Orion Series presents Malik Gaines

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:

Malik Gaines

“Star Choir & Other Narratives”

Interdisciplinary artist & scholar
Associate Professor, UC San Diego


12:30pm (PST) Tues, Oct 10, 2023

Phillip T Young Recital Hall, School of Music

1:30-2:20pm Wed, Oct 11

Room B120, MacLaurin B-Wing

Free & open to the public

Presented by UVic’s School of Music

For more information on this lecture, please email music@uvic.ca

In this lecture-performance, Malik Gaines will talk about how his research informs his music compositions and other artistic activities. The talk will focus on his work as solo musician and co-artistic director of The Industry opera company in Los Angeles, along with the recent premiere of his opera, Star Choir, which he composed with Alexandro Segade’s libretto. 

Star Choir is an opera about future humans who attempt to colonize a distant planet. Through fantasy and critique, it asks urgent questions facing humanity amid our era’s confluence of natural and political crises, evoking scenes of disaster migration, fugitivity, and colonization as they are entwined with our difficult histories and our best visions of a potential future.

Malik Gaines is a multifaceted artist and scholar known for his dynamic contributions to the fields of music, performance art, visual culture, and critical theory. With a background deeply rooted in exploring themes of identity and social justice, Gaines brings a unique perspective to the intersection of art and activism, inspiring a new generation of creative thinkers.

About Malik Gaines

Interdisciplinary artist and scholar, Malik Gaines is Associate Professor in the Department of Visual Arts at University of California San Diego. His book, Black Performance on the Outskirts of the Left: A History of the Impossible (2017) traces a circulation of black political ideas through performances of the sixties and beyond. He is working on a second book dealing with contemporary art and performances that act against the limits of U.S. sovereignty.

Gaines performs and exhibits on his own and in multiple collaborations. Since 2000, he has been a member of the artist trio, My Barbarian. Their work uses musical, theatrical and critical techniques to playfully act out social difficulties. As a solo musician, he sings at the piano, exploring contemporary themes through historic songbooks.

Gaines is a co-artistic director of The Industry opera company in Los Angeles. Among other projects, The Industry will present his opera Star Choir, which he composed with Alexandro Segade’s libretto, in fall of 2023 at the Mt. Wilson Observatory northeast of Los Angeles.

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  |  Visit our online events calendar at www.events.uvic.ca

Call for 2024 grad student ONC artistic residency

2021 ONC AIR Dennis Gupa

Are you a Fine Arts graduate student interested in oceans and looking for a paid artistic residency in 2024? Are you excited by the idea of exploring the potential for the arts or alternative cultural practices to highlight the visions, challenges, philosophical, aesthetic or ethical aspects of oceans and the impacts humans have on it?

If so, then the Fine Arts/Ocean Networks Canada Artist-in-Residence program may be the perfect fit for you!

Who can apply?

Open to current grad students (working in any discipline) who have completed most of their course requirements in any Fine Arts unit (including Art History & Visual Studies, Theatre, Visual Arts, Writing and the School of Music), the Artist-in-Residence program is currently seeking proposals for 2024. The application period closes on December 22, 2023.

UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts and Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) co-lead and sponsor the Artist-in-Residence program, with additional financial support provided by the Faculty of Science and UVic’s Office of Research Services provide  to the program.

When does it run?

The residency period can start anytime between Feb 1 and August 31, 2024, and last for up to four months. A cost-of-living stipend of CAD$2,000/month will be paid to the selected Artist, with limited additional funds to support production or materials. At the conclusion of the residency, a public event featuring the resulting art will be presented, displayed or performed, and will be promoted by ONC and the Faculty of Fine Arts. This event will work within a specified budget agreed to during the residency, and depending on the type of project to be exhibited. Assistance for marketing and/or ticketing could be made available from other UVic departments.

Who else has done it?

Our 2023 AIR is Neil Griffin (Writing), who fused the creative with the scientific in a series of lyric essays titled Whale Fall, exploring the ecological stages of whale decomposition from its last breath to its incorporation into the deep-sea ecoscape.

Find out more here about our previous AIRs, including Colin Malloy (School of Music), Dennis Gupa (Theatre) and Colton Hash (Visual Arts).

What’s it about?

The ONC AIR program strengthens connections between art and science that broaden and cross-fertilize perspectives and critical discourse on today’s major issues, such as environment, technology, oceans, cultural and biodiversity, and healthy communities.

The Artist-in-Residence will ignite cross-disciplinary exchanges, interacting with Fine Arts faculty members and scientists & staff at ONC, as well as with other individuals using ONC’s ocean observing facilities and data portal. The Artist will learn from and engage with the current research, connecting it to the Artist’s own practice, and to wider societal and cultural aspects, creating work for public presentation at the end of the residency. The Artist will also be invited to contribute as a lead or co-author in scientific conference proceedings and/or journal articles.

Possible themes:

The selected Artist will actively engage with researchers on a variety of ocean science themes that may include:

  1. Natural hazards
  2. Ocean soundscapes
  3. Indigenous perspectives
  4. Arctic observing
  5. Community-engaged ocean monitoring
  6. Advancing deep ocean observing
  7. Hot and cold vent dynamics
  8. Coastal ocean
  9. Ocean data science 

How to apply

Proposal Submission Interested applicants are to email ONC (dwowens@oceannetworks.ca) with the subject line “Ocean Artist-in-Residence Program,” and attach:
  1. the artist’s CV
  2. a concise portfolio of previous relevant artistic work;
  3. a letter of motivation outlining the artist’s project proposal for the residency, and
  4. a 500-word project proposal with a separate project-costs budget
Applications will be reviewed by representatives of Fine Arts and Ocean Networks Canada. Artists may be contacted for an interview or to supply further information before a decision is made.

About the program

The ONC Artist-in-Residence program is established to:
  • explore the potential of the arts or alternative cultural practices in the area of the visions, challenges, philosophical, aesthetic, and ethical aspects of the ocean and the impacts humans have on it;
  • add a complementary artistic and creative perspective to ocean science, the societal ramifications of its exploitation, and its cultural aspects;
  • create opportunities for potential new research questions, experimental approaches and knowledge synthesis resulting from interaction between the arts and science; and
  • help envision and communicate the potential long-term impact of ocean changes on humanity.

Celebratory theatre: telling tales

This is a story of stories. And like all classic tales, each has an inciting incident followed by a turning point at which the hero steps onto a new path. They sidle or charge or struggle forward to a point from which there’s no turning back—they’re committed to the new path. Through, around and over obstacles, they continue toward their goal: safety, a grail, a job, a reunion. Maybe a home. A script.

And then, it seems, all is lost. The hero is, apparently, insurmountably far from their goal.

But lovers of story know—or hope—that that’s not the end.

In one story, Yasmine Kandil, associate professor of Theatre at UVic, has reached the point of no return. With co-principal investigator Catherine Costigan, professor of psychology, she is launching into a three-year applied-theatre project with almost $200,000 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

In the arts-based world, such large pockets of money are rare, but indicate the high value of such work, especially in community-based settings.

Of course this didn’t come out of a blue sky. Kandil began to develop a new applied-theatre method while at Brock University before she joined UVic. Collecting real stories of immigrants and refugees about their lived experiences, Kandil created short plays to be performed by students, even anticipating the future and writing in happy endings for each of the participants. That, she says, has been transformative for the group of newcomers.

“People don’t want to be seen as pitiful or needing help,” she says. “They want others to see their rich culture, what they bring to the community, that they are resilient, productive citizens, worthy of an equal share in society.”

Building a community partnership

The imagined finales also brought welcome resolutions for people whose paths are still uncertain. A Sudanese man, for example, who desperately missed the Nile had a (theatrical) opportunity to return to his river and say farewell.

Kandil partnered with the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria (ICA) on Homecoming, a similar project with LGBTQ2S+ immigrants and refugees that aimed to educate and build empathy towards this group by the settlement workers who serve them, and who mainly come from conservative backgrounds.

“Many of the staff come from traditional cultures,” she explains. “By having theatre students perform the real stories of some of the LGBTQ2S+ clients, we hoped to help the staff become more comfortable and accepting, and to give the clients a sense of belonging.”

It worked. As one employee reported afterward, “It was like a window opened [for me].”

Research/creative project grant

Later that year, Kandil successfully applied for UVic’s internal Research/Creative Project Grant, seed funding to help scholars prepare to get larger external funding. That’s when Kandil and Costigan put their heads together to develop a theatre project with data collection that would allow them to evaluate the outcomes. The funds allowed them to pay participants in a two-day workshop and assess whether the project succeeded in helping them to achieve a sense of belonging and the audience to see immigrants and refugees in a new light.

The data collection is important for more than their own satisfaction. ICA is one of very few immigrant- and refugee-support agencies in Canada that has an arts program. Data will give them evidence to support applications for sustained government funding.

For the new project, Costigan is applying intergroup contact theory and social cohesion theory to design the data-collection and impact-assessment portions of the research. To evaluate whether the project has an effect on the storytellers’ sense of belonging and of self-worth, the researchers will use focus groups and questionnaires before the workshops begin, after they’re over and one year later.

Kandil and Costigan hope that the 16 weekly workshops will help 12 ICA and Vancouver Island Counselling Centre for Immigrants and Refugees clients develop a stronger sense of belonging within the group, to the Greater Victoria community and in Canada.

Then Kandil will write plays based on those stories, adding “embellished” conclusions that provide a vision for the people whose stories they are and for the broader audiences who will see the plays performed by UVic theatre students next summer.

That’s the definition of “celebratory theatre,” Kandil explains. “The participants benefit and the audience learns.”

The customized resolutions wrap up each individual’s journey with a vision of what their life might become here in Canada, Kandil says. Whether it’s a job, saying goodbye to a beloved homeland, feeling like a member of the workshop team or Victoria or Canada . . . .

“We give them,” Kandil says, “a happy ending.”

—Story by Rachel Goldsworthy, Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation

Harald Krebs & A Place of Infinite Possibility

It was a very different world when Harald Krebs stepped in front of his first School of Music class as an assistant professor in 1986: CDs were cutting-edge technology, email was still unheard of, and zooming simply meant going faster. Fast-forward 37 years and Krebs is an internationally respected music theorist, an award-winning Distinguished Professor, past president of the Society for Music Theory, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada; also the head of Music’s theory program, he is now retiring after 37 years of scholarship and teaching.

Looking back, Krebs reflects on what the School of Music was like when he first arrived after completing his PhD at Yale, and teaching briefly at UBC and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “UVic’s School of Music was smaller and cozier,” he recalls, “but it seemed like a place of infinite possibility.”

The art of the possible

Proof of that came during his first year, when the Faculty of Fine Arts launched the interdisciplinary Adaskin Festival—named for noted Canadian composer Murray Adaskin, then living and working in Victoria. “It was an amazing opportunity to meet some of the icons of Canadian art. It was also an introduction to what could happen at UVic—and, later on, I helped to make some things happen myself.”

Indeed, Krebs has organized or co-organized seven academic conferences at UVic, plus two symposia in connection with the Lafayette String Quartet’s Second Viennese School and Shostakovich festivals, bringing illustrious scholars from around the world to campus.

A working theory

Both a music theorist and a pianist, Krebs has spent his career thinking about the structure of music. His award-winning monograph, Fantasy Pieces: Metrical Dissonance in the Music of Robert Schumann (Oxford, 1999), has shaped the study of rhythm and meter in music theory, but has also impacted the fields of comparative literature, Germanic studies, music therapy, psychology and music cognition. His theories of meter are being applied in the study of music from the early modern era to the present day, and in scholarship on many different musical styles and genres, including jazz, bluegrass, rock, techno, and metal.

It was former School of Music director Michael Longton who first suggested that Krebs should teach a course on his own theories. “I had never thought of doing that—it felt presumptuous,” says Krebs. “But when Michael suggested it, I thought, ‘Well, I could put together a nice course on my theories of rhythm and meter’. And that was another exciting course to teach: I only delivered it three times, but both the students and I loved it.”

This also offered Krebs a rare opportunity to share his research directly with undergraduate students. “A lot of students go through the program and know me only as a teacher, not as a scholar—and that’s fine—but it was fun to share some of my writing with them.”

A passion for the 19th century

Further areas of which Krebs has long been a champion are the music of Robert Schumann and of 19th-century women composers, topics on which he has lectured and published widely. When asked about his favourite courses to teach over the years, it’s the 19th century to which he looks. “The second-year course on analysis of 19th century music has always been my favourite,” he says. “That’s my era: I live in the 19th century, so it was a joy sharing that music with students.”

Sharing that music led to both his creation of the “Lieder at Lunch” series (which ran for over 20 years in the School of Music), and to popular presentations on German Lieder through the UVic Speakers Bureau, offered to community groups and retirement homes for more than 30 years with his wife and research partner, soprano Sharon Krebs.

“In seniors’ homes, you can really experience how music affects people: it can have a huge impact,” he says. “I actually never thought of what I do as a wellness initiative, I just wanted to share what I’m excited about and to make people happy. But of course, happiness and wellness are closely linked, so I hope I’ve contributed to people’s wellness.”

Krebs clearly has no intention of giving up his scholarship—his immediate plans include traveling to Germany in September 2023, where he and Sharon will be presenting their latest research on 19th-century composer Josephine Lang at a 10-day festival in Lang’s hometown of Tübingen (one of the great university towns in Germany,” he notes). Despite her being one of the most gifted, respected, prolific and widely published song composers of the 19th century, Lang’s life and works sank into oblivion after her death in 1880, until their gradual rediscovery in the late 20th century.

Krebs first ran across her work in an anthology of songs by women composers while preparing for a 1993 conference on women composers. “Sharon and I just started playing and singing through them and Josephine Lang’s songs jumped out at us: we had never heard of her, so we thought this would be a good topic for me.”

That instinct definitely proved right, given their continuing research and resulting book, Josephine Lang: Her Life and Songs (Oxford 2007).

Time to reflect

While he’s excited to continue his research (still to come is a collection of Lang songs arranged for saxophone quartet, a talk within the plenary session at the Society for Music Theory this autumn, and continuing research trips to various archives in Germany and Austria), Krebs doesn’t see it as an all-consuming passion. “I don’t want to be one of those people who works harder after retirement than before,” he chuckles. “And I really need a rest. I’ve been under constant pressure for years with scholarship as well as teaching, so I do plan to take a bit of time off now and then.”

And when asked what he’ll miss most, Krebs points to the obvious: “The students! I’ll miss my colleagues too, but the students have always been very special. They’ve been a lot of fun to work with and have inspired me in various ways. I’ll really miss those interactions.”

Exploring the science & mystery of a whale fall

Whales may be the largest animals on earth, but what happens after they die still remains something of a mystery: even the name given to their deaths — “whale fall” — evokes a sense of the unknowable. But the latest Fine Arts graduate student to be named Artist-in-Residence with Ocean Networks Canada is seeking to both explore and de-mystify the unique relationship between a descending whale carcass and the countless species that will spend decades feeding on the biomass.

“Imagine you build a new apartment building and various people live there as it ages and eventually falls apart,” notes current Department of Writing MFA candidate Neil Griffin. “That’s what happens with a whale carcass: various scavengers and decomposers move in and out . . . there are even worms that take hundreds of years to burrow single-mindedly through a thick whale vertebrae to get to the marrow inside.”

ONC’s latest artist-in-residence 

As the fourth Artist-in-Residence (AIR) with Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) — a continuing partnership with Faculty of Fine Arts graduate students that has engaged previous AIRs Colin Malloy (School of Music), Dennis Gupa (Theatre) and Colton Hash (Visual Arts) — Griffin will be fusing the creative with the scientific in a series of lyric essays titled Whale Fall, which will explore the ecological stages of whale decomposition from its last breath to its incorporation into the deep-sea ecoscape.

Fortuitously, Griffin’s proposal also lines up with ONC’s own multi-year project, Life After Death: Whale-fall Succession and Bone Decomposition Under Varying Oceanographic Conditions. Led by staff scientist Fabio De Leo and ONC Research affiliate Craig Smith, one part of this project will see a whale carcass deployed in 2025 at 890 metres off Vancouver Island under low-oxygen conditions, where it will be continuously monitored for three years with high resolution video and sensors.

“It’s a fairly new field, but some of the best minds thinking about it are right here,” notes Griffin.

Talking about science

Griffin — a trained biologist who spent a decade with the University of Calgary studying wildlife in the likes of Belize, Honduras and East Africa — sees a direct connection between his previous fieldwork and his current graduate work. His MFA thesis, for example, is The Museum of Ruin, a SSHRC-funded book-length essay exploring the biological and human history of extinction. The Tyee also recently published his essay, The Riddle of the Monkey Puzzle Tree, a fascinating conjunction of history, colonialism and natural science.

“All of my writing comes out of the tenants of wildlife biology: being the observer, trying to synthesize what you see together with what you think afterwards,” he explains. “These two fields of knowledge that we keep so far apart have at their shared core the same interest in raising up the depths and exploring the unknown—be that the psyche for the arts or the natural world for the sciences. When I saw there was a residency looking for that, it seemed right up my alley.”

Indeed, Griffin sees his ONC Whale Fall project as a natural extension of his thesis. “There’s enough connection for it to be relevant: the deep sea is also threatened by our incessant extractive activities, so there’s a lot of overlap in thought and material.”

New project, old interest

Griffin has been fascinated with the idea of whale falls since he first ran across mention of the phenomenon at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre during his biological studies.

“I was looking through some journals and found these grainy, almost horror-footage photos of whale falls,” he recalls. “There were pictures of a decomposing whale carcass on the ocean floor and the weird, weird animals that were eating it: hagfish, lampreys . . . these bizarre denizens of the depths that have adapted to this incomprehensibly difficult ecosystem to live in. They’re just waiting for this bounty . . . every time a whale fall comes down to them, this desert-like environment becomes a major hotspot of activity by a massive community of animals.”

While human history is inextricably connected to the oceans, Griffin notes that all we traditionally know of the deep sea is what got “spat up” on the shores. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that we started to literally look deeper into the oceans, an exploration ONC continues to this day.

Knowing the unknown

“I’ve always been interested in our relationship with the unknowable,” he notes. “What’s going on down there? It’s deep and dark and cold and mysterious and frightening . . . but also exciting. It’s such a rich vein of human imagination, and the lyric essay is a useful form for exploring all that. As a hybrid form of essay and poem, it allows me to combine a whole bunch of voices, which will give me a way to include not only science and interviews but also weave in ideas about the history and representation of the deep sea.”

Ultimately, Griffin feels his Whale Fall project is an ideal opportunity for him. “It’s a different skill set to talk about science than it is to do science. How do I make this into something people can latch onto, that makes them both excited and interested?”

He pauses and offers something of a mysterious smile. “I don’t know exactly what that would look like, but I’m excited by the possibilities of finding out.”

Follow Neil Griffin on Twitter: @prairielorax

The Artist-in-Residence program is a partnership between UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts and Ocean Networks Canada, with additional financial support provided by the Faculty of Science and the University of VIctoria’s Office of Research Services. This continuing program strengthens connections between art and science that broaden and cross-fertilize perspectives and critical discourse on today’s major issues, such as environment, technology, oceans, cultural and biodiversity, and healthy communities. This program is open to all current University of Victoria graduate students who have completed most of their course requirements in the Faculty of Fine Arts with practice in any visual, written, musical or performance media. The next call for artists will be in Fall 2023.

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