Creative Futures: Documenting the Climate Crisis

Creative Futures:
Dean’s Speaker Series

“Documenting the
Climate Crisis”

With Sean Holman, Colin Malloy & Paul Walde

Moderated by Dennine Dudley

12:30pm (PST) Thursday, May 26, 2022

Online webinar 

Free & open to the public via Zoom

Register here

Presented by UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts

The climate crisis is one of the most urgent problems of our time, and the arts can play a vital role in helping people better understand its impact. This moderated panel discussion will explore current work aimed at documenting the impact of the climate crisis, and how Fine Arts artists, scholars and researchers are responding with innovative and compelling ideas. Audience Q&A to follow.

This session features moderator Dennine Dudley (instructor, “Environmental Art”, Art History & Visual Studies), 2022 Ocean Networks Canada artist-in-residence Colin Malloy (PhD candidate, School of Music), Crookes Professor in Environmental & Climate Journalism Sean Holman (Writing), sound & visual artist Paul Walde (professor, Visual Arts). 

“The arts have a central role to play in motivating the average citizen to not only care about the climate crisis but also take action,” says Fine Arts Dean Allana Lindgren. “Sustainability and climate change touch people in an emotional way, so action in this area by us has potential to spur action that, say, scientific reports will not. We have no shortage of faculty members who are doing fascinating work when it comes to sustainability, the environment and the climate crisis.”

About Creative Futures

This continuing Dean’s Speaker Series was established in 2021 by Dean Allana Lindgren to showcase the scholarly and artistic efforts of professors, instructors and graduate students in the Faculty of Fine Arts. Each year we will present two sessions (fall & spring) exploring a central theme showing how Fine Arts has a demonstrative impact on the most pressing social issues of our time. Our Fall 2021 session on Sustainability & the Arts featured Theatre professor Conrad Alexandrowicz (author of Theatre Pedagogy in the Era of Climate Crisis), Writing professor Kathryn Mockler (Watch Your Head: Writers & Artists Respond to the Climate Crisis) and moderator & Writing professor Shane Book. Watch a recording of it here

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

Orion Series presents Smum iem Matriarch Marilyn James

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:

Marilyn James

Smum iem Matriarch, Autonomous Sinixt 

“Counter mapping and Sinixt Resurgence” 

12:30pm (PST) Monday, May 16, 2022

Online webinar 

Free & open to the public via Zoom

Register here

Presented by UVic’s Department of Art History & Visual Studies

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

Marilyn James is a Smum iem Matriarch appointed by her Sinixt elders to uphold Sinixt protocols and laws in the Sinixt təmxʷúlaʔxʷ (homeland) under the laws of whuplak’n and smum iem. Her work has included the repatriation of 64 ancestral remains from museums and collections back to their rightful places in Nk̓ʕáwxtən, “a place for praying,” (Vallican).

She was the appointed spokesperson for the Sinixt Nation in Canada from 1990 to 2013. She continues her work as Smum iem Matriarch and knowledge-keeper for Sinixt. She is an accomplished storyteller of traditional and contemporary Sinixt stories as well as the co-author of Not Extinct: Keeping the Sinixt Way (Maa Press, 2018, 2021). Marilyn holds a Masters of Education from Simon Fraser University and has worked extensively in the field of curriculum development. She is an ardent advocate for her ancestors and the land and water of their təmxʷúlaʔxʷ.

Sinixt təmxʷúlaʔxʷ was divided by the Canada-US border with 80% of Sinixt territory is in what is now known as southeastern BC and the other 20% in what is now called Washington State. Find out more here.

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

School of Music debuts new Ballet BC collaboration

Christopher Butterfield performs “Scenes of Thought” with Sidney Chuckas, Kiana Jung & Emily Chessa (photo: Kristy Farkas)

There’s no question the COVID era has had a devastating impact on the arts industry, but it has also provided time and space for bold new creative collaborations. One such initiative is a new campus/community project involving the School of Music, Ballet BC and Dance Victoria, which sees three teams of choreographers and dancers create a triptych of new works set to brand new music by a trio of faculty composers.

After an initial Zoom meeting in late 2021 that saw Music professors Patrick Boyle, Christopher Butterfield and Anthony Tan connect with Ballet BC’s Justin Rapaport, Livona Ellis and Zenon Zubyk (respectively), the newly formed composer/choreographer teams then set to work, with the composers working in totally different musical styles and the choreographers each assembling their own team of dancers. The resulting pieces—titled 3 x 3 x 3—debuted at an intimate public workshop at the Dance Victoria studios on March 13, moderated by Fine Arts Dean Allana Lindgren.

Justin Rappaport and Patrick Boyle (far right) watch Sophie Robinson, Dex van ter Meij & Kiana Jung in “Letting Go”

The sound of dancers dancing

Tan, who recently won the Canada Council’s 2021 Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music, is creating a roughly 15-minute electronic composition which samples the very sounds of the four dancers themselves as the basis for his piece titled “Multiplicity is a Liberty”.

“I’m interested in the sound of people doing things, if that makes sense: in terms of musical composition, I often work with ancillary sounds that are apart from the primary instrument and are then electronically distorted, so you can’t really tell what it is anymore,” he explains. “In dance, I’m inspired by the sounds of people dancing—their leaps, their breathing, their feet hitting the floor—so I wanted to explore that idea.”

 

Anna Bekirova, Sarah Pippin, Miriam Gittens & Dex van ter Meij in Anthony Tan’s “Multiplicity is a Liberty” (photo: Kristy Farkas)

Creating together

 For Ballet BC’s Ellis, this is the first time she has worked directly with any composer—let alone Butterfield, who will be performing live onstage alongside her three dancers for their 12-minute piece, “Scenes of Thought”.

“It’s interesting because combining two artistic voices can create endless possibilities—or can end in stifling both artists’ expression,” she says. “I feel grateful that Christopher has been so supportive and so open to trying everything. It has allowed me to be more clear about my direction.”

That’s a sentiment echoed by Tan in his work with choreographer Zubyk. “The challenge and joy of interdisciplinary work is very much the process,” he says. “Being a composer is a lot like being a playwright: you’re often locked away on your own until you give your piece to the musicians, and only then do you finally hear it. But this is a collaboration with both a choreographer and dancers, so they’re improvising based on ideas and the piece just organically grows. When a new piece of music is involved, there’s always a certain amount that’s unknown . . . a good deal of delayed gratification is involved.”

Ballet BC artistic director Medhi Walerski (centre) speaks with Allana Lindgren and the composer/choreographer teams

A new approach to collaboration

Ellis—who has previously only choreographed to pre-existing music—is excited by this new approach. “It has been really wonderful to get to know Christopher and his musical history,” she says. “I could listen to him talk for hours; he has such a vast knowledge of music, both in his academic and lived experience . . . . I was interested in seeing how our exchange of ideas would influence my creative vision and what kind of balance we would find. Having the sound develop after the movement has challenged me to understand rhythm, timing and punctuation in a different way, and has pushed me to explore my choreography with a different lens.”

For both Tan and Zubyk, this project offers an opportunity to break down the walls between performers, audience and the artists themselves. “It’s been interesting to do it all remotely—there’s been a lot of back and forth because we haven’t been able to get in the same room very often,” Tan says. “I’m very curious to see how it all comes together.”

Much like a campus/community Venn diagram, finding common ground is very much at the heart of this project, whether between the composers and choreographers or the presenting partners themselves.

“I’m really excited to work with Ballet BC and grateful for this opportunity,” says Tan, who has previously composed for dancers in both Calgary and Montreal. “I’m happy that an academic institution can collaborate with a professional company like this—it’s a good way to bridge the different fields.”

The Human Nature of Climate Change

No question, we’ve had a tough few years: many people across BC are still grappling with the aftermath of intense winter storms and some areas continue to be impacted without reprieve. Recent historic winter rainfalls were made worse by the preceding climate events of summer 2021, when fires and droughts devastated the province. As a result, people across the province, country and the world have watched these climate events unfold and be broadcast through the lens of news media.

As Sean Holman, UVic’s Wayne Crookes Professor in Environmental and Climate Journalism, explains, climate change isn’t just the result of greenhouse gas pollution. Instead, it can be better understood as the cumulative result of the individual and collective decisions we make everyday which cause this pollution.

That means that climate change is as much a societal problem as it is an environmental problem. That societal problem is our failure to use the truth about climate change to make the kind of informed, rational, and empathetic decisions expected of us in a democracy. In other words, climate change can be understood as a post-truth apocalypse–one that could be almost impossible to avoid.

Hear more about the human dimension of the climate crisis in Holman’s keynote lecture and Q&A session, originally aired for the UVic Alumni Association’s Winterfest in February 2022.

Gain a critical eye to how human action–or inaction–on climate change is heavily influenced by the news media and how we can embrace both the truth and the democratic decision-making that is needed to turn the climate change crisis around.

Orion Series presents Islamic scholar Richard McClary

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:

Richard McClary

Visiting Scholar

“Islamic Tiles in Museums: Past, Present & Future”

11:30am – 1:30 pm (PST) Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Online webinar 

Free & open to the public via Zoom

Register here

Presented by UVic’s Department of Art History & Visual Studies

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

Islamic tiles are always a challenge to present, as individually they are but one small part of a larger decorative programme. This talk offers a way to contextualise the objects and tell their stories more fully by examining the history of displaying Islamic tiles, some current approaches and through the prism of a series of tiles from a single building in Iran.

Richard McClary has conducted fieldwork in India, Iran, Turkey, Central Asia and across the Middle East. He is a trustee and Research Director for the British Institute of Persian Studies, and held a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship at the University of Edinburgh (2015-18), examining the surviving corpus of Qarakhanid architecture in Central Asia.

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

The impact of Indigenous art practices on truth & reconciliation

Art not only has the power to inspire, it can also be a powerful catalyst for change. Nowhere is this more evident than in issues of truth and reconciliation, as Carey Newman well knows. Recently appointed as the inaugural Impact Chair in Indigenous Art Practices with the Faculty of Fine Arts, Newman brings his passion for decolonization and Indigenous resurgence to this new position. 

A multi-disciplinary Kwakwak’awakw and Coast Salish artist, master carver, filmmaker and author, Newman strives to highlight Indigenous, social and environmental injustice through his art practice. In addressing the impacts of colonialism and capitalism, he uses material truth to unearth memory and trigger the necessary emotion to drive positive change. He is also deeply engaged with community and incorporating innovative methods derived from traditional teachings and Indigenous worldviews into his process.

Newman was most recently UVic’s sixth Audain Professor of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest. Now as the Impact Chair in Indigenous Art Practices, he is jointly appointed to the Department of Visual Arts and the Department of Art History & Visual Studies, where he will teach both graduate and undergraduate students, as well as continuing his own research and cultural production.

About the Impact Chairs

UVic Impact Chairs are intended for exceptional researchers acknowledged as leaders in their field, with recognized success in research-inspired teaching and fostering collaborative and interdisciplinary research. The role of the Impact Chair is to convene, connect and facilitate collaborative research and education across disciplines and academic units, knowledge sharing and mobilization, partnerships on campus and with external partners and communities, and to provide leadership in relation to the relevant Strategic Framework priorities.

Newman is the third of four inaugural UVic Impact Chairs appointed to five-year research positions funded by the university’s strategic framework initiative. His appointment also reflects UVic’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), specifically the UN SDGs on reducing inequalities and on fostering peace, justice and strong institutions.

In this Q&A, Newman discusses the intersection between his art practices and social issues, as well as his hopes to build new relationships while challenging Canada’s historical narrative.

How can Indigenous art practices promote meaningful intellectual exchange and community building?

My artwork is inspired by, and responds to, a wide spectrum of historical and contemporary social issues. It is rooted in Kwakwaka’wakw and Sto:lo world views that see governance, law and arts as inextricably interconnected: I include all of these when considering the potential impacts of Indigenous art practices.

I think about this Impact Chair position as being not just about the process and practices of Indigenous art making, but as an opportunity to discover what is possible when the distinctions between disciplines are removed, and the processes of creative production and intellectual exchange are transformed by not only changing who participates, but also the questions we pose, how we approach finding solutions and the metrics we use to evaluate success.

Newman at the opening of his Earth Drums installation in Saanich, BC

How do you hope to use this position to build new relationships between truth, art and reconciliation?

When I think about the goal of reconciliation, the process begins with learning, understanding and accepting truth. I make a distinction between understanding something intellectually and feeling it on a fundamental or emotional level. I make the same distinction between being taught or told something and discovering that same thing through personal realization. That small distinction makes an enormous difference when it comes to how willing a person is to participate in, or make the sacrifices necessary for transformational change . . . like reconciliation.

We know that art can be a catalyst in the process of discovering and sharing truth. We also know that art has the power to inspire people to action. This position provides me the time and resources to continue making art that addresses injustice and asks difficult questions. It also provides the opportunity to write about and critically reflect upon the process, and in doing so gain a better understanding of what works or doesn’t work and why.

Newman with his Witness Blanket sculptural installation in Winnipeg, MB

How can the arts help challenge the historical narrative of Canada’s colonial truth?

Throughout history, music, dance, literature and visual arts have all been used to confront various forms of injustice and inequality. When it comes to the genocide wrought by colonial Canada, generations of artists, scholars, activists and knowledge keepers have advocated for awareness and called for change by varying degrees of confrontation and inspiration.

The work of reaching hearts and minds and then turning them to action is slow, but recently we have seen how quickly the confirmation of unmarked graves at residential schools transformed the perspective and galvanized the commitment of many in this country.

How does that translate into your own art practice?

In my own creative practice, I build upon the work of those who came before me, making artwork that looks at how the colonial foundations of Canada have created the social, ecological, racial and economic injustices we face today.

I believe that by understanding this history and recognizing how it is perpetuated today—and maybe embracing some Indigenous ways of being—we can dismantle what makes it systemic, and eventually live up to the altruistic self-image that has long been embedded in Canada’s national identity.

How can this position better bridge the space between institutional and community-based learning?

Something that unsettles me about the way scholars and institutions engage with community-based knowledge systems is how academia views research as proprietary. Whoever publishes something gets credit and is cited as the “expert,” regardless of where the knowledge came from, or how many generations contributed to its development; even with ethics reviews and consent forms, this practice is extractive.

In oral traditions, storytelling is the way knowledge is carried through generations, so it is natural to share information—but just because something is freely told, it doesn’t mean the rights to it have also been given. Better understanding this nuance between rights and responsibility will go a long way toward building stronger relationships between academia and communities.

What projects are you currently working on?

Every project seems to take longer than expected, so they always end up overlapping, but as I begin my term as Impact Chair in Indigenous Art Practices, there are two projects that I am particularly excited about. The first is establishing the unCentre for Arts and Decolonisation, a legacy of the Witness Blanket that will take an anti-oppressive, anti-racist, nonhierarchical approach to collaboration. My goal is to encourage more interdisciplinary creative/research projects that address the root causes of systemic issues that broadly impact society, including

(but not limited to) Indigenous injustice, systemic racism, gendered violence, the climate crisis and global inequality. The other one is a conceptual art project called “The Seedling” that will ask us to transform our relationship with land, reconsider who and what our governance serves, and challenge us to change our actions and sense of collective responsibility today by radically expanding the timeline we use when planning for the future.