It’s pipelines & protests in metaphorical “Madwoman”

Art is often quite prescient. Be it science fiction or political satire, a tasty analogy or handy metaphor can be a welcome tool for many artists in an effort to comment on current happenings. But what happens when, 70 years later, a far-fetched idea becomes closer to reality than the original event?

French playwright Jean Giraudoux wrote La Folle de Chaillot during WWII when Paris was under siege by Nazi forces. Unable to address the political situation directly, he used metaphor as a way to protest the violent incursion of his beloved city; unfortunately, Giraudoux was in ill health when he wrote the play and did not live to see either its premiere or success after the war.

It was understood by audiences at the time that the evil and corrupt businessmen who were trying to profit from supposed oil underneath Paris — as portrayed in The Madwoman of Chaillot, which opens November 9 at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre — were stand-ins for the Nazis, whose occupation of the City of Light and much of France caused humiliation, hardship, and tragedy for the French Resistance, French-born Jewish people and those who had fled to France prior to the outbreak of war.

Giraudoux offers us a protagonist to work against these representatives of evil: Countess Aurelia, an eccentric holdover from a less cynical time. When she learns that her cherished neighbourhood of Chaillot is in peril because of the businessmen’s plans, she bands together with a rag-tag group of artists, vagabonds and dreamers to fight back. Fast-track to 2017, when oil pipelines are being driven through our communities jeopardizing wildlife and our environment, and suddenly Giraudoux’s artistic metaphors no longer seem like a far-fetched threat.

Conrad Alexandrowicz

Department of Theatre professor and Madwoman director Conrad Alexandrowicz remains fascinated by how this play’s context has become so literal for today’s audiences.

“We live in the era of climate crisis — something even Giraudoux may not have been able to even imagine,” he says. “With the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion set to begin, we are forced to take the figures of evil in the play — bent on profit-making regardless of the costs — at their face value; for us their status as metaphor has disappeared.”

You can read more about The Madwoman of Chaillot and director Conrad Alexandrowicz in this Times Colonist interview and this Black Press interview.

An essayist and dramatist who wrote 15 plays, Giraudoux also served France as a diplomat, government official, and a soldier in World War I. His writings often tempered tragic themes with rueful comedy, using allusive prose, allegory, fantasy, and political and psychological perceptions. The 1947 English translation of Madwoman by Maurice Valency holds to this day, and the play has seen a resurgence of interest in the last few years.

The set of Madwoman of Chaillot (photo: David Lowes)

The sets in the current Phoenix production — designed by recent Theatre professor and alumnus Patrick Du Wors allude to the nostalgic café-lined streets of Paris, even though they are only flat, massive representations of 19th century engravings.

Costumes, designed by MFA student Michelle Ning Lo, have WWII-era references for the businessmen, and vibrant and flamboyant Edwardian-era frills for the “madwomen.” Lighting design by fourth-year student Matthew Wilkerson captures the streets of Chaillot and helps heighten the moments of comedic absurdity, as does the sound design by third-year student Logan Swain, featuring classic Parisian music that is slightly off-kilter.

Michelle Ning Lo’s costume designs

“The designers and I have taken a meta-theatrical approach to the production, eschewing realism completely for a play that operates in the realm of the fantastic, in the genre of post-modern performance as much as in comedy,” says Alexandrowicz.

Indeed, anyone who has seen past Phoenix productions by Alexandrowicz — including 2015’s Lion in the Streets and 2012’s Good Person of Setzuan — will recall his dynamic blend of imagery, movement and text.

Keep your eyes open for intentional elements of creative anachronism that will help to make comparisons to 2017 even more apparent.

—with files by Adrienne Holierhoek

The Madwoman of Chaillot runs at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre, 8pm Monday – Thursday from November 9 – 25, with 2pm Saturday matinees. Tickets range from $15 – $26 and can be booked by phone at 250-721-8000, or in person at the Phoenix Box Office. Recommended for ages 13+.

 

A fresh crop of book prize nominations

Fall is traditionally book prize season and, as with most years, our Department of Writing has a fresh crop of alumni and faculty currently up for prizes.

Alumna Eden Robinson is a Giller Prize finalist for her latest novel, Son of A Trickster (Penguin Random House). This is Robinson’s second Giller nomination, following her debut Monkey Beach back in 2000. Robinson is one of five finalists chosen from a longlist of 12 books — which also included alumna Deborah Willis for her story collection The Dark and Other Love Stories (Hamish Hamilton) — and the winner will be announced on November 20.

Writing professor emeritus and beloved poet Lorna Crozier is a finalist — again — for the Governor General’s Literary Awards, this time for her poetry collection, What the Soul Doesn’t Want (Broadview Press). Crozier won her first Governor-General’s Award back in 1992, and we’ll find out on November 1 if she wins again.

MFA alumna Yasuko Thanh took home the 2017 City of Victoria Butler Book Prize on October 11. She was awarded the $5,000 cash prize for her first novel, Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains (Hamish Hamilton Canada), which was reported in both this Times Colonist article and this CHEK news broadcast, while Thanh spoke about the writing life in this CFAX 1070 Radio interview.

Jurors described Yellow Mountains as “a haunting book that explores the harsh impact of colonialism, the blind, random damage it drags in its wake, and the puny nature of ill-thought out resistance versus the well-oiled wheels of imperialism. Thanh’s book is a sensory treat, a complex collage of images and themes. Original sharp and spiky language brings the reader fully into the narrative moment.”

Also nominated for the 2017 Victoria Book Prize were fellow alumni Patricia Young for her poetry collection Short Takes on the Apocalypse (Biblioasis) and Steven Price for his novel By Gaslight (McClelland & Stewart).

Theatre alumna Carleigh Baker was announced as the winner of the 2017 Vancouver Book Award on October 13 for her short story collection Bad Endings (Anvil Press), which explores a range of human experiences, from the death of a relationship to struggles with mental health. The $3,000 prize recognizes authors of any genre, who evoke an appreciation and understanding of Vancouver’s history and people. Bad Endings is also nominated for the $50,000 Rogers’ Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and Baker was named one of CBC Books’ writers to watch in 2017.

Congratulations also go out to current Writing undergrad Kade Bound, who was recently announced as the winner of the Lambda Foundation’s annual Candis Graham Writing Scholarship.

Finally, Writing professor Tim Lilburn was named the first Canadian recipient of the prestigious European Medal of Poetry & Art on October 10. Commonly referred to as the “Homer Medal,” Lilburn was presented the award by visiting Chinese poet and editor Zhao Si at a small reception on campus.

 

 

 

 

 

Sacred art, sacred teachings

Rande Cook at UVic (Photo Services)

It has been a busy couple of years for Rande Cook. Beyond his duties as chief of Vancouver Island’s ’Namgis Nation and his commitments as an in-demand contemporary artist with an international practice, Cook just completed two back-to-back terms as the Audain Professor of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest with the Visual Arts department.

“Two years in the position allowed me to really reach students,” says Cook. “I was able to delve into the role art plays in politics, and got them to dive deep within themselves. I pushed my students a lot and they seemed to appreciate that — the feedback at the end of the year said it was one of the more profound classes they had ever taken, because it challenged them internally.”

More than just creating a challenging course, however, Cook found the Audain Professorship provided him with the chance to bring his own artistic training into play.

Viewers at Cook’s Audain Exhibition

“Having the opportunity to share what I do from a strong First Nations background was key,” he explains. “Bringing that knowledge into an institution where students don’t really understand traditional teaching gave me the chance to share the real foundation of what the art is: that it comes from a sacred place, that the teachings are sacred.”

Cook is the sixth artist to hold the Audain Professorship, following the likes of Jackson 2Bears, Michael Nicol Yahgulanaas, Nicholas Galanin and Governor General’s Award-winner Rebecca Belmore.

As he reflected in this interview following his first year in the position, “I wanted to design a course around the work I’m doing right now, which means looking at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the murdered and missing Indigenous women, Idle No More, the REDress project, the round dance movement . . . about healing and bridging.”

Rande Cook speaking at the art education conference

Now he feels two years in the position allowed him greater freedom to explore key concepts. “I could break down the art form into its elements and show them how to put it back together. It was like dissecting a symphony: a violin can play anything, once you learn it, but it’s up to you to decide the song and how it should be played.”

Beyond his time in the classroom, Cook was also frequently seen around UVic in his role as chief, participating in events at First Peoples House, drumming for ceremonial openings, speaking at educational conferences, and taking part in discussions about greater indigenization on campus.

Cook also presented a retrospective of his work in October 2016 as the annual Audain Exhibition. Held each fall in the Audain Gallery, Cook’s Accumulation was timed to coincide with Intersections, a combined conference by the BC Art Teachers Association and the Canadian Society for Education through Art. A highlight of the event, Accumulation also provided context for remarks by Cook, who led a workshop at the conference — which also featured a keynote address by Michael Nicoll Yahgulaanas, a former Audain Professor himself.

Collaboration Mask, seen at the Audain Exhibition

Among the pieces on display at Accumulation was a mask collaboratively created with local artist Carollyne Yardley. Aptly titled “/kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n / Collaboration Mask,” the piece is a good example of both Cook’s connections with Victoria’s greater arts community and his contemporary take on traditional art forms.

“in an era of reconciliation, art has once again become a node through which native and non-native engagement is flourishing through agendas of healing, understanding and respect . . . ‘/kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n / Collaboration Mask’ is an aesthetic response to this cultural resurgence in Canada,” writes Fine Arts alumna Dr. Andrea Walsh in this short essay about the piece.

And does he think an important part of the Audain Professorship is to have a presence both in the community and across campus? “I really do,” he says. “I don’t find there’s a lot of true Northwest Coast representation in Fine Arts — there are people who study and teach it, but authentic Northwest Coast artists like myself are rare. Having people in those positions who can speak to that is important.”

Cook also feels it’s important to transcend academia’s traditional definitions. “There are no walls within our culture. I sat in a lot of meetings where people were saying, ‘We want to indigenize the university, how can we incorporate more indigeneity?’ But we don’t have walls between history and music and practice . . . if someone in the Audain position could keep that idea alive, it would be very beneficial.”

Cook (centre) at the opening of UVic’s Michael Williams building

Much like the bridges he builds with his art, Cook feels reaching new communities is an important part of his role as chief and educator.

“Overall, the Audain position gave me the opportunity to share a deeper, profound understanding with everyone — not just the art form, but where it comes from and what it’s about. You can see native art all over the place now, but there’s a deeper meaning to it . . . especially when you’re wanting to learn, to develop the skills.”

 

Remembering Erich Schwandt

Whether they realize it or not, generations of graduating UVic students have been touched by the music of Dr. Erich Schwandt.

Professor Emeritus of Musicology in the School of Music, Dr. Schwandt passed away in Victoria on August 2. A native of California, he attended Stanford University for his entire academic training, where he studied harpsichord with noted American musicologist, Putnam Aldrich. After a period of teaching at the Eastman School, Schwandt came to UVic in 1975, where he taught until he retired in 2001.

Erich P. Schwandt

An expert on music of the French Baroque, towards the end of his career Schwandt did major work on the early 20th century composer Erik Satie, notably reconstructing his lost Messe des pauvres, which had its world premiere at UVic in 1997, accompanied by a 40-person choir.

A gentle and witty man, much beloved by his students, he continued to be a presence at the university after he retired, and for 30 years played the huge Clearihue organ at every convocation ceremony in the University Centre Farquhar Auditorium until spring 2013. His work as an organist was profiled in this “Day in the Life” story for UVic’s Ring newspaper back in 2011. “It’s a lot of fun, and it’s an easy thing to do,” Schwandt said at the time. “I get to play whatever music I please.”

Indeed, due to his position as organist, Schwandt may have attended more UVic Convocations than any other person, with tens of thousands of UVic grads hearing his work. “It means a lot to the families to see their child get their degree,” he said, adding that he had “also heard speeches of all kinds from honorary degree recipients through the years.” (Favourites included eco-forester Merv Wilkinson and Canadian author Carol Shields.)

Schwandt was also instrumental (pun intended) in UVic’s acquisition of the Clearihue organ in the late 1970s. “I saw an ad with a very vague description of an organ for sale in Quebec for $20,000,” he recalled in the Ring article. “I went to Quebec to investigate. And it was in a church where it had been subject to extreme fluctuations in temperature and had suffered damage so that it was barely playable. Local organ builder Hugo Spilker went and examined it, took it apart, arranged for transport and modified it mechanically for installation in the new UVic auditorium.”

The French classic organ — originally built by 1966 by Georges Mayer of Sarre-Union, France, for the parish of St. Mathias, Quebec — was purchased and donated to UVic by Dr. Joyce Clearihue, as a memorial to her parents Joseph and Irene Clearihue (Joseph served as UVic’s first chancellor). “I like it very much,” Schwandt said at the time.

Schwandt’s interest in education surfaced at an early age when he tutored the neighboring pastor’s child on the kitchen blackboard. His appreciation of music dates back to his early years in his childhood home, which held two pianos and an organ that he restored while in high school.

In 2015, Schwandt was awarded Honorary Alumnus status at UVic, when then-Director of Music, Dr. Susan Lewis, described him as “one of the department’s defining spirits.”

A memorial gathering for Erich Schwandt, with music and refreshments, will take place at 2 pm Saturday, September 30, at the University Centre Farquhar Auditorium. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Mary M. and Erich P. Schwandt Scholarships. Donations can be made either online or by mail: Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Victoria, PO Box 1700 STN CSC, Victoria BC V8W 2Y2. Attn: Development Office. Please include in Cheque Memo: “Mary M. and Erich P. Schwandt Scholarships”

 —With files by Kristy Farkas, Robie Liscomb and Samantha Krzywonos

 

Busy fall for Visual Arts faculty

It’s a busy season for our Visual Arts professors, a number of whom have exhibits of new work on view, both locally, nationally and internationally.

Robert Youds, “City Cut Flowers”

Visual Arts professor and alumnus Robert Youds presents City Cut Flowers, a solo exhibit of new works, until Sept 30 at Winchester Galleries Downtown (665 Fort). Featuring three related painting projects and two light-based works, City Cut Flowers explores picture/objects as imagined and remembered fragments drawn from our urban world. Each piece explores the core perceptual conditions of light, shadow, colour, surface, and their communicative relationship to our aesthetic, cultural, and ideological values.

“I have been thinking about consciousness in our time, and that age-old question: how do we as individuals shape it?” says Youds. “For example, is a home a home without personal choices evidenced through the careful spatial choreography of pictures, colours, surfaces, and light? Where do our aesthetic dispositions evolve from? Can the growing digital and AI realms alter our future understanding of the physical world or will they simply reinforce the same elements through a different means?”

Youds also has another solo exhibit coming up this winter: For Everyone A Fountain runs Nov 17 – Jan 2, 2018, at Open Space. He’ll be hosting an artist’s talk at 2pm Saturday, Nov 18.

New work by Daniel Laskarin

Visual Arts professor and sculptor Daniel Laskarin presents his latest solo exhibit, ruins and reclamation, which continues until Oct 7 at Deluge Contemporary (636 Yates). His work combines industrial forms with elements of minimalist sculpture, material exploration and the lyrical sensibility of visual metaphor. He describes his work as means for thinking through the world, a process by which he might give sensory experience to consciousness.

Objects and materials, combined and manipulated, form things that find their own order in a condition of disorder and yet refuse that which orders everything. Independent materials congeal to create an interdependent network, resulting in unique forms that generate a complex and shifting subjective experience. His diverse media incorporates photography and video, optics, robotics systems, installation and sound. He has been involved with set design, public image projections and large-scale public commissions in Vancouver and Seattle, and has exhibited in Canada and internationally.

Kelly Richardson’s “Leviathan”

New Visual Arts professor Kelly Richardson is in the midst of a very busy few months, with work in a variety of exhibitions. Her hyper-real digital films of rich and complex landscapes that have been manipulated using CGI, animation and sound, have caught the eye of galleries around the world. Her latest solo exhibit, Kelly Richardson: The Weather Makers, runs at Dundee Contemporary Arts in Scotland from Sept 23 to Nov 26. Weather Makers was previewed in this article from The Herald newspaper, which describes her “thought-provoking, post-apocalyptic art in its spectacular large-scale form” as both “visceral and provoking” and “a wonderful fictional and imaginary element tied in to stark scientific fact and research.”

Weather Makers features three of Richardson’s video works and a series of chromogenic prints, Pillars of Dawn, which posits a desertscape of environmental desiccation in which trees and plants have been physically crystallized by some unknown environmental event. “The questions that she’s asking about the way we’re mistreating the world around us, about global warming, the constant consumption of resources and how we’re going to manage after mismanaging it for so long are so incredibly pertinent and urgent right now,” says DCA curator Eoin Dara of Richardson’s show. “Magnificent and complex, Richardson’s work asks us to consider what our future might be like if we continue on our current trajectory of planetary pillaging and consumption, and why we have allowed ourselves to arrive at such a moment of global environmental crisis.”

Richardson also has work at the following group exhibits this fall:

“Embassy 2017” by Cedric Bomford & Verena Kazimierz

Visual Arts professor Cedric Bomford and department LTA Verena Kaminiarz are working together on “Embassy, 2017” an outdoor project for the Calculating Upon the Unforseen portion of Toronto’s upcoming Nuit Blanche on Sept 30. “Embassy, 2017” is described as a large-scale structure “designed to adapt to the site where it is located; which can be seen as opportunistic, parasitic and political . . . Given the current trend of hardening nationalism around the world, it seems fitting to reflect on notions of national identity. Forever in progress, Embassy requires visitors to complete the structure in their minds.” The piece was featured as a highlight of the Toronto Star’s Nuit Blanche preview article.

Professor Emeritus Sandra Meigs opens her latest solo exhibit this fall. Room for Mystics will run at the prestigious Art Gallery of Ontario starting October 18. A recipient of the Governor General’s Award in 2015, and the 2015 Gershon Iskowitz Prize, Meigs was also recently named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Her new installation, Room for Mystics (which includes work by School of Music Director Christopher Butterfield), emerges from her Iskowitz Prize.

For over 35 years Meigs has created vivid, immersive, and enigmatic paintings that combine complex narratives with comic elements. She derives the content of her work from her own personal experiences, and develops these to create visual metaphors related to the psyche. Meigs will provide an overview of her work and speak about her new installation, Room for Mystics, at an AGO public talk on Oct 18—but more locally, she’ll also be speaking as part of the “Treasures & Tea” series at UVic’s LIbraries from 1-2pm Wednesday, Sept 27 in room A003 of the McPherson Library.

Meigs will talk about what it was like to be a painter in the ’70s and ’80s, and why the donation of her archive from that period to UVic’s Special Collections might be of interest to researchers. She will also show a brand new artist flap book project she collaborated on with poet Ron Padgett.

Sessional instructor and noted local artist Charles Campbell is involved in a pair of international exhibitions this fall: Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago at Los Angeles’ Museum of Latin American Art (running Sept 16, 2017 – February 25, 2018) and En Mas: Carnival and Performance Art of the Caribbean at San Francisco’s Museum of the African Diaspora (Sept 20, 2017 – March 4, 2018).

And busy MFA alumni Lindsay Delaronde, and Hjalmer Wenstob were both involved in the One Wave Gathering on September 16. As Victoria’s Indigenous Artist in Residence, Delaronde had a featured performance, while Wenstob worked with local Indigenous youth to create four longhouses on the lawns of the BC Legislature. Wenstob’s involvement was mentioned in this Victoria News article.

Finally, the department’s acclaimed Visiting Artist program is in full swing again, with a number of guests coming in this fall:

  • Amie Siegel (Sept 20) – Ranging from photographs, video, film installations and feature films for the cinema, American artist Amie Siegel’s work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions across the US and around the world.
  • Léuli Eshrāghi (Sept 27) – The work of this Sāmoan / Persian artist centres on ceremonial-political renewal, languages, embodied futures, diasporic and local indigeneities.
  • Valérie Blass, “She Was A Big Success”

    Valérie Blass (Oct 4) – This Montreal-based sculptor contrasts notions of visibility and invisibility, as well as the boundaries between volume and surface.

  • Kimberly Phillips (Oct 25) – This writer and curator spent the past four years as the Director / Curator of Access Gallery, a Vancouver artist-run centre committed to emergent and experimental practices. She recently joined Vancouver’s Contemporary Art Gallery as curator.
  • Dominique Pétrin (Nov 1) – A multidisciplinary artist living and working in Montreal, Dominique Pétrin was recently longlisted for the prestigious Sobey Award, and has exhibited across Canada, France, the US, Belgium and the UK.
  • Patrick Howlett (Nov 22) – Abstract painter Patrick Howlett is a UVic MFA alumnus and has exhibited nationally and internationally, and is currently based in London, Ontario.

All Visiting Artists talks happen at 7:30pm in room A150 of UVic’s Visual Arts building, and all are free and open to the public. Please join us!

 

A summer of Visual Arts

It’s been a busy summer for Visual Arts faculty, students and alumni — thanks to a number of new projects, installations and exhibits happening locally, nationally and internationally. Here’s a quick roundup:

Daniel Laskarin with his in-process sculpture

Professor Daniel Laskarin unveiled a new sculpture at Richmond Firehall 3 in July. The new piece, titled to be distinct and to hold together, is the culmination of an $80,000 public commission started in 2015 and sits in front of the new building, housing Cambie Fire Hall No. 3 and the Richmond North Ambulance Station.

Created to resemble a fire tetrahedron, Laskarin’s sculpture is a representation of the four elements necessary for fire: fuel, heat, oxygen and a sustaining chemical reaction. Visitors are invited to interact with the work, pushing to rotate it by hand, which gives it both a literal meaning — in presenting the services named and the community served — as well as a metaphoric meaning — by giving vision to the interlinked and interdependent relationships among Richmond Fire-Rescue, BC Ambulance Service and the broader community. You can watch it spin in this video.

Visual Arts professor Cedric Bomford is having a busy summer out of town, with work in the California Pacific Triennial at the Orange County Museum of Art, running until September. This thought-provoking exhibition offers a survey of contemporary art in and around the Pacific Rim, exploring the topic of architecture and the temporal precariousness of the built environment. Among the issues to be addressed are the recording of history and preservation; the concept of home and displacement; and the influence of global power, economics, and political systems on global construction. And, along with his brother Nathan and father Jim, Cedric also has a project opening as part of Endless Landscape in Gatineau, Quebec, running until August 30.

Kelly Richardson

Kelly Richardson, our new digital/extended media professor, is hitting the ground running with a pair of summer exhibits: the Bonavista Biennale in Newfoundland and the Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne, England. The group exhibit at the Towner features art from 12 leading international artists, including Richardson, who has been living and working at Newcastle University since 2003.

Timed for the Canada 150 celebrations, the Bonavista Biennale is a contemporary visual art exhibition and running August 17 – September 17. Organized by curators Catherine Beaudette and Patricia Grattan, it will present works by 25 leading Canadian artists in non-gallery sites (micro-brewery, fishstore, old schoolhouse, seal plant, beach, etc) and promises a unique encounter with this spectacular area where history and traditional culture combine. It’s already gaining attention as one of Canadian Art magazine’s “20 show we want to see in 2017”.

There was a good deal of media interest in the latest site- and temporally-specific performance piece by department chair Paul Walde: his Tom Thomson Centennial Swim on July 8 resulted in 10 unique interviews, ranging from a full-page piece on page A3 of the Toronto Star to six different CBC Radio shows and the Times Colonist. “Landscape painting is about beauty,” Walde told the Star‘s Murray Whyte. “But the landscape is dangerous. It doesn’t care if you live or die. That was the very limit of what I could do. For me, to be in the water where he died — that was powerful.”

And professor Megan Dickie has a new publication hot off the press: One Way or Another looks at Dickie’s exhibition of the same title that ran at Open Space from January 13-February 18, 2017. The publication features essays by exhibit curator Megan K. Quigley, writer Kyra Korodoski and MFA alumna artist Kerri Flannigan.

Kerry Flannigan in action

Speaking of Kerri Flannigan, the recent MFA alumna will be spending the next eight months in residence at Victoria’s venerable Open Space, which has provided a vital interdisciplinary gallery and performance space for over 45 years now. Flannigan’s residency will include research and production investigating social media and storytelling, relating to early digital telecommunications. A Victoria-based interdisciplinary artist and writer who explores methods of experimental narrative and documentary, her work is grounded in both personal history and in-depth research; recent pieces examined family mythologies, coming-of-age confessions, body language and swimming pools.

Modeling the collaboratory projects that Open Space engaged in the late ‘70s, Flannigan’s project employs archival research, DIY skill sharing, and collaborative production, and will culminate in a series of public workshops and performances. She will be focusing on slow-scan, and will work with artist Patrick Lichty, as well as former Open Space directors/artists Peggy Cady and Bill Bartlett. As one of the oldest artist-run centres in Canada, Open Space has played a significant role in the development of contemporary art in Canada. In addition to hosting thousands of artists over the years; it also publishes, manages a resource centre, maintains archives, and manages a commercial lease for the lower level of its building.

Lindsay Delaronde supported by dancers during ACHoRd (Photo: Peruzzo)

In other Visual Arts alumni news, recent MFA Lindsay Delaronde — now Indigenous Artist in Residence for the city of Victoria — presented the powerful dance performance piece AChoRd. A great example of how reconciliation can — and should — involve the arts, AChoRd was performed on June 25 in front of the BC Legislature as part of Victoria’s Canada150 celebrations.

As Emilee Gilpin writes in this fantastic Tyee article, “the performance, called ‘ACHoRd,’ was not a regular dance but the result of weeks of storytelling, healing and transformation. The group, comprised of Indigenous and non-Indigenous women, explored the theme of reconciliation by listening to and learning from one another, creating movements and strategies of support.” To get more of a sense of the creation, intent and impact of the event, be sure to read Gilpin’s piece, which also features exceptionally strong photography by Peruzzo.

Another recent Visual Arts MFA alumna with work on view this summer is Kwakwaka’wakw artist Marianne Nicolson. Her video installation There’s Blood in the Rocks — running until September 16 at the Legacy Art Gallery Downtown — uses pictographic imagery and song in a quiet but powerful video installation that tells the often-silenced history of the 1862 small pox epidemic in Victoria, which utterly devastated thousands of West Coast First Nations people. With this piece, Nicolson acknowledges the loss of her ancestors while affirming continued Indigenous presence in the land and the strength, endurance and resurgence of First Nations peoples over time.

“Forestrial Brain” in process (photo:
Yannick Grandmont)

Visual Arts alumni Jim Holyoak and Matt Shane have spent the past two months working on the collaborative drawing installation Forestrial Brain at Open Space — the culmination of an eight-day hike on the West Coast Trail, followed by a six-week residency at Open Space. The enormous, immersive drawn installation explores west coast forests and ecologies, steeped in fantasy and imagination. This shared world is one at the borderlands of wilderness and civilization, the real and the imaginary, deep time and the present,” says Shane. To mark their achievement, Open Space is holding a finissage (closing reception) for Forestrial Brain during the Integrate Arts Festival: 7pm Friday, August 25, with music to follow. Read more about what Times Colonist art critic Robert Amos calls “the biggest, most complex and engaging artistic creation I can ever remember in that space” in this article.

Shane an Holyoak are just two of many Visual Arts alumni involved in the 11th annual Integrate Arts Festival, running August 25-27 in a number of venues and galleries around Victoria. Watch for work by Colton Hash, Laura Gildner, Leah McInnis, Maddy Knott, Marianne Nicolson, Elizabeth Charters and Xiao Xue. And don’t miss Laura Gildner’s “Public Displays of Affection” walking tour (1-2pm Sat, Aug 26), a participant-driven performance work touring between selected exhibits in the downtown core. 

In award news, 2017 BFA grad Xiao Xue continues to make headlines with her remarkable walking camper project, titled “something to ponder on” — which will also be on view during the Integrate Arts Festival in downtown’s Bastion Square. As well as being singled out as an outstanding undergrad in this UVic News article, she won the top prize in June’s Rainhouse Technology Challenge—beating out prototype drones, satellites and submarines. “Xiao’s work shows a unique blending of art and technology. It’s a remarkable application of imagination,” said Rainhouse’s Ray Brougham in this Victoria News article. Xiao was also interviewed on CBC Radio’s On The Island on July 12, and was featured in this CHEK TV news segment on July 13.

Xiao Xue with her walking camper

Breaking news! Xue has just been confirmed as the national prize winner in 2017’s BMO 1st Art invitational competition. Not only does she win $15,000, but her work will be featured as part of a special exhibition at the University of Toronto’s Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, running from November 16 to December 16, 2017 (alas, it will only feature a video and documentation of her work, and not the actual camper itself), as well as in a special spread in Canadian Art magazine.

And 2017 BFA grad James Fermor has also been named the BC provincial winner in the same competition, earning him $7,500. His work will also appear in the same Toronto exhibit.

Finally, current third-year student Cassidy Luteijn made the news this summer as one of the finalists for a Canada 150 condom wrapper design contest. Her uniquely “Canadian” imagery includes a sexy beaver and a moose with underwear draped on its antlers. The story has been reported by the Martlet, CBC Radio, the Huffington Post and others.