ONC Artist in Residence debuts “Gossip with Whales”

The ocean has many songs to sing! Join us for this feast of music and celebration as we launch the world premiere performances of four new choral compositions created during Dennis Gupa‘s artistic residency with Ocean Networks Canada.   

Together with a panel of artists, performers and scientists, Gupa will present the unique collaboration “Gossip with Whales: Exploring Ocean Science through Applied Theatre” at 6:30pm PST Wednesday, September 22 via a free online webinar.

Exploring the tanaga and Mangyan poetic forms

Drawing on Tanaga—a Filipino traditional lyrical art form—the four pieces that make up “Gossip With Whales” will offer artistic insights into current challenges for our oceans. One of the poems was translated into an Alangan-Mangyan poetic form of the Mangayan of Mindoro Province, Philippines.

“By looking at the experience and knowledge of local people—who have been experiencing these climatic events for so many years, but are not really given a lot of opportunities to tell their stories—we can learn from their knowledge and wisdom,” says Gupa. “Our poetries and songs renew our kinship with the ocean.”

Find out more about Dennis Gupa’s work here.

Gupa, together with participating Filipino artists Karla Comanda, Roijin Suarez, Darren Vega, Thai Hoa Le and Jeremiah Carag, will discuss the creation and intention of these pieces with event moderators ONC scientific data specialist Megan Kot and School of Music composer Taylor Brook

Dennis Gupa

The arts & oceans together

A PhD in UVic’s Theatre department, Gupa is also the most recent artist-in-residence with Ocean Networks Canada (ONC), a UVic initiative.

He sees the artistic residency—launched by the Faculty of Fine Arts and ONC two years ago—as a natural fit with his doctoral focus on Indigenous sea rituals, climate change and sustainable ecology.

“This residency program comes at a time of crisis in ocean sustainability,” ONC chief scientist Kim Juniper. “Science-art collaborations such as this one bring together the insight and power of two ways of looking at the world, and will hopefully lead to new understanding and greater benefits for our ocean and our future.”

This event is presented by UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts & Ocean Networks Canada in celebration of our shared ocean and the launch of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030. 

An example of Ambahan, a Hanuno’o poetic form.
Source: PINAGMULAN: Enumerations from the Philippine Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ed., Dr. Jesus T. Peralta, NCCA & I). ICHCAP, 2013 // Photo by Renato Restrollo, NCCA – ICH (2013) (courtesy of National Commission for Culture and the Arts)

New accordion scholarship offers keys to the future

Visit any music academy in Eastern Europe, Russia or China and you’ll find numerous programs created specifically to study the accordion. Not so in North America, where it still doesn’t get the respect it deserves as a symphonic instrument­.

At UVic, however, that perception is changing thanks to the Brian Money & Nancy Dyer Accordion Scholarship in Music, which supports outstanding graduate or undergraduate students.

New accordion program

Our new School of Music program is unique in North America (University of Toronto also offers accordion studies, but only at the doctoral and Masters levels), and was “purposely designed” to be flexible, says Music professor Adam Con—an accordionist himself.

“We’re preparing students to enter the market to be performers and ambassadors of the accordion with a wide variety of styles under their belt—even jazz, which you can’t do anywhere else.”

Part of that preparation will come from internationally acclaimed accordion performer and teacher Jelena Milojević, as well as from our Phillip T. Young Recital Hall. “We had 30 professionals from all over the world come here for a festival and they thought our acoustics were the best they’d ever heard for accordions,” says Con.

Nikolay Ovchinnikov

Gift makes program a reality

Donor Brian Money started playing accordion at seven and continued studying throughout his career as a telecommunications engineer—including with Milojević herself). Russian graduate student Nikolay Ovchinnikov became our first accordion performance student in 2020, with three more starting in fall 2021 and still more confirmed for 2022.

“This instrument has a lot of ability to open up a diversity of music styles and experiences we’re otherwise blind to,” says Con. “There are a lot of students from Eastern Europe who want to come to North America.“

20/21 Donor Fast Facts

  • $4.688,093 received from donors
  • $2.3 million funds received from estate gifts
  • 749 overall donors
  • 200% donors doubled in last year
  • 9 new fine arts awards created
  • $759, 314 awarded to students from donor awards
  • 452 awards available for undergraduate students
  • 68 awards available for graduate students
  • 319 students who received awards
  • 1 in 4 student received donor support

Donors Brian Money & Nancy Dyer

New photo lab develops student skills

Thanks to cell phones, we live in an era where everyone has a camera in their pocket—but that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone is a photographer.

“I keep having this conversation with students as photography evolves and becomes more ubiquitous,” says Laura Dutton, an assistant teaching professor in photography with our Visual Arts department.

“We’re all used to seeing photos on digital screens, but we really want to place emphasis on the photograph as fine art. The way photography can comment is extremely important in the world of contemporary art.”

Time for an upgrade

With over 150 photography students and nine separate photo-based courses, Visual Arts decided it was past time to upgrade their facilities: the new photography finishing lab is the result of a 15-month, $300,000 renovation funded by UVic’s Capital Projects.

It includes a wide range of technology and donor-funded equipment, including a large-format print, laminator, negative scanner, projector, lighting, computer stations, custom tables and a 50-foot magnetic wall for showing work.

“The room was really lacking functionality before, but now we have a sophisticated and professional space,” says Dutton. She also notes that the new lab and equipment will help students develop new skills in their own photography practice that will transfer to art-related employment opportunities.

“The completed project is providing students with an exceptional learning and making space,” says Visual Arts chair Cedric Bomford. “The excitement to get into the room and use this equipment is exciting. It’s been a real bright spot in a challenging year for students and faculty alike.”

Banting Fellow & Vanier Scholar named in Fine Arts

Fine Arts researchers and creative practitioners Taylor Brook and Troy Sebastian are among UVic’s recipients of the prestigious Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships and Vanier Canada Graduate Scholars,

“Congratulations to Taylor and Troy,” says Acting Dean Allana Lindgren. “Having a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow and a Vanier Scholar in the Faculty of Fine Arts is an honour.”

Together with Canada’s federal granting agencies, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada announced the results of the 2020-2021 Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships and Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships competitions on July 15.

“Both Taylor and Troy are highly talented and accomplished young artists/scholars, so it is very satisfying to see the excellence of their creative work and research recognized at the national level,” says Lindgren. “I am confident that their expertise, creativity, and aspirations will enrich our community.”

Taylor Brook

School of Music composer Taylor Brook is one of four UVic recipients of the Banting fellowships. The federal program is designed to build world-class research capacity by recruiting top-tier postdoctoral researchers at an internationally competitive level of funding.

The two-year Banting fellowships are worth $70,000 per year. They are open to both Canadian and international researchers who have recently completed a PhD, PhD-equivalent or health professional degree and other eligibility criteria. UVic’s other three recipients are Kristina Barclay (Biology and Anthropology), Simon Blouin (Physics and Astronomy), and Gillian Kolla (Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research).

A Canadian composer who writes for the concert stage, video, theatre, dance and robotic instruments, Brook’s compositions have been performed by ensembles and soloists worldwide. A 2020 Guggenheim Fellow, he has won numerous SOCAN Young Composers awards, including the 2016 grand prize, and holds a Doctor of Musical Arts from Columbia University.

 

Brook’s music is often concerned with finely tuned microtonal sonorities, combining his interest in exploring the perceptual qualities of sound with a unique sense of beauty and form. Current projects include a new concerto grosso for the San Francisco-based Del Sol String Quartet with the Partch Ensemble and a concert-length piece for the NYC-based TAK Ensemble.

As part of his SSHRC project, he will be writing a new composition for the Aventa Ensemble, to be performed in 2023.

“I am thrilled to begin my research at the University of Victoria as a Banting Fellow. My research will develop a novel framework for cross-cultural musical analysis that overcomes limitations engendered by Western musical notation. I hope to build a greater understanding of tuning and temperament as an expressive force in music as well as contribute to a broader effort in musicology, composition and music theory to decolonize the curriculum in higher education.​”
—Taylor Brook

SSHRC Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship

Troy Sebastian | nupqu ʔak·ǂam̓

Department of Writing alumnus and instructor Troy Sebastian is one of three UVic researchers named as Vanier Scholars in the annual competition by the Government of Canada.

The scholarships are earmarked for social sciences and humanities, natural sciences and/or engineering and health. Vanier scholars, who receive $50,000 funding each year for three years, demonstrate leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement in graduate studies. UVic’s other two recipients are Dorothea Harris (Educational Psychology and Leadership Studies) and Lucie Kotesovska (English).

A Ktunaxa writer from ʔaq̓am, Sebastian’s research and creative practice focuses on memoir, Indigenous masculinities, Canadian military history, Ktunaxa nation building and Ktunaxa language revitalization. His proposed PhD program is a special arrangement between the Department of Writing and the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

 

“My Vanier scholarship will focus on celebrating who we and our history in our ancestral homelands by researching the life and service of a Ktunaxa veteran who was killed in action during World War II,” says Sebastian.

A graduate of UVic’s Writing MFA program and an instructor with the department, Sebastian was selected for the 2020 Writer’s Trust Rising Star program, is a recipient Hnatyshyn Foundation’s Reveal – Indigenous Arts Award and is also a graduate of the Banff Centre’s Indigenous Writers program.

His writing has been longlisted for the 2019 Writers’ Trust Journey Prize, both the 2020 CBC Poetry Prize and 2018 CBC Short Story Prize, and he has been published in Best Canadian Stories 2019, The Walrus, Ktuqcqakyam, The New Quarterly, Quill and QuirePrairie Fire and The Malahat Review.

“My research and artistic practice centres on Ktunaxa language, storytelling, morality and ethics, and is dedicated to the empowerment of the Ktunaxa Nation’s vision statement: ‘Strong, healthy citizens and communities, speaking our languages and celebrating who we are and our history in our ancestral homelands, working together, managing our lands and resources, within a self-sufficient, self-governing Nation.’”
—Troy Sebastian | nupqu ʔak·ǂam̓

Vanier Canada Graduate Scholar

Orion Series presents curator Fahmida Suleman

The Orion
Lecture Series in Fine Arts

Through the generous support of the Orion Fund in Fine Arts, the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Victoria, is pleased to present:

Dr. Fahmida Suleman

“Islamic Art & the Museum: A Curatorial Odyssey”

4:00 – 5:30 pm (PST) Wednesday, June 9 2021

Free & open to the public via Zoom 

Presented by UVic’s Department of Art History & Visual Studies, co-sponsored by
the Middle East and Islamic Studies Consortium of British Columbia 

For more information on this lecture please email: arthistory@uvic.ca 

Challenges for museums

What are the challenges museums face in the display of the arts of the Islamic world?

Since the late 19th century, museums have devoted attention to Islamic art and craft, encompassing objects dating from the seventh century to the present. Ideas about how the diverse and fascinating visual and material cultures of the Islamic world should be displayed have changed significantly over time, reflecting the broader trends in museum practice.

In this discussion AHVS professor Marcus Milwright, Dr. Fahmida Suleman considers the varied roles and responsibilities of a curator of Islamic art, and the ways in which exhibition design can address the social, cultural and ethical concerns of contemporary audiences. A Q&A session facilitated by AHVS alumna, Dr. Atri Hatef Naiemi, will follow.

Researching & exhibiting 

Dr. Fahmida Suleman joined the Royal Ontario Museum in 2019 as the Curator of Islamic Art & Culture after over two decades of experience studying and working in the UK. She oversees the permanent and rotating displays in the ROM’s Wirth Gallery of the Middle East. Dr Suleman is responsible for researching, exhibiting and developing the ROM’s growing collection of Islamic art and material culture, the largest collection of its kind in Canada, numbering approximately 8,100 objects and ranging in date from archaeological artefacts from the 700s CE to objects from the present day including modern and contemporary Middle Eastern art.

Before joining the ROM, Dr Suleman was the Phyllis Bishop Curator for the Modern Middle East at the British Museum for 10 years where she significantly developed the modern ethnographic collections and curated several exhibitions such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Fantastic Creatures in Islamic Painting; Adornment & Identity: Jewellery and Costume from Oman; and Life and Sole: Footwear from the Islamic World. Her final project at the British Museum was the installation of a new ground-breaking permanent gallery, the Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World. At the ROM, Dr Suleman is working on a number of research projects including a multi-disciplinary exhibition about the Indian Ocean and an investigation of food and hospitality cultures of the Middle East through material culture. She is also collaborating on an ongoing field research project with colleagues at the British Museum and the National Museum of Oman on the tradition of female silversmithing in Dhofar, Southern Oman, which will result in a forthcoming exhibition at the British Museum. 

Teaching & fostering innovation

Fahmida is cross-appointed as Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto in the Department of Near and Middle East Civilizations and the Department of Art History. She teaches undergraduate level courses on curating the material culture of the Islamic world in galleries and exhibitions and Islamic iconography. She is also a founding co-chair of the Islamic Art and Material Culture Collaborative (IAMCC), a research network based in Toronto that brings together the capacities and resources of the University of Toronto, the Royal Ontario Museum, and the Aga Khan Museum. The aim of the IAMCC is to foster innovative and interdisciplinary research on Islamic art and material culture, support an annual junior and senior fellowship program, host monthly talks and research seminars and present a high-profile annual visiting lecture.

About the Orion Fund

Established through the generous gift of an anonymous donor, the Orion Fund in Fine Arts is designed to bring distinguished visitors from other parts of Canada—and the world—to the University of Victoria’s Faculty of Fine Arts, and to make their talents and achievements available to faculty, students, staff and the wider Greater Victoria community who might otherwise not be able to experience their work.

The Orion Fund also exists to encourage institutions outside Canada to invite regular faculty members from our Faculty of Fine Arts to be visiting  artists/scholars at their institutions; and to make it possible for Fine Arts faculty members to travel outside Canada to participate in the academic life of foreign institutions and establish connections and relationships with them in order to encourage and foster future exchanges.

Free and open to the public  |  Seating is limited (500 Zoom connections) |  Visit our online events calendar at www.uvic.ca/events

Dennis Gupa: from sea rituals to applied theatre and science

Dennis Gupa in February 2021. (Photo: John Threlfall)

The idea of artists working with scientists is nothing new to Dennis Gupa.

A PhD candidate in UVic’s theatre department, Gupa is also the current artist-in-residence with Ocean Networks Canada (ONC), a UVic initiative. He sees the artistic residency, launched by the Faculty of Fine Arts and ONC two years ago, as a natural fit with his doctoral focus on Indigenous sea rituals, climate change and sustainable ecology.

While Gupa’s term at ONC will wrap up this spring, he’s also finishing his doctoral work in applied theatre under the supervision of theatre professor Kirsten Sadeghi-Yetka, whose experience in community-engaged research includes projects in Indigenous language revitalization through theatre with children in the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver, young people in Brazilian favelas, young women in rural areas of Cambodia and students with special needs in schools in The Netherlands.

As with any applied theatre practitioner, Gupa also wants to use the tools of theatre and drama to help bring about social change and build a sense of community—and, in his case, to attempt to grapple with the gravity of global warming especially in the island nations of the world.

Strengthening connections between art and science

Sharing stories is exactly what Gupa has in mind with the ONC initiative: recently repositioned as an opportunity for Fine Arts graduate students, the ONC artist-in-residence program exists to strengthen connections between art and science, and ignite cross-disciplinary exchanges around the major issues facing oceans today.

“This residency program comes at a time of crisis in ocean sustainability,” ONC chief scientist Kim Juniper. “Science-art collaborations such as this one bring together the insight and power of two ways of looking at the world, and will hopefully lead to new understanding and greater benefits for our ocean and our future.”

While the pandemic is complicating Gupa’s original idea to create an immersive, ONC data-fueled performance experience involving the Filipino diaspora community—including playwright Karla Comanda, classical singer Jeremiah Carag, Philippine-based composer Darren Vega and Vietnamese-Canadian actor Thai-Hoa Le—Gupa is still hopeful about uniting these two worlds during his spring 2021 residency.

“How can we share our stories with the scientists, and what does that mean to them to listen to immigrants?” Gupa ponders. “How does our history of exile connect with the history of climate disaster? We’ve never really tapped into that or discussed it in a scientific space.”

For Gupa, the ONC residency is less a challenge and more a cumulative opportunity between his artistic and academic pursuits.

“There’s a lesson in fluidity that this water is teaching me and I’d like to bring that to the fore in my work … it’s not just a fascination, but water is so embodied in my work as an artist. It’s beautiful but it’s also dangerous. We cannot wait any longer for inclusive and deeper collaborations to make things better for all living things in this earth—both seen and unseen.”

Ces Bersez, Dennis Gupa, & Francis Matheu in “Murupuro/Island of Constellations” at Prairie Theatre Exchange in 2018. (Photo: Migrante Manitoba FB web page)

Social justice for the seas

“When we think of the water, I think of social justice,” Gupa adds. “As an archipelagic country surrounded by water, the Philippines have been suffering from ocean disasters due to climate change: resources are depleting, coral are bleaching, fish are dying and the waters are warming so the fish don’t have food. So what do they do? They migrate, just like Filipinos—fish are the first climate refugees.”

Gupa has also been looking at how climate change has impacted Canadian Filipino diaspora communities, with whom he created and then toured a highly collaborative theatrical production in 2018 (Victoria, Vancouver, Winnipeg).

Gupa performing the mask of Imelda Marcos during his production of “Murupuro”. (Photo: Fiona Ngai)

Applied theatre, traditional knowledge and climate crisis

Having grown up in the Philippines, Gupa has witnessed firsthand the threat of extreme weather events. With his country being a former colony—extending across 7,600 islands and known for its maritime history, marine diversity and Indigenous population—the parallels between the Philippines and Vancouver Island are clear to Gupa. He says this is probably the reason he decided to do his grad studies at UVic.

“By looking at the experience and knowledge of local people—who have been experiencing these climatic events for so many years, but are not really given a lot of opportunities to tell their stories—we can learn from their knowledge and wisdom,” he says. “Our poetries and songs renew our kinship with the ocean.”

Gupa’s research focuses on traditional ways of knowing, as well as storytelling and applied theatre, and how these elements can be drawn into important discussions and dialogue in support of social justice, community participation and climate action.

A youth theatre project in 2015 co-directed by Gupa for a rural high school “glee club” in the Philippines. (Photo: The Perfect Grey | ASEAN Center for Biodiversity)

And he very much believes in bringing people together to share stories. Gupa says, “I create interdisciplinary work with a kinship among knowledge disciplines. One of the fascinating functions of an artist is being an interlocutor, bringing people together to share our stories.”

He conducted field work in the Samar-Leyte region of the Philippines, working closely with local elders on the island community of Guiuan, where the super typhoon Yolanda in 2013—one of the deadliest on record—first made landfall.

Interdisciplinary conversations on global issues

In addition to collaborating with ONC at UVic, Gupa was a visiting graduate research fellow at UVic’s Centre for Studies in Religion and Society in 2019/20 and a recipient of a 2017 student research fellowship from the Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives at UVic. He is also a Vanier Scholar.

“Scientists spend hours in their labs thinking about their work, similar to what theatre and performance artists do in their rehearsal spaces,” he says. “We’re all exploring and searching for meaning; this kind of interdisciplinary conversation simply lets us be better adjusted to global issues.”

Gupa also spent a decade at the University of the Philippines Los Baños where, in addition to teaching theatre, he was named the first head of the Office of Arts and Science Fusion Program.

In 2011, Gupa received a grant from the Asian Cultural Council (established by John D. Rockefeller III) for six months in as the director-in-residence with Ma-Yi Theatre Company in New York City.

His collaborative work has also won support from the British Columbia Arts Council, the Canada Council for the Arts, World Bank Manila Office/Australian Agency for International Development, ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity and the Dharmasiswa Scholarship through the Indonesian government’s Ministry of Education, among many others.

Gupa has an MFA Directing (Theatre) degree from UBC and an MA (Theatre) from University of the Philippines.

Gupa wearing a traditional Filipino malong at a local beach in Victoria. (Photo: John Threlfall)

Follow the social media feeds of both Fine Arts and ONC for developments on the artistic residency this spring.