of new work at Calgary’s TrépanierBaer Gallery titled The Troublesome Window. Focusing on the seductive mechanisms of display used in shop windows in Paris, Istanbul and Tokyo, Alexander’s The Troublesome Window further explores themes of consumption and seduction—a consistent theme since the early ’80s. The Troublesome Window will establish the depth of her visual investigation by combining several series of works from different periods.
As TrépanierBaer notes, “Vikky Alexander has constructed a body of critically engaging multi-media work examining the relation between nature and the fabricated “natural”. Drawing upon the varying aesthetic devices of interior and graphic design, and architecture and media, Alexander’s critique centers on the way culture uses simulation to create fictionalized versions of the perfect world. Her analysis of the artificial impulse in cultural production configures a repertoire of appropriated materials that recall modernism’s promise that technology would lead to power over nature and transcendence beyond the mundane. Alexander’s representations of the simulated natural posit an ironic stance calling attention to notions of absence that simulation typically masks.”
The “Oh, Canada” exhibition catalogue
The Troublesome Window is part of the Exposure Photography Festival 2015, and presented in conjunction with the opening of the 2012/13 MASS MoCA exhibit Oh, Canada, now running February 1 to April 26 in Calgary. Huge in both scale and scope, Oh, Canada is the largest survey of contemporary Canadian art ever produced outside Canada and features more than 100 artworks by 62 artists and collectives from across the country. Too big for one gallery, the exhibition will be presented in Calgary at the Esker Foundation, the University of Calgary’s Nickle Galleries, the Alberta College of Art + Design’s Illingworth Kerr Gallery, and the Glenbow Museum.
The exhibit opens with a 6-8pm reception on Friday, January 30, 2015, at which Alexander will be in attendance. The TrépanierBaer Gallery is at 999 8th Street S.W., Calgary.
From Vikky Alexander’s “The Temptation of St Anthony”
In other Vikky Alexander news, her winter 2014 exhibit at The Apartment Gallery in Vancouver is the retrospective The Temptation of St Anthony. Appropriated from 1980s fashion photography, these pivotal historic works by Alexander are arranged as near religious diptychs and triptychs, offering classic postmodern takes on objectification and temptation.
Described by pioneering Vancouver artist and writer Ian Wallace as “an expression of the imaginary, wherein fantasies of hope and utopia are acted out in the daydreams that call reality into question . . . . Alexander’s work projects the raw indulgence that exists on the inside of these fantasies, heightening our apprehension and anxieties of them from within.”
From Vikky Alexander’s “The Temptation of St Anthony”
“These are collective fantasies and are linked to popular taste for images that transcend the everyday,” says Wallace. “The images of extreme beauty, which are ubiquitous in commodity culture, function as a cult of escape from the everyday.”
The Temptation of St Anthony runs until January 24 at Vancouver’s The Apartment Gallery, 119B East Pender. The gallery is open noon-5pm Saturdays, or by appointment via email firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 604-336-4046.
She will also have a project in Montreal coming in February 2015.
Vikky Alexander, snapped in Paris
Working as a photographer, sculptor, collagist and installation artist, Vikky Alexander is a leading practitioner in the field of photo-conceptualism. Her work explores the relationship between art, architecture, and nature, and in particular the modernist tendency for incorporating landscapes into buildings and the notion of domestic utopia. She is interested in how nature is experienced in a consumer society, which she investigates in her photographs of artificial environments as well as her use of mass-produced decorator materials such as wood veneers, wallpaper murals of landscapes, and mirrors.
Alexander has long established herself as an important voice in contemporary photography, and her work is also part of the permanent collection in The National Gallery. Over the past 30 years, her solo exhibitions have been seen in Los Angeles, New York City, Bern, Vancouver, Toronto, Windsor, Ottawa and Wellington, as well as the National Gallery of Canada. And her work has been included group exhibitions at the likes of London’s Barbican Art Gallery, New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art and Dia Art Foundation, the Yokohama Civic Art Gallery, the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, and the Seattle Art Museum.
You can glean some insights into her work in this 2013 interview with Vancouver’s online Here and Elsewhere magazine.
Her fall 2014 exhibit at the Wilding Cran Gallery in Los Angeles—titled Theatergarden Bestiarium—focused on a series of photo-collages featuring cutout images of animals from a toy catalogue overlaid onto a photo of a historical site, sans people. As the Huffington-Post noted in this review, “The flat-footed austerity of the collages’ artistic construction stands in diametric contrast to the opulence of each depicted site; suspended in this dialectic is a multiplicity of meanings.”
Vikky Alexander, “Cheetah and Pavilion at Sans Souci,” 2013
Alexander’s photos highlight the improbability of the fabricated scenes, with intentionally less-than-seamless construction of each collage—the animals, for example, cast neither shadow nor reflection. “In using source materials from toy catalogs and postcards from her own travels, Alexander invokes the persona of an eccentric preoccupied with the creation of a fantastic world analogous to Huguette Clark’s dollhouses, William Randolph Hearst’s menagerie, or the fictional character Jean des Esseintes’ idiosyncratic interiors in the 1884 novel Against Nature,” writes Annabel Osberg in the Huffington-Post.
Vikky Alexander, “Bengal Tiger in Large Drawing Room,” 2013
“The luxurious sensibility of Alexander’s grand interiors and gardens further reinforces such a persona. However, Alexander creates her worlds not for entertainment, but to show the dichotomy between the consumption that accompanies humans’ extreme affluence and the comparatively modest use of resources by animals, to whom wealth means little except insofar as it contributes to humans’ power over them. The more complex and affluent our societies become, the more we dominate the earth, annexing land and forcing other creatures to either adapt to artificial conditions or withdraw into ever-shrinking natural habitats.”
Osberg concludes with the thought that “Alexander’s show is a two-dimensional simulation of a zoo or museum that, rather than proffering specific instructive facts about animals or history, exhibits the spuriousness of common representations and treatments of them.”
Prior to Theatergarden Bestiarium, Alexander was one of 12 artists selected for a summer 2014 group exhibition at the Wilding Cran Gallery.
People who have mostly known only poverty and suffering have now found new hope, a sense of joy and a stronger community thanks to a recent University of Victoria Applied Theatre field school in India.
In a scene written by Vadevil, Jayamma and he speak with the Isha students
while trying to find food and water (photo: Laura Buchan)
Led by PhD candidate Matthew Gusul, 13 Department of Theatre undergraduate students traveled to India’s Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry regions to participate in the field school throughout October and November 2014. Gusul, an Applied Theatre practitioner who has done similar fieldwork in Mexico and Guatemala, has been working with the 80 people in Tamil Nadu’s Tamaraikulam Elders’ Village (TEV) for the past two years. By positively highlighting the life experiences of TEV residents and the 750 young students of the Isha Vidhya Matriculation School—both of which were created after the 2006 tsunami to address issues of displacement and vulnerability—Gusul, his students and a team of Indian directors encouraged these seniors and rural youth to perform their own stories, develop strong community relations and create new lines of dialogue across generations.
We first wrote about Gusul’s Intergenerational Theatre for Development plans back in October 2014 while he was planning the field school. “I really want to look at how the community is affected by this process—the performance and process leading up to it should be absolutely wonderful, filled with fun and joy and laughter,” Gusul said at the time. And it sounds like that’s exactly how it came together.
Culture from the inside out
UVic Student Kathleen O’Reilly reads to Isha School Children (photo: Nikki Bell)
“Everyone had a wonderfully dynamic and very emotional experience,” says Gusul. Upon arriving, the undergraduates started familiarizing themselves with India and teaching English and basic theatrical exercises at the Isha school, while Gusul himself instructed the UVic students on neo-colonialism and its legacy in India. “The school is filled with first-generation learners—which, in India, means they are the first member of their family to ever attend any school—and of the 15 students who became part of the theatre company, only two of them had parents who could read or write,” he says. “One of our students used the phrase, ‘Getting to know culture from the inside out,’ which is precisely what we did.”
With participants ranging in age from nine to 90, Gusul and his students worked to develop a sense of intergenerational playfulness, as well as train three Indian directors in their unique facilitation style. “We didn’t want to overload anyone with a lot of information,” Gusul explains. “Playfulness and storytelling is how this style of theatre should work. When you introduce the young & the old, natural playfulness will happen; that’s the beginning point of rehearsal, then you transfer that over to story-sharing, and use those stories to create performance.”
Something old, something new
The final performance at TEV (photo: Aisling Kennedy)
The field school culminated on November 27 with intergenerational theatrical performances at both TEV and the Isha school—a totally new kind of theatre in India, which Gusul makes clear would never have happened without the presence of the field school. “The first time they even started thinking about this was back in 2013 when I first went to this community,” he says. Yet despite the vast cultural distances between the instructors and participants, and the age difference between the performers themselves, the final performances—rooted in the personal experiences of the children and elders—was, as Gusul put it, “a triumph.”
“To create a piece of theatre from something that was spontaneously told to something put on for an audience in just three weeks was truly remarkable,” he says. “They really stepped up to the plate. When it came time to shine, they shone.”
Gus and his newly adopted Indian Grandmother Jayamma (photo: Blair Moro)
Gusul was particularly moved by one participating elder named Jayama, who shared her own story: traded for a piece of farmland as a dowry, Jayama and her husband worked the land for years until he died, then all three of her sons turned to alcohol and abuse, which is how she ended up in abandoned in the elders’ village. Even worse, the last of her sons died from alcoholism only days before the final performance, with Gusul himself driving her to the funeral.
Yet despite all that, Jayama insisted on performing. “She told me that she was really sad to have lost her son, but felt fortunate to be in the elders’ village as she had gained so many adopted sons—including the village manger and myself—and would never want to do anything to disappoint us. She said she still wanted do the performance, because it was so important to her,” he recounts. “This speaks directly to the power of what theatre can offer someone: how important it was for her to tell her story, and how important it was for us as a global community to listen. When you want to talk about the absolutely most under-privileged person in the world, it would be from someone in her position: she’s 80 years old, can’t read or write, and had been abused and abandoned by her sons. ”
Making a better world
Dr Warwick Dobson addresses participants at the Isha School (photo: Blair Moro)
Gusul’s PhD advisor, Theatre professor Dr. Warwick Dobson, joined the field school towards the end of the process, and praised his efforts of all the participants. “The relationships they formed with the elders and students from the different locations were exceptionally strong, and this speaks volumes for their commitment and dedication to the whole Intergenerational Theatre project,” he says. “The final performances were truly magical events. What has been particularly impressive about the whole initiative is that Matthew took great care to involve two Indian directors from Pondicherry University in the devising process.”
Even though the UVic students have now returned, the success of Gusul’s project has ensured it will continue. One of the Pondicherry directors will continue working with the company from January to June 2015, with three more intergenerational theatre companies to be formed in other parts of India over the next 12 months thanks to the support of the HelpAge India NGO, who have supported this initiative from the beginning. “It has been a truly transformative experience for all of us who were fortunate enough to be a part of it,” says Dobson.
UVic students, Nikki Bell, Aisling Kennedy, & Katelyn Clark, create a ‘Happy Machine’ with Jayamma & boys from the AIM for SEVA Cuddalore Boys home (photo: Laura Buchan)
Gusul himself will return to India in June, but sees success as more than just the field school’s imapct. “The Tamaraikulam Elders’ Village is a beacon of hope for elders everywhere in the world,” he says. “It’s filled with people who were poverty-stricken beggars, dayworkers and farmers their entire lives . . . but they aren’t given money, just food, clothes, a roof over their heads and a place to pray and do recreational activities. If you’re an abused elder in Peru, in Africa or here in Canada, it’s inspiring that such a place does exist and is actually making a difference in people’s lives. If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere. It’s more than just a pie-in-the-sky ideal, it’s proof that a better world is possible.”
Gusul praises both UVic and the Department of Theatre’s Applied Theatre specialization—for allowing him to further develop his research into intergenerational theatre. “This is a highly unique project,” he says. “Intergenerational theatre only exists in a few pockets in the Western Theatre world, and this has been the first attempt to spread this methodology to another culture in another country. It is often assumed that people who are in poverty or are very undereducated would struggle to articulate their thoughts, feelings and stories if they were given a platform to have a voice. But this project—and specifically the methodology of intergenerational theatre with the connection to intergenerational playfulness—has shown it is possible for impoverished, undereducated elders and youth to have a voice.”
UVic student Chelsea Graham & TEV elder Srinavisan enjoy their time at the Isha School (photo: Aisling Kennedy)
Ultimately, it’s Jayama’s story that Gusul holds closest to his heart, knowing the difference Applied Theatre has made in her life. “I’m really happy that for one single night, we could take one of these elders and help her become a storyteller for her community, he says. “She can tell her story of going through poverty and oppression her whole life, and can now proudly stand up in this village and declare her story. It’s wonderful.”
—This piece originally ran in the January 2105 issue of UVic’s Ring newspaper. Matthew Gusul will also be the keynote speaker at the 18th annual Visual Impetus Graduate Student Research Symposium in the Department of Art History & Visual Studies, running January 23 & 24 in Fine Arts 103.