Sound Genres explore sound as foundational practice

Paul Walde’s Glacial 

The School of Music will be exploring sound as a foundational practice with Sound Genres, a special multimedia symposium running May 26-28 and funded in part by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

More than just an academic symposium, however, the event —which is free and open to the public — will also feature an opening sound installation by Visual Arts professor Paul Walde on Friday night, a public performance featuring nine musicians on Saturday night, and a special commissioned Sound Walk on Sunday afternoon featuring artist-in-residence Tiess McKenzie and Kristy Farkas, the School of Music’s concert manager.

“If you go to a music department at a university, most often it’s classical music,” says organizer and Music professor Anthony Tan in this interview with the Nexus newspaper. “You have to know musical notation, you’re often playing orchestral instruments, and so what we’re looking at is how this study of sound from these perspectives can actually inform how we teach music in university, and how we can become more inclusive about these practices as well.”

Expect discussions to focus on the complicated relationship between “sound” and “music” on the one hand, and the tension between increasing globalized sound genres and the culturally-specific meanings felt by listeners and practitioners on the other.

“I think a lot of people have very diverse definitions of what music is,” says Tan. “If you listen to the sounds of the environment, it’s also music in a way, and our conference is about questioning that notion about what is music versus what is sound.”

About the symposium

Conceived and organized by Tan and fellow Music professor Joe Salem plus Postdoctoral Fellow Taylor Brook and PhD candidate Sean Kiley, Sounds Genres will explore electronically mediated sound and music genres in both academic settings (sound art, soundscape, electroacoustic etc.) and popular contexts (EDM, ambient, techno etc.).

Artists, musicologists, anthropologists, and other participants from across Canada will convene to share their artistic and scholarly work with a focus on how these diverse sound genres intersect and how they may be critically engaged to revise curriculums in higher education both inside and outside of music departments.

Special guests

All of the events at Sound Genres stress social connections between real people, but as artists, scholars, and practitioners, we also embrace the irony that some of our most intimate, personal, and physiological experiences are those mediated by creative artistic practices. For this reason, the symposium also includes sound installations, a sound walk, an evening practicum performance, a curated, ears-on library exhibit, and practical demonstrations of sonic applications in the classroom — all of which you can read more about here.

Friday night’s Sound Installation and reception in the Visual Arts building will feature work by Paul Walde (Glacial), Jan Swinburne (Internet Songlines), Michael Trommer (Ancient Thoughts & Electric Buildings) and Annie Dunning (House on Fire).

Saturday’s “Sound as Witness, Sound as Truth” session will feature UVic Associate Librarian Ry Moranexploring the long histories of Indigenous music as a source of resistance, resurgence and political power, alongside a live performance and dialogue with Nehithaw (Cree)-Dené and Michif (Métis) storyteller Zoey Roy.

Saturday evening’s concert will feature the likes of Hildegard Westerkamp, Rachel Iwaasa, Matthew Haussman, Sean Kiley, Zosha Di Castri, Jane Chan, Paula Matthusen, Terri Hron and Tina Pearson.

Sunday’s keynote will feature University of Toronto speaker Eliot Britton on “Supporting Creative Hybrids: Bridging Diverse Practices Through Music Technology”.

Throughout the Symposium, you’ll also be able to enjoy the “Musical Mutant Machines” on display in the School of Music, which were created by Monkey C Interactive’s David Parfit and Department of Writing MFA alum Scott Amos.

The final event will be the commissioned Sound Walk featuring Tiess McKenzie’s participatory multimediaexperience across the UVic campus, followed by Kristy Farkas’ live performance of selections from her work “Songs For Tree”, which takes you outside in nearby Finnerty Gardens.

Please bring your own mobile devices and (wired) headphones to experience this element of the piece.

Find full details and speaker biographies here

Summer Arts Series showcases arts technology

Looking to expand your artistic repertoire with new skills and practices? Fine Arts is once again partnering with UVic’s Division of Continuing Studies and Alumni Relations for our second annual Summer Arts Series.

This year’s series, running in July 2023, will focus on workshops and lectures centred on the theme of arts and technology.

Learners of all backgrounds will experience how current professional artists use technology with workshops that include exploring the possibilities of projection in installation art, coding electronic music with Sonic Pi and an interactive introduction to beatboxing and live-looping technology. A special lecture on digital tools in contemporary painting will round out our series.

Each session will provide opportunities to learn practical skills for transforming fine arts knowledge into career opportunities while also engaging with celebrated UVic alumni who are successful in their chosen career.

Sonic Pi: Coding Electronic Music

School of Music alum Marco Neri Garcia will walk you through Sonic Pi, an alternative and versatile computer application for creating and exploring sound. This largely intuitive tool employs simple computer code to create musical works.

1-4pm Tuesday, July 4 (face-to-face), $60

Beatboxing, Live Looping & Vocal Triggering

School of Music alum Matthew Haussmann is offering this fun, interactive and informative introduction to the art form and culture of beatboxing and live-looping technology. Beatboxing is for everyone and anyone with a tongue, lips and lungs can do it!

6-9pm Tuesday, July 4 (face-to-face), $60

Room Without a Trace: Projection Possibilities & Installation Art

What are the possibilities of projection art? Can a room be filled without leaving a trace? Visual Arts MFA alum and current instructor Leanne Olson explores how, in a time of materials and waste considerations, projection art offers a way to create an immersive space.

10am-5pm Wed-Thurs, July 5-6 (face-to-face), $195

Digital Tools & Contemporary Painting

Visual Arts MFA alum and current instructor Todd Lambeth will help you discover how digital tools are used in contemporary painting, and how a world mediated by images has changed the way we think about the painting medium.

7-8pm Wednesday, July 5 (face-to-face), $15

Be sure to visit the Summer Arts Series homepage for full details & registration info

Annual BFA exhibition sees students developing their professional practice

While April sees most of campus focusing on final exams, graduating visual arts students are getting in one final taste of professional practice as they organize, curate, install and promote the annual BFA exhibit. Titled Don’t Need to Know to Feel It, this year’s show will feature 100 pieces by 23 emerging artists, showcasing their work in sculpture, performance, installation, painting, drawing, animation and digital media. With a gala opening starting at 7pm Saturday, April 15, and the exhibit running daily to April 23 in in 13 different exhibition spaces throughout the Visual Arts Building, there’s plenty of opportunity to see the work on display.

Don’t Need to Know to Feel It is a reminder that what we do as artists isn’t just for us, but for the whole world,” says graduating student and curation co-chair Stella McCaig. “Understanding beauty, magnificence and joy is not something you can learn, and therefore you need not know anything to feel it.”

Stella McCaig “Cars and Girls” (2023, installation shot)

A good example of that is graduating artist Jasper Pettman. A Two-Spirit/trans artist from Secwepemcúl’ecw (100 Mile House) and a member of Cowessess First Nation, Pettman’s practice explores personal conceptualization of identity as it relates to the physical realities of the body.

“I use acrylics and unstretched canvas to depict bodies in motion and transformation, often mirroring sensations I experience within my own body and experience as a Two-Spirit and trans artist,” he explains. “I also engage with similar ideas when I work with digital media, such as 3D modelling software and web coding, with extra emphasis on text and Indigenous language.”

Among Pettman’s work in the exhibit will be his Tumblr-based digital work “napêhkâ”, which is influenced by late ’90s/early ’00s internet art as seen on then-popular sites like Geocities and Myspace—but is given a contemporary twist with its focus on Indigenous resurgence and Indigenous language revitalization.

“Through building community and curation of my own space online, I want to imagine or re-imagine the era of early Internet blogging in a personal, Indigenous context,” he says. “I’m constantly updating the [HTML and CSS] coding as I learn new techniques, as well as creating content to post on the blog—including writing in Cree and my paintings.”

Jasper Pettman

Also graduating this year is Leina Dueck, whose work reflects her own cultural history as an artist of mixed Japanese, Canadian, German and Dutch heritage. She uses a variety of multimedia techniques—including canvas, cyanotype, sewing, textiles and photography—to exploring the “emotional baggage” of past events.

“The act of creating is a deeply personal and an intuitive experience,” says Dueck. “Each piece that I make represents a journey, a process of discovery and a way of engaging with the world around me.”

Her work in the grad exhibit will showcase a form of regalia created using traditional Japanese textiles and modern sewing techniques, with an added layer of cyanotype photography symbolizing “frozen moments and breaths of time”. “The concept of this regalia will be targeting my struggles with identity and the shifts I’ve had to make in order to resist being culturally fetishized.”

Ultimately, says Dueck, her goal as an emerging artist is similar to that of any established artist: to create pieces that both challenge and inspire. “I hope to create works that encourage viewers to question their assumptions and see the world in a new context and perspective.”

Leina Dueck, “Delirium” (2022, Cyanotype)

Don’t Need to Know to Feel It runs April 15 to April 23 in UVic’s Visual Arts Building.

Creating a Certain Kind of Space: Charles Campbell

When the Faculty of Fine Arts announced the creation of a new annual donor-funded lecture series focused on activism and the arts, the selection committee were faced with an onerous task: who to select as the first guest? While a number of options were presented, the committee ultimately—and unanimously—endorsed internationally acclaimed multidisciplinary artist Charles Campbell as the inaugural speaker in the Lehan Family Activism & the Arts Lecture Series.

Jamaica-born but Victoria-based, Charles Campbell is an artist, writer, curator and educator whose artworks—including sculptures, paintings, sonic installations and performances—explore aspects of Black history, especially as experienced in the Caribbean region. The recipient of the Shadbolt Foundation’s 2022 VIVA Award and the 2020 City of Victoria Creative Builder Award, his practice animates the future imaginaries possible in the wake of slavery and colonization.

As such, Campbell is an ideal choice to kick off a series focused on how the arts can be a catalyst for change in advancing the understanding and goals of various social justice topics. His March 23 talk, “Sometimes in the Middle of the Story: Art & Changing Fictions,” explored how his work examines and disrupts the fictions embedded in our colonial reality.

You can now watch that talk here: 

Working for social change

When asked if he felt he was a good fit as the inaugural speaker for this series, Campbell pauses before giving a characteristically thoughtful response. “There are a lot people doing good things in the community with regards to activism,” he says. “My work is important in the realm of social change: it doesn’t always strictly meet the criteria of what I’d consider activist work, but it’s definitely in dialogue with that space.”

From his perspective, what’s the difference? “I think of activist-based art as engaging with a very specific outcome: we want something to happen in how people think, or the social context we’re working in—and the more specific that is, the more effective it can be in terms of activism.”

Campbell feels his more socially engaged practice is about “exploring our political and social realities . . . I think my own work is more about creating a certain kind of space rather than leaning towards a specific outcome.”

photo: Lia Crowe (Boulevard Magazine)

Shifting perspectives

By way of example, he points to “Time Catcher”, his recent commission for the Victoria International Airport. Installed overhead in the passenger departure lounge, “Time Catcher” features a series of three-sided suspended vessels invoking concepts of not only time and movement but also ecological and cultural memory; additionally, the text of Octavia Butler’s “Paradise” is also inscribed in Morse code on each surface, acknowledging both our connection to home and the forces of change motivating people’s global movements.

“That airport piece is an interesting example, as it’s made for all kinds of audiences who come through that space,” he explains. “But one of those audiences is Black people coming into Victoria: the city has historically identified itself as an extension of a little British town—there’s no public or visible space for Black people—so that quote is a marker to say, ‘hey, we’re here.’ That’s just a small example of how I’m trying to create that kind of a space, and a little bit of a shift of people’s perspectives on how a space can work.”

Similarly, his upcoming solo exhibition An Ocean to Livity—running April 15-June 20 at the Surrey Art Gallery—foregrounds Black breath as a source of power, repository of memory and site of connection. He touched on similar themes with his contribution to the 2022 group exhibit The Chorus Is Speaking at the Campbell River Art Gallery, which explored how people experience identities of Blackness in Canada.

“My work in that show was really about breath, about what allows us to breathe,” he explains. “That piece really came out of the experiences of 2020, about Black Lives Matter and the murder of Geroge Floyd.”

Exploring Black identities

Following up on her 2022 Massey Lecture series and subsequent essay collection, Out of the Sun: On Race and Storytelling, celebrated author and UVic Writing alumna Esi Edugyan recently spoke out against the idea of a “Black monolith” and encouraged people to acknowledge how complex Canadian identities of Blackness can be—an idea with which Campbell definitely agrees.

“I’m totally with Esi on that one,” he says. “There are a large number of Black identities, and some of them take up a larger space in the cultural field than others. But for a lot of us—specifically in Canada, and more specifically on the West Coast—it really fragments quite quickly. But then the question becomes, how to define that space within the context of the multiplicity of experience and points of view?”

As a Jamaica-born artist on Vancouver Island, that’s a nuanced dialogue with which he is constantly engaged. “I’m very well-connected with the Caribbean arts movement and a lot of my exhibition opportunities have come through that—just not on this side of the continent, since Canada’s massive Caribbean population lives back east,” he explains.

“Here on the West Coast, it’s more about being a capital-B Black artist . . . yet there isn’t one origin story for the Black community here, so there’s an attempt at a kind of pan-Blackness. But I think you can intentionally create more solidarity through different notions of Blackness—it’s not about common identity, it’s about consciously working to create understanding and commonality.”

About the Lehan Family

Meet brother and sister Mel Lehan and Freda Knott: committed West Coast activists and community builders . . . and now, thanks to an anonymous donor, the named recipients of a lecture series established in 2022. Each year, the Lehan Family Activism & the Arts Lecture showcases a distinguished guest presenting ideas on how the arts is a catalyst for change in advancing the understanding and goals of various social justice topics.

This short video tells you more about their family’s commitment to activism and the arts, and how Mel and Freda have worked to build community and make changes in their home communities of Vancouver and Victoria. 

Guest artist Hawksley Workman talks songwriting and the music industry

Singer-songwriters and musicians hoping to break into the industry won’t want to miss two unique events with acclaimed Canadian singer-songwriter, Hawksley Workman. Set to visit the University of Victoria on March 15-16, these events will highlight Hawksley’s eclectic mix of indie rock, pop, and folk music, his electrifying stage presence, as well as his experience in the music industry as a producer, composer and recording artist.

In a keynote singer-songwriter event on March 15, Hawksley will give a short performance followed by a chat about his song-writing process and techniques. The discussion will delve into Hawksley’s approaches to cultivating melodic surprise, colour and contrast, harmonic contour, and form. Students from the UVic School of Music will then have the opportunity to perform an original song and receive constructive critique from Hawksley.

DIY Musician roundtable

roundtable on March 16 will offer an insightful discussion on what it takes to thrive as a self-produced musician in Canada. Hawksley will be joined by industry leaders from the Victoria community including Merrie Klazek (UVic Associate Professor, trumpeter), Adrian Dolan (composer/producer/arranger, and member of The Bills), and Laura Mina Mitic (vocalist with Carmanah). Topics will include mastering your craft, marketing and promotion, community engagement, and aspects of mental, physical, and financial health.

While visiting UVic, Hawksley will also guide students in a pro-level studio recording session with a focus on how to be efficient and effective in the various studio roles, from producer to session musician. School of Music students Brendan Wong and Olivia Jackson, who perform together as the duo Actual Human People, have been selected to be recorded and will leave with a completed studio recording of one of their tracks. (This event is not open to the public.)

A mainstay of the Canadian music scene for over two decades

Hawksley is a two-time JUNO Award-winning and Gold Record certified singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. A mainstay of the Canadian music and arts scene for over two decades, Hawksley boasts a catalogue of 16 releases, showcasing his signature blend of anthemic folk and show-stopping vocals. Hawksley’s touring career has seen him play over a thousand shows worldwide. He’s headlined prestigious venues like Massey Hall in Toronto and The Olympia in Paris. As a producer, his fingerprints grace releases by JUNO and Polaris Prize nominees and winners like Tegan and Sara, Sarah Slean, Serena Ryder, Hey Rosetta!, and Great Big Sea. He’s also penned melodies with a myriad of artists, from Oscar award-winning Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose, Inception) to the late French rock icon Johnny Hallyday.

Symposium explores Gendered Threads of Globalization

Who makes our clothing? How has the shift from artisanal production to “fast fashion” over the last 150 years devalued women’s textile labor in Asia? How are heritage textile/garment traditions across Asia being preserved and revived by laborers and the organizations that support them?

Hosted by Art History & Visual Studies professor Melia Belli Bose, Gendered Threads of Globalization: 20th century Textile Crossings in Asia Pacific (GToG) united scholars, activists and artists from across North America, Asia and Europe for a three-day symposium dedicated to these issues in March 2023 . . . after twice being delayed due to the pandemic.  

The free GToG events included discussion panels, a screening of Cathy Stevulak’s award-winning documentary THREADS and a textile-based performance by visual artist Monica Jahan Bose.

Organizer Belli-Bose was interviewed ahead of the event by CBC Radio’s All Points West (sadly, the interview was only live and not archived online) and was featured in this article which ran in India’s Telegraph newspaper.

“We hosted approximately 30 scholars, artists and textile experts from various countries in Asia, Europe and North America,” Belli-Bose told the Telegraph. “I conceived this conference to unite those working with heritage textile study, revival, and preservation in different Asian cultures. We focused on women’s roles as textile makers, cultural stewards, activists working for recognition and safe working conditions, and designers. The gendered angle is rooted in the fact that women have always had an integral role in textile production, from sericulture in East Asia to making nakshi kanthas in Bengal and phulkaris in Punjab to indigo in Southeast Asia.”

A scene from Cathy Stevulak’s documentary THREADS

About GToG

Gendered Threads of Globalization: 20th c. Textile Crossings in Asia gathered specialists from a range of academic disciplines and artistic/artisanal practices to discuss intersections of gender, textiles/garments/fashion, labour and heritage across Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Taiwan, Japan, and the diaspora) during the long 20th century (ie: late 19th century to present).

GToG participants investigated topics like

  • heritage textiles/garments—their demise and revival
  • gendered labor in the fashion industry
  • confluences of identity (regional, communal, ethnic, religious), domesticity and agency
  • activist art that critiques the global garment industry
  • the evolution, consumption, appropriation and display of heritage textiles/garments.

Keynote address

Friday’s keynote speech featured Ashoka Fellow Judy Frater on “Threads of Identity in Kutch 2022: Gender, Value, Creativity and the Marketplace” (4:20pm in Fine Arts 103). Judy Frater is steeped in the world of contemporary textiles of Kutch, India. Residing in Kutch for 30 years, she co-founded and operated Kala Raksha, a cooperative for women embroiderers, established the Kala Raksha Textile Museum, founded Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya. the first design school for traditional artisans, and reinvented the school as Somaiya Kala Vidya.

A scene from Monica Jahan Bose’s WRAPture

Live performance

Sunday’s live performance featured the work of Orion Visiting Artist Monica Jahan Bose, a Bangladeshi-American artist and activist whose work spans painting, film, photography, printmaking, performance, and interdisciplinary projects.

Her short film, WRAPture: A Public Art Project was also screened at the event, and was followed by a live textile-based performance in the lobby of UVic’s David Lam Auditorium.

WRAPture follows a climate justice art project from Washington DC’s low-income Anacostia neighborhood to Barobaishdia—a remote Bangladeshi island on the frontlines of climate change—as Jahan Bose leads a dozen women farmers and over 200 Washingtonians to co-create 65 climate-themed saris, which wrap five Washington buildings. While they work on the saris, the participants recite poetry, sing, and dance, creating a trans-border community. The film includes rare footage and testimony of the impacts of climate change on coastal women farmers and the power of art to bring about change.