New Music & Digital Media Festival

The landscape of new and experimental music in Canada has been greatly influenced by the creative individuals who have taught and studied at the UVic School of Music. From February 2-4, this dynamic community spanning five decades — from former faculty to current students — will converge for a New Music & Digital Media Festival as part of the School’s ongoing 50th anniversary season. 

Music composition has been a vital part of the program at the School of Music since the early days. In 1971 Rudolf Komorous was named Head of Composition and the School’s first analogue electronic music studio was established. “New and experimental music has always been central to what we do,” explains School of Music Director, composition instructor and alumnus Christopher Butterfield. “Many of Canada’s leading composers and interpreters of contemporary music had their training here . . . and our Music and Computer Science program, a major draw for the School, is the only one of its kind in the country.”

Rudolf Komorous & then-student Tony Genge work in the electronic music studio circa 1979

As a direct result of our program, where contemporary music study, creation and practice are at the core, Victoria itself is recognized world-wide as a hub for new music. Faculty and alumni initiatives — including the Aventa Ensemble, A Place to Listen, the Victoria Composers Collective, and collaborations with organizations such as the Victoria Symphony, Pacific Opera Victoria, and Open Space — continue to produce and perform some of the most exciting music of our time, all on the tip of this island off Canada’s west coast. “Show me any place in the country with that kind of activity,” says Butterfield.

The festival will be a great opportunity to hear music by many of the School’s alumni. On February 2, the UVic Orchestra will perform Cassandra Miller’s Round, a new commission from the Toronto Symphony; Miller has twice received the Jules-Léger Prize for New Chamber Music, Canada’s highest honour for composition. 

In a UVic Minute on February 3, features clarinetist Heather Roche and pianist Tzenka Dianova — two leading interpreters of new music — with the Chroma String Quartet performing a smorgasbord of miniature compositions (some written especially for this occasion) by 20 Music alumni. Along with works by Linda Catlin Smith, Anna Hostman, and Nicholas Fairbank, you’ll hear festina lente by Rodney Sharman. Sharman was recently awarded the prestigious $50,000 Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts, which recognizes the highest level of artistic excellence and distinguished career achievements by a Canadian professional artist in music, theatre or dance. The Faculty Chamber Music concert on February 3 offers a program of music by the School’s current and former composition faculty as well as Kristy Farkas and Liova Bueno.

Music alumna Tzenka Dianova

Many UVic School of Music faculty and alumni can be seen and heard during the screening on February 3 of five short films from the Canadian Music Centre BC’s Legacy Composer Film Series. Produced and directed by award-winning filmmaker John Bolton, each film features a performance of a signature work by the composer juxtaposed against a storyline unique to that piece. 

A highlight of the festival is sure to be the lecture-recital with electronic music pioneer and Buchla synthesizer specialist, Suzanne Ciani, on February 4. While the School of Music has a vintage Buchla 200 Series from the 1970s, Ciani will perform on her own Buchla 200e, a modern model of the instrument. 

Of course, our current student body is central to the festival. Find out what the School’s composition students are up to at the Fridaymusic  concert on February 2. UVic’s experimental music ensemble, Sonic Lab, as well as the UVic Percussion Ensemble, will each also give performances on February 4. 

—Kristy Farkas

 

Iconic literary journal celebrates 50 years of excellence

It’s said nothing succeeds like success, which is an aphorism well-appreciated in the offices of The Malahat Review. Currently celebrating both its 50th anniversary and 200th issue, UVic’s venerable and revered literary journal has served as a springboard for some of the most recognizable names in Canadian publishing over its lifetime.

Writing grad & outgoing Malahat Review editor John Barton (UVic Photo Services)

For instance, the Malahat was the first magazine to publish a short story by Yann Martel — 14 years before he went on to win the Booker Prize for the international bestseller Life of Pi. In 1977, the journal dedicated an entire issue to Margaret Atwood’s work, before she became internationally known. Poets such as Michael Ondaatje, Dionne Brand, Patricia Young and beloved Department of Writing professor Lorna Crozier have frequently graced its pages.

“Publishing in The Malahat is a rite of passage for many writers, who feel that they have ‘arrived,’” says outgoing editor, poet and Writing alumnus John Barton, who has nurtured the journal for more than a decade. “Writers who have won our contests have gone on to win National Magazine Awards, the Journey Prize and to get book contracts.”

Hear Barton discuss the Malahat legacy on this January 9 CFAX Radio interview, or in this January 4 Times Colonist article. He was also interviewed on CBC Radio’s All Points West recently (link not available).

Established in 1967 by fabled Writing professor Robin Skelton and English professor John Peter, The Malahat Review has showcased works by established writers, discovered promising new talent and presented perceptive critical comment on other pieces including essays on both literature and the visual arts.

“Without The Malahat Review, I wouldn’t be the writer I am now,” admits Martel, whose short story “Mister Ali and the Barrelmaker” was published in 1988. The journal has won more National Magazine Awards than any other literary journal in the country and has had six editors over its lifetime, including Writing professor emeritus Derk Wynand, Constance Rooke, Marlene Cookshaw, Barton, and Skelton and Peter.

“The magazine has been an inspiration to generations of writers and students at UVic, in Victoria and across the country — as a place to read some of the best writing from around the world and as a high-profile publication to dream of seeing your own work in one day,” says Writing chair and alumna David Leach. “As a student at UVic, I remember reading one of Yann Martel’s early stories in the Malahat and being blown away by its originality . . . . To have one of the best literary magazines in the world located right here on campus has helped to establish UVic and Victoria as important centres of Canadian literary culture.”

And while the Malahat may have gotten its start back in the days when Writing was part of UVic’s Faculty of Humanities, it has long ties to us here in Fine Arts. “The Malahat Review has a long history with the Faculty of Fine Arts that spans decades,” says Dean Susan Lewis.

“Colleagues in the Department of Writing play key roles on editorial and advisory boards, and our students have learned about the literary publishing industry through the Department of Writing Internship program, established in 2004. The Malahat’s status as one of Canada’s leading literary journals makes it a desirable place for our faculty to publish. The journal enjoys an impressive list of accolades — including 12 times as either winner or finalist of the Western Magazine Award’s ‘Magazine of the Year’ and 14 Malahat authors in the National Magazine Foundation’s roster of finalists, with five gold and four silver awards.”

It’s already been a busy anniversary for the Malahat, given last November’s 200th issue launch party, which paid tribute to the Victoria literary scene and artists — past, present and future — with two previously unpublished poems from the late P.K. Page and creative nonfiction from painter Emily Carr. The issue also offers work by Writing professors (current and past), including Tim Lilburn, Patrick Lane, Lorna Croizer, Shane Book and Patrick Friesen, plus alumni Kyeren Regehr, Danielle Janess, Leah Callen, Philip Kevin Paul, Arlene Pare, Jason Jobin and Annabel Howard, as well as former Writing instructors like Madeline Sonik and Alisa Gordaneer.

To better mark the occasion, UVic Libraries is releasing a limited-edition monograph on January 25, edited by Barton: The Malahat Review at Fifty: Canada’s Iconic Literary Magazine is richly illustrated with archival material from UVic Special Collections and University Archives. Contributing authors include broadcaster and UVic Chancellor Shelagh Rogers, as well as Martel, Paul, Wynand, Young, Eve Joseph, Jay Ruzesky, Nicholas Bradley, Heather Dean, Jonathan Bengtson, Jan Zwicky and rising alumna literary star Eliza Robertson, among others.

The Malahat Review at Fifty features extraordinary stories and memoirs from a range of celebrated contributors, recognizing the vital culture impact of The Malahat Review on the Canadian and international literary scene,” says UVic librarian and local poet Christine Walde,  who, as general editor of the series, led the commemorative project.

There will also be a special art exhibition, Landmarks: The Art of The Malahat Review. Curated by Caroline Riedel of UVic Legacy Art Galleries, Landmarks opens January 25 in UVic’s Legacy Maltwood gallery, located in the lower level of the UVic library. Running until May 13, it highlights the role of art in the journal and includes 200 selected cover images. Canadian artists have dominated the visual identity of The Malahat Review and the synergy between art and literature is particularly evident in the cover art and essays of the journal’s first decade, which featured new work by internationally acclaimed artists such as Henry Moore, Andy Warhol, Mel Ramos and Joan Miró.

Indeed, it would be hard to beat Dean Susan Lewis for a more simple, heartfelt acknowledgement of the magazine’s accomplishments. “My congratulations to The Malahat Review on its 50th anniversary and best wishes for continued excellence in the decades to come.”

Fine Arts Wellness Day

Feeling tired? Got the sniffles? Worried about new classes? Start the semester off with a healthy sense of well-being at our Fine Arts Wellness Day! Running 11am – 2pm on Wednesday, January 17, in the lobby of the Fine Arts building, students can shuffle off their January blahs with a variety of special events.

Wellness is an important part of both a general approach to life and student mental health. Fine Arts students often find themselves under additional pressures not shared by other students across campus, given the demands of rehearsals, instrument practice, performance and the push to be creative on top of maintaining a regular class schedule and keeping grades up.

Add to that the unique physical demands that go with being a creative practitioner and you’ve got a lot of good reasons to stay healthy during your academic career.

With that in mind, Fine Arts Wellness Day will feature a number of free services and information essential to your sense of wellness, including

  • free chair massage
  • healthy snacks (including a DIY trail mix bar)
  • a hydration station (featuring both lemon and cucumber water)
  • information about good & simple nutrition
  • tips on stress-reduction and counseling services

And don’t miss the therapy pets at the nearby Pet Cafe (2:30 – 4pm at the nearby Interfaith Chapel), as well as free yoga from 4:30-5:30pm in Hodges 104 (Residence Hub), brought to you by UVic’s SHAPE (Student Health Ambassadors and Peer Educators).

Please join us for this fun and healthy event!

 

New Visual Arts professor creates Avatar Grove film project for IMAX screens

Visual Arts professor Kelly Richardson with one of the old-growth trees in Avatar Grove (photo: Ken Wu)

Internationally acclaimed artist and new Visual Arts professor Kelly Richardson will be one of five digital media artists featured in the upcoming XL-Outer Worlds large-format film project, which will be shooting at Port Renfrew’s Avatar Grove / T’l’oqwxwat in summer 2018 and released on IMAX screens across Canada in 2019.

The Ontario-born artist has been living in the UK since 2003, and teaching at Newcastle University since 2013, but decided to move to Vancouver Island specifically upon seeing BC’s old-growth forests first-hand during her time as a UVic Visiting Artist in the fall of 2016.

“I was overwhelmed by my experience of those ancient stands, which was a huge influence in my decision to apply for a professorship at the University of Victoria,” says Richardson. “I couldn’t believe those ancient stands still exist at all anywhere in the world, let alone here. My upcoming projects will feature the old-growth forests in this region and I hope I can contribute to efforts to raise awareness about their outstanding beauty and the plight to protect what remains.”

Hear more about the project in Richardson’s January 9 interview with CHEK TV. The story was also reported in the January 10 edition of the Sooke News Mirror, the January 11 Canadian Art news roundup, the January 13 issue of the Saanich News, a large spread in the January 14 Times Colonist, the January 16 broadcast of CBC Radio’s On The Island (no link available), the January 17 edition of the Peninsula News Review and the news section of Galleries West magazine.

Vancouver Island’s old-growth forests have a long history of artistic representation, whether as the medium and inspiration for centuries of Indigenous works or the iconic paintings of Emily Carr. Known for creating hyper-real digital films of rich and complex landscapes manipulated using CGI, animation and sound, Richardson’s work fuses 19th century painting, 20th century cinema and 21st century scientific inquiries, Richardson creates works with strong environmental themes, asking viewers to consider what the future might look like if we continue on our current trajectory of global environmental crisis.

Kelly Richardson (photo: Colin Davison)

“I want viewers to be immersed within an old-growth forest that’s been shifted into an area of science-fiction, a potential future,” she says about her project. “That perception will allow us to view ourselves in our current situation with some measure of hindsight and clarity, and hopefully realize what we’re doing, where we’re headed, and why.”

The XL-Outer Worlds project celebrates the 50th anniversary of the IMAX, a Canadian invention, and Richardson’s film will be shot by Christian Kroitor, the grandson of IMAX inventor Roman Kroitor. Featuring four other Canadian media artists (Michael Snow, Oliver Husain, Lisa Jackson, and Leila Sujir), the commission focuses on short films creating a larger-than-life landscape that forms an outer world.

Viewers engaging with Richardson’s work (photo: Ruth Clark)

Highly in-demand as an artist, in 2017 Richardson was involved in 14 solo and group exhibitions across Canada and in China, France, the UK and the US. Her works have been widely acclaimed in North America, Asia and Europe, and have been acquired by the National Gallery of Canada, Art Gallery of Ontario, and Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, as well as by museums around the world.

Her video installations have been included in the Toronto International Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival and she was previously honoured at the Americans for the Arts National Arts Awards alongside Robert Redford, Salman Rushdie and fellow artist, Ed Ruscha.

Richardson’s old-growth project will be created with the participation of the Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA) who, together with the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce, spearheaded the protection of Avatar Grove — called T’l’oqwxwat by the local Pacheedaht First Nation — which is home to one of the most spectacular and easily accessible stands of monumental old-growth trees in BC.

Avatar Grove’s monumental scale matches the scope of Richardson’s work (photo: Ken Wu)

“The old-growth forests around Port Renfrew — still largely endangered — are clearly continuing to impress increasing numbers of people,” says AFA executive director Ken Wu. “Not only tourists, businesses, and news media, but now a renowned artist of Kelly Richardson’s caliber. Her work has garnered major media attention, moved critics and reached popular audiences, all while raising environmental themes in powerful ways.”

The campaign to protect Avatar grove, spearheaded by the AFA and the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce — a ground-breaking alliance of environmental activists and the local business community — has significantly fueled a provincial movement of businesses, labour unions, city and town councils, and environmental groups calling on the British Columbian provincial government to protect old-growth forests and to ensure a sustainable, second-growth forest industry.

New AHVS seminar spearheads new classroom concept

Victoria Wyatt (right) with AHVS undergrad Baylee Woodley in the new art collections classroom

From large lectures and working with TAs to a lack of one-on-one time with professors, there’s no question first-year classes can seem overwhelming to students. But the Department of Art History & Visual Studies is looking to broaden first-year opportunities with both a new classroom and a new class concept: AHVS 101 — a seminar focusing on art, images and experience — launches this month and will be anchored in the department’s new art collections classroom.

“The idea is to create a context in which students transitioning to the university can have an experiential education by interacting with the instructor and their peers in a small group,” explains AHVS professor and course creator Victoria Wyatt. “My job is to create an environment that encourages them to engage actively.”

Pull-out racks will allow for easy display and storage of art

Created with release time made possible by UVic’s Division of Learning and Teaching Support and Innovation and her department, AHVS 101 is open to just 20 students from any faculty and is already proving popular: the debut semester filled up fast, and has a healthy waiting list.

Wyatt notes that first-year students are hoping for something beyond the traditional “sage on the stage” model, where they sit passively while taking lecture notes. “They used to rely on the instructor as a source of information . . . now they look it up on their smartphones,” she says. “Rather than receiving information from an authority, they want to play an active role in navigating that information, actively discussing it. My goal is to give them some tools that will be transferable to whatever discipline they end up majoring in.”

Conceptually, AHVS 101 not only reflects changes in the K-12 education model but also provided the opportunity to create a new learning environment. Featuring purpose-built display and storage cabinets, pull-out painting racks and hanging wall, a dedicated print cabinet and rolling furniture for a flexible learning environment, the art collections classroom will allow students to engage with the paintings, prints, sculptures, and other objects in UVic’s 19,000-plus art collection in an entirely new way.

Rolling furniture allows for easy space reconfiguration

“As one of the leading world art history departments in the country, the new classroom gives our students the opportunity to work directly with the UVic Art Collection,” says AHVS chair Erin Campbell. “[Wyatt’s new class] was designed with the room in mind, and I believe it will be the first small-numbers, seminar-style class to be offered to first-year UVic students.”

As well as other AHVS courses, the new room will also be used for the department’s new Museum Studies minor, Fine Arts classes, and by Legacy Gallery’s art educator. “The classroom will also provide an inviting space for community members to work alongside AHVS faculty members and students with artworks from our collections,” notes Campbell.

Until now, art works had to be transferred back and forth between campus and either downtown’s Legacy Gallery or the storage facility at Queenswood, which is risky and expensive; now, work can simply be left in the room, safely stored and ready to be used. “Because we have to be really careful of security and conservation requirements, this creates an opportunity to make better use of the Legacy art collection and to have students engage with artworks much more intimately,” says Wyatt.

She also feels increased visual literacy is essential for first-year students given the diverse contexts in which we encounter art and images today. “I’d like them to gain experience in how to think about and manipulate visual images in different contexts so they develop greater acumen in looking at websites. How would they use the artwork if they’re a curator at a gallery, for example, or using it as a background in retail, or putting a banner photo on a website or a thumbnail on social media? How would they photograph it? What would they say about it?”

The art collections classroom is one of two new spaces unique to the department and UVic: also new this year is the Fine Arts interactive media lab, designed to support the growing strength of AHVS’s Visual Studies stream.

Cubbies will keep the space tidy & keep personal items away from objects

Wyatt, the 2017 recipient of the Fine Arts Award for Teaching Excellence, feels the new course is a perfect fit both for students and herself.

“This actually links into my research about relationships between Indigenous ways of knowing and paradigm shifts in western science, because it’s about non-linear thinking, how everything connects . . . . it’s about encouraging students to develop ideas of what they need to think about as they navigate complex, dynamic systems. The Internet is a complex, dynamic system, so is global warming . . . everything we need to engage with in a really serious way is a complex, dynamic system. I want to expose students to that way of thinking and hopefully it will help them as they move through university.”

Interested in finding out more? An open house of these new interactive learning spaces will be part of UVic’s Ideafest in March.