Feeling tired? Got the sniffles? Worried about new classes? Start the semester off with a healthy sense of well-being at our Fine Arts Wellness Day! Running 11am – 2pm on Wednesday, January 17, in the lobby of the Fine Arts building, students can shuffle off their January blahs with a variety of special events.
Wellness is an important part of both a general approach to life and student mental health. Fine Arts students often find themselves under additional pressures not shared by other students across campus, given the demands of rehearsals, instrument practice, performance and the push to be creative on top of maintaining a regular class schedule and keeping grades up.
Add to that the unique physical demands that go with being a creative practitioner and you’ve got a lot of good reasons to stay healthy during your academic career.
With that in mind, Fine Arts Wellness Day will feature a number of free services and information essential to your sense of wellness, including
free chair massage
healthy snacks (including a DIY trail mix bar)
a hydration station (featuring both lemon and cucumber water)
And don’t miss the therapy pets at the nearby Pet Cafe (2:30 – 4pm at the nearby Interfaith Chapel), as well as free yoga from 4:30-5:30pm in Hodges 104 (Residence Hub), brought to you by UVic’s SHAPE (Student Health Ambassadors and Peer Educators).
Victoria Wyatt (right) with AHVS undergrad Baylee Woodley in the new art collections classroom
From large lectures and working with TAs to a lack of one-on-one time with professors, there’s no question first-year classes can seem overwhelming to students. But the Department of Art History & Visual Studies is looking to broaden first-year opportunities with both a new classroom and a new class concept: AHVS 101 — a seminar focusing on art, images and experience — launches this month and will be anchored in the department’s new art collections classroom.
“The idea is to create a context in which students transitioning to the university can have an experiential education by interacting with the instructor and their peers in a small group,” explains AHVS professor and course creator Victoria Wyatt. “My job is to create an environment that encourages them to engage actively.”
Pull-out racks will allow for easy display and storage of art
Wyatt notes that first-year students are hoping for something beyond the traditional “sage on the stage” model, where they sit passively while taking lecture notes. “They used to rely on the instructor as a source of information . . . now they look it up on their smartphones,” she says. “Rather than receiving information from an authority, they want to play an active role in navigating that information, actively discussing it. My goal is to give them some tools that will be transferable to whatever discipline they end up majoring in.”
Conceptually, AHVS 101 not only reflects changes in the K-12 education model but also provided the opportunity to create a new learning environment. Featuring purpose-built display and storage cabinets, pull-out painting racks and hanging wall, a dedicated print cabinet and rolling furniture for a flexible learning environment, the art collections classroom will allow students to engage with the paintings, prints, sculptures, and other objects in UVic’s 19,000-plus art collection in an entirely new way.
Rolling furniture allows for easy space reconfiguration
“As one of the leading world art history departments in the country, the new classroom gives our students the opportunity to work directly with the UVic Art Collection,” says AHVS chair Erin Campbell. “[Wyatt’s new class] was designed with the room in mind, and I believe it will be the first small-numbers, seminar-style class to be offered to first-year UVic students.”
As well as other AHVS courses, the new room will also be used for the department’s new Museum Studies minor, Fine Arts classes, and by Legacy Gallery’s art educator. “The classroom will also provide an inviting space for community members to work alongside AHVS faculty members and students with artworks from our collections,” notes Campbell.
Until now, art works had to be transferred back and forth between campus and either downtown’s Legacy Gallery or the storage facility at Queenswood, which is risky and expensive; now, work can simply be left in the room, safely stored and ready to be used. “Because we have to be really careful of security and conservation requirements, this creates an opportunity to make better use of the Legacy art collection and to have students engage with artworks much more intimately,” says Wyatt.
She also feels increased visual literacy is essential for first-year students given the diverse contexts in which we encounter art and images today. “I’d like them to gain experience in how to think about and manipulate visual images in different contexts so they develop greater acumen in looking at websites. How would they use the artwork if they’re a curator at a gallery, for example, or using it as a background in retail, or putting a banner photo on a website or a thumbnail on social media? How would they photograph it? What would they say about it?”
The art collections classroom is one of two new spaces unique to the department and UVic: also new this year is the Fine Arts interactive media lab, designed to support the growing strength of AHVS’s Visual Studies stream.
Cubbies will keep the space tidy & keep personal items away from objects
Wyatt, the 2017 recipient of the Fine Arts Award for Teaching Excellence, feels the new course is a perfect fit both for students and herself.
“This actually links into my research about relationships between Indigenous ways of knowing and paradigm shifts in western science, because it’s about non-linear thinking, how everything connects . . . . it’s about encouraging students to develop ideas of what they need to think about as they navigate complex, dynamic systems. The Internet is a complex, dynamic system, so is global warming . . . everything we need to engage with in a really serious way is a complex, dynamic system. I want to expose students to that way of thinking and hopefully it will help them as they move through university.”
Interested in finding out more? An open house of these new interactive learning spaces will be part of UVic’s Ideafest in March.
As was previously announced this past summer, recent graduates Xiao Xue and James Fermor have been selected as the national and BC provincial winners (respectively) in the Bank of Montreal Financial Group’s 15th annual BMO 1st Art! competition.
Their work was selected from 303 entries submitted from across the country, and both will have their work displayed as part of a special exhibition at the University of Toronto’s Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, running from November 16 to December 16, 2017. And both will be featured in a special spread in the upcoming Winter 2017 issue of Canadian Art magazine.
The $15,000 prize is “an amazing financial support for future projects,” says Xue, who is now pursuing her MFA at the University of Guelph and is using some of the proceeds for a “chemical-based project” on which she is currently working. “It certainly helped me move to Ontario as well,” she adds.
Xue also assisted Visual Arts professor emeritus Sandra Meigs on her complex solo exhibit, Room for Mystics, on view throughout fall 2017 at the Art Gallery of Ontario. “It was very fun to figure out the technical issues — including electrical, coding and woodworking — and I am very glad it all worked out,” she says. “Sandra is an excellent role model and I am extremely glad to have the chance of working with her.”
Local Times Colonist art columnist Robert Amos featured Xue’s walking camper project in this April 30 article, and while he wrote about both artists in in this October 8 article, he mostly focused on Fermor’s video art projects, which show the human cost of first-person shooter video games. And while the BMO exhibition will feature a colour photograph of Fermor’s “The Collection No. 3,” the overall work is in fact an 18-minute video.
Fermor describes being named the BC winner as “really affirming. It tells me that what I am exploring in my art practice is not just something that only I find interesting.”
Indeed, Fermor says the inspiration behind his winning piece came from a fascination with “what we embrace, generate within ourselves and ignore” when we interact with specifically narrative-driven video games.
“This piece came about from working with the game Dishonored 2 and thinking about what was going on between the fictional environment that I was enticed by the game to buy into and what was actually there,” he says.
James Fermor’s “The Collection No. 3”
While he’s unsure of what kind of long-term impact this prize may have (“none of my work has had this much exposure before and so I am not sure what to expect”), in the short term, he feels the award “really enables me to pursue my art practice beyond what I did in school.”
As for the prize money, he plans on putting it toward future projects. “Things like getting more equipment for developing content or purchasing a game that I want to explore and experiment with.”
It’s not the first time Visual Arts students have won a BMO 1st Art prize. In 2011, the winner of the BC provincial prize was undergraduate maegan rose mehler. “I had picked up a copy of Canadian Art magazine a couple of years ago and put a tab beside the BMO 1st Art! award and thought, ‘I should apply for this’ — then totally forgot about it,” mehler said at the time. “I just found it again recently, because I save all my art magazines, and realized that’s exactly what I did. It was a pretty focused two years, so it’s pretty cool that that happened.”
Celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2017, the annual BMO 1st Art! competition recognizes visual arts excellence amongst post-secondary school students from across Canada. Deans and instructors of undergraduate certificate, diploma, and degree arts programs from colleges and universities across the country were invited to select three outstanding graduating students from each of their studio specialties to make submissions to the competition.
“Since this competition’s inaugural year, we have been privileged to celebrate and share the works of 198 promising young artists from across the country,” said Dawn Cain, Curator of the BMO Corporate Art Collection. “Over the past 15 editions of the competition, we have been captivated by the creative range and artistic vision represented in the submissions we receive each year. We look forward to providing this unique opportunity to students for years to come.”
This year’s judges include Hugues Charbonneau, Director of Montreal’s Galerie Hugues Charbonneau; Naomi Potter, Director/Curator of Calgary’s Esker Foundation; Pan Wendt, Curator of Charlottetown’s Confederation Centre Art Gallery; Kim Simon, Curator of Toronto’s Gallery TPW; and Dawn Cain, Curator fo BMO Corporate Art Collection.
The reviews are in for Phoenix Theatre’s mainstage production of The Madwoman of Chaillot, and audiences are enjoying its “visual delights and thought-provoking observations,” as local arts writer Janis La Couvée writes in this review, which also highlighted the work of director and Theatre professor Conrad Alexandrowicz and his design team.
The Madwoman of Chaillot (all photos by David Lowes)
Describing the production as “a meta-theatrical spectacle of tremendous proportions, serving up visual delights and thought-provoking observations that will leave the audience questioning their role in the scheme of things,” La Couvée notes that “once again, Victoria is fortunate to have a theatre department where foundational work of this scale can be staged.”
In the Times Colonist review, Sarah Petrescu felt “the large cast of colourful characters and absurd plot are a rare malleable clay for interesting staging and direction,” and noted how “Alexandrowicz specializes in physical theatre and makes excellent use of movement . . . a table of bad men plots to destroy the city out of greed, rolling on chairs as they choreograph their scheme.”
Petrescu also highlighted the work of cast member Chase Hiebert, a Phoenix graduate and current writing student, as well as the set by Theatre professor and alumnus Patrick Du Wors as “a fantastic version of a café in Paris, built with massive black and white illustrated backdrops.”
This review from the Showbill Victoria online arts mag felt Madwoman still “proves its relevance almost 75 years after being written. “The play is loaded with enticing wit and is brought to ‘justice’ by the studious cast, who don’t stumble through impressive vocal projection and fluid movement across the stage – so well-rehearsed that it’s not all that noticeable that some actors catch chairs being tossed to them by the crew until you realize an extra seat had appeared,” writes Shayli Robinson. “Being performed in 2017, though – especially in Victoria – it is a great allusion to the energy and oil projects proposed to pass through our province that are oft-viewed as evil and disastrous, particularly by our elderly, quirky, and whimsical fellow citizens . . . . The Madwoman of Chaillot is an entertaining, thoughtful show that will leave you seriously pondering the persecution of evil and the fate of British Columbia.”
This Monday Magazine review also singled out the work of Du Wors and graduate student costume designer Michelle Ning Lo, as well as undergraduate cast members Sarah Jean Valiquette and Nicholas Guerreiro, noting the “productions at UVic are . . . extremely professional and well-executed. One always has to admire the skill with which the drama department manages the challenging plays they choose.”
Writing for UVic’s student newspaper The Martlet, Jakelene Plan felt that “the theatrical design to come out of the Phoenix Theatre is often the most innovative and engaging work I’ve seen. It continually pushes the boundaries of what I expect and what I think is achievable, and the work done by Patrick Du Wors on set, Michelle Ning Lo on costumes, and Matthew Wilkerson on lighting design exceeds all my expectations.” Plan noted that “their unified vision of a colourful, cheerful Paris becoming infected by greed (represented by grey scale) is cohesive and complementary. …colour is an easy and striking way to draw attention to themes, but it’s the creative application that raises the technique from commonplace to spectacular.”
Over at Camosun College’s Nexus student newspaper, Leslie Do felt, “The Madwoman of Chaillot [was] a great performance . . . the action was perfect . . . . [and it] registers on a deeply human level.” She was also “especially impressed by the outstanding performance by Nicholas Guerreiro . . . his voice, his attitude, and his acting were absolutely incredible,” and concluded that director Alexandrowicz “brings a great performance to the audience with this play . . . [which is] definitely worth two hours of your attention.”
The Madwoman of Chaillot runs at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre, 8pm Monday – Thursday until November 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+.
While university may be the logical choice for many high school students, not everyone finds their path right after graduation: many opt to spend some time working or traveling before deciding on a specific field of study.
Recent Visual Arts grad Brandon Poole was principal photographer for “The Tom Thomson Centennial Swim” project in Ontario’s Algonquin Park in 2017 (photo: Paul Walde)
Brandon Poole made just such a choice, spending his 20s as a carpenter and electrician, hitchhiking across Canada, living on a sailboat; and the classes he did take (philosophy, photo journalism) didn’t lead to any specific path. It wasn’t until he decided to shoot a series of photos in downtown Vancouver’s back alleys that he had his academic epiphany.
“I was trying to find a way of resolving my myriad of skill sets without leaving anything behind,” says the 31-year-old Poole, graduating this month with a BFA in Visual Arts. “I like working with my hands, and I need an output that’s not just about writing and concept; it needs to be combined into a more overarching mode of work. Art school solved all those problems.”
He also spent a good part of this past summer working with department chair Paul Walde on his latest site-specific intermedia project, The Tom Thomson Centennial Swim. Poole traveled to Ontario’s Algonquin Park where he put his camera skills to work as the primary videographer documenting Walde’s complex project, as well as handling logistics and equipment purchases.
Poole and his Fifty Fifty exhibit (photo: Monday Magazine)
“All of these opportunities provided me with a well-rounded understanding of what’s possible in an academic situation for arts-based work, as well as the outside opportunities that exist,” he says. “It’s simply more skills to bring to the table for whatever I choose to do next.”
As for what is next, Poole says the next logical step is pursuing an MFA back east. “I draw a lot of strategies from journalism, from photography, from the building industry and architecture — and the outputs of those are videos, photographs, sculptures, and drawings, all of which get tied together in a specific space. The works aren’t enough on their own; the space is always highly considered.”
For a guy who never would have described himself as an artist before attending UVic, Poole has indeed found his path. “I really think the undergraduate program here is fantastic,” he says. “It’s especially useful for encouraging the cohesion of skills and interests.”
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.
“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.”
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+.