the feminist exhibition space

femlab is a creative laboratory for feminist practice at the University of Alberta.

It features creative work that has been created by U of A students in undergraduate courses in Women’s and Gender Studies, by MFA students and graduates, and feminist artists across the university and our wider community.

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repurposed: an exploration of digital art & activism

Kaitlyn Grant is the curator of the most recent exhibition in the femlab gallery. The show, called repurposed: an exploration of digital art and activism, includes work by graduate students in Digital Humanities, Gender and Social Justice Studies, and Design, all from the University of Alberta.

repurposed runs until the middle of April, come by the gallery in 1-02 Assiniboia Hall to see the work!


Included in repurposed is Kendra Cowley and Kateryna Barnes’ sonic map, Unsettling Colonial Mapping: Sonic-Spatial Representations of amiskwaciwâskahikan 

This project is supported by the Digital Rights Community Grant Program, a partnership between Digital Justice Lab, Tech Reset Canada and Centre for Digital Rights.

 

This map is a sonic exploration and representation of the North Campus of the University of Alberta. Campus has a long history as Native Land, be it as a traditional meeting place for diverse Indigenous peoples (Cree, Blackfoot, Métis, Nakota Sioux, Dene, Saulteaux/Anishinaabe, Inuit, Haudenosaunee and many others) on the banks of the kisiskāciwani-sīpiy (North Saskatchewan River), as a Papaschase settlement, or as the homestead of Métis leader Laurent Garneau.  All of this was long before the University’s founding in 1908.

 

With this digital experiment, it is our goal to detail spacetime aurally on this land where we learn, grow, and imagine, with a focus on Indigeneity, gender and sacred ecology. To hear the stories of the Land and its people reimagines mapping as a potentially decolonial praxis where boundaries aren’t lines on a map at a specific place in time drawn by the powers that be. It is a deconstruction of a colonial land claim, and we respect the knowledge from the Land imparted upon us through its story.   

 

Deepest gratitude to Kaitlyn Grant and Femlab, Dr. Mo Engel, HUCO 530, Dr. Trudy Cardinal, Drs. Christopher Sturdy and Marisa Hoeschele and the Songbird Neuroethnology Lab, UAlberta Libraries and Archives, the many librarians invested in the project, CJSR, Shout4Libraries, Kahn Lam, Violet Archer, Ursula Pilmeier, kisiskāciwani-sīpiy, and all who make our campus vibrant–– be it human, animal and other.  

 

Satahóntsatat – Listen  

Pauline Oliveros has taught me a lot about sound. Her declaration that “everything is sounding”  shifted my listening practice and, somewhat painfully, revived a personal awareness of the bioacoustic environments through which I move (Oliveros, 2017). Pauline’s life’s work was oriented towards deep listening: “creating an atmosphere of opening for all to be heard, with the understanding that listening is healing” (Oliveros, 2017). This resonates with me, I believe that all kinds of healing happens when we allow ourselves to listen to (and feel) that which animates our surroundings. However, I find deep listening really fucking hard.

When I typically navigate campus I usually have my oversized headphones on, blasting the world away through music. I usually have a certain amount of time to run errands on campus, or I’m rushing from one meeting to class to another meeting. There’s no time for intentionality or exploration. Sound easily distracts me. As such, my surroundings fade behind the auditory boundaries I’ve constructed in an effort to focus. Still, sounds seep past the headphones. It’s rhizomatic, to use the terminology of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. I reconstitute this plane, this campus, through my headphones. To retread into the realm of Deleuze and Guattari, “Each of these becomings brings about the deterritorialization of one term and the reterritorialization of the other; the two becomings

interlink and form relays in a circulation of intensities pushing the deterritorialization ever further” (2014, p. 10). More simply, making this map forces a reorientation. Headphones off, listening intently with my audio recorder at hand, ready for action.

 

I always have my headphones. In a panicked, I-can’t-leave-the-house-until-I-find-them, sort of way. My headphones allow me to disengage with the sonic environment – or rather, to curate my own, one in which I choose what I want to hear when I want to hear it. However, it is not lost on me that this protective act of retreating disconnects me from the intimate (and intimately-connected) kenetic and sonic awareness that Pauline champions. And so, headphones off, I too reorient towards a campus that is sounding.

This reorientation is and always will be informed by our own orientation(s): how we move through the world, the social locations we inhabit, the relationships we prioritize. As arbiters of its content (and process), we have deeply embedded ourselves in the map. Which, by way of its creation, operates as a proposition, an “argument of existence” (Wood, 2010, p.34) of particular places on campus asserted through our curation and navigation of it.

 

Memories shape the sounds of this space, and this map. As a student, I’m lucky to be surrounded by incredible Indigenous scholars who shape my understanding and perspectives, and their wisdom echoes inside me while I track sounds. Listening for the crunch of snow, voices in the distance, the wind, I also hear the voice of Trudy Cardinal (Cree/Métis) describing the importance of listening to learning, and the respect inherent in that act, saying “When I’m honouring what I’ve lived as Indigenous pedagogy, it comes from my grandmothers. It’s not that they lived the traditional Indigenous lifestyle on the land, it’s just their way of being and knowing. It’s an embodied knowledge, if we learn to listen to that again.” In other words, listen, learn, and live.

 

Experiencing campus beyond the visual-productive places of a university, we hope to understand how sound shapes our experience of place,  how sound – its vibrations, movement, audible expressions, emotional cues – informs our encounters of campus and the meaning we assign them. If we accept the assertion that everything is sounding and imprinting on our experience of space, this map becomes a sonic composition reliant on sensory ways of knowing. It is our belief that this can challenge colonial logics of mapping, wherein the focus on delineating space through borders and built landscapes gives way to more fluid, embodied, and complex relationships of spacetime.

 

One of the first things I attempt to track down is the squirrel that makes its home outside of the Administrative building; earlier in the summer, this particularly bold lil critter tried to steal my bubble tea after I stopped by the finance office to drop off tuition paperwork. I’ve been informed that this squirrel is rather well-fed by certain staff in this building, so the odds are high that this rodent remains. A bit of snooping shows that there are no squirrel tracks. I listen for the high-pitched chirps of a squirrel– nothing. It’s enough for me to question whether squirrels hibernate. A quick Google search tells me that “No, squirrels do not hibernate, but they do sleep a lot!” No such luck on this front.  

 

As one listens to the map they are accompanied by our footsteps. This continuous sound is reflective of our own experiences of movement, including the particular physicality of our bodies as they navigate campus. Additionally, the footsteps operate as an acknowledgment of our imprint on the map – they  move through space and time, reconfiguring and affecting it (and the map) as we walk about campus. Our footsteps are always present in the map – engaging with and co-creating the sounds and places of the university.

 

Looking for a sure thing, I decide to trek to the North Campus LRT station to record the arrivals and departures at the main platform. The sounds of University Station are affective, evocative: hearing the two-toned ding and the calm voice announcing “Next train…”, the following rush of folks down the escalator, scarpering on the mid-level platforms, and squeezing through the closing train doors before you are left behind to wait for the next train. This seemingly mundane experience is a strong memory triggered by the soundscape around me. Artist and scholar Lucy Lippard says that place is “space combined with memory” (1997, p. 9), but what role does sound play in creating said space, memories, and therefore place? Sound scholar Mickey Vallee explains the need to address places as “the intersections between time, space, materiality, memory, and bioacoustics [which reveal] those vibratory intersections that are otherwise imperceptible to the normal sensorium, but come about instead through technologies of transduction” (2018, p. 210). In other words, sounds play a part in shaping space. It too is mapping. These sounds are part of a map, a memory. They are place-making.

 

And so, we understand this to be a project about place, which according to Lippard, is “temporal and spatial, personal and political. A layered location replete with human histories and memories … it is about connections, what surrounds it, what formed it, what happens there, what will happen there “ (1997, p.7). As such, this map engages sounds both as we experienced them sounding and through recordings that speak to particular happenings and experiences of campus across time and space.

 

While I wait on the platform to capture the sounds of the Century Park train, an Education student strikes up a conversation with me about my recorder and what I’m doing. We talk about this audio mapping project, as well as the student experience and how it sends us on strange, previously unexpected trajectories–– the movement of life. He used to be an engineering student, as encouraged by his family, but he chose to be true to himself and switch. As someone who switched programs in my undergraduate, and didn’t know that the Digital Humanities field existed until three years ago, I can empathize. The two-toned ding strikes and the conversation ends as I return to my original purpose for being on the platform. He’s quiet, watching what little action happens during the recording. It’s his train that rolls in, and after I switch off my recorder, I wish him well and he gets on the train. It’s an experience I wish I had recorded. Now when I hear “Next train: Century Park, on Track Two”, the conversation with this young man is what I really hear.   

 

Omg. Have you heard of the songbird people? I dunno, it is a department at the U of A? Maybe? But also maybe it is like the secret garden, you sneak through the hedges and into a new dimension –  everything slows down, the busyness of 40 000 people gives way to the songbirds and you can’t not lay on the ground and listen (in solitude but not isolation). Maybe that is what it is? Okay, so it is not a department. Also, not a secret garden. It is a project: songbird neuro…. AND they have a theme song. They have a theme song?

 

What is this?

 

https://soundcloud.com/kateryna-barnes/femlab-unsettling-colonial-mapping-sonic-spatial-representations-of-amiskwaciwaskahikan

 

Biographies

 

Kateryna and Kendra, among many other things, are graduate students in the Digital Humanities program at the University of Alberta in ᐊᒥᐢᑲᐧᒋᐋᐧᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᐣ, Treaty Six territory. They are committed to feminist collaboration that prioritizes relationships, care, and systems-fuckery in their work together.

 

Kateryna Barnes’ dual Indigenous-settler heritage comprises displaced Kanien’kehá:ka of Akwesasne who retain their stories and working-class Ukrainian refugees with amazing recipes. Currently, her research explores decolonizing digital space (particularly video games), settler-colonialism as horror culture, and the educative potential of flawed simulacra.  Kat explores terrain and creates spaces sonically, be it through her headphones or her memories.

 

Kendra Cowley is a third generation settler of mixed-european heritage: Scottish and Polish immigrant homesteaders turned urban middle-class family living in amiskwaciwâskahikan, Treaty Six territory since the 1920s.. Forever a schemer, committed collaborator, and self-deprecating artist, Kendra is interested in digitally-mediated (counter)narratives of madness, disability justice, and imagination work. She likes to make noise — sometimes music.  

 

References (blog)

 

Barnes, K. SE. (2019). Trudy Cardinal [Personal interview]. 2019, January 24.

 

Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (2014). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

 

Kerry, and Brien. (2017) “Listening as Activism: The ‘Sonic Meditations’ of Pauline Oliveros.” The New Yorker, 19 June 2017, http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/ listening-as-activism-the-sonic-meditations-of-pauline-oliveros.

 

Lippard, Lucy R. (1997). The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society. New Press.

 

Malpas, J. (2015). The Intelligence of Place: Topographies and Poetics. London, UNITED KINGDOM: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ualberta/detail.action?docID=2194781

 

Vallee, Micky. (2018). Sounding the Anthropocene. Interrogating the Anthropocene: Ecology, Aesthetics, Pedagogy, and the Future in Question. edited by jan jagodzinski. Palgrave, 201-214.

 

Wood, Dennis. (2010). Rethinking the Power of Maps. Maps Blossom in the Springtime of the State. Oxford: Oxford Press.

 

References (map)

 

Archer, V (1993) VISTAS: Prairie Sounds from Alberta, Sasktchewan and Manatoba: ikpaqhuaq [CD]. Edmonton.

 

Archer, V (1993) VISTAS: Prairie Sounds from Alberta, Sasktchewan and Manatoba: Prairie Suites  [CD]. Edmonton.

 

Barnes, K. SE. (2019). Trudy Cardinal [Personal interview]. 2019 January 24.

 

Cheng Thom, K. (Writer), & Lam, K. (Narrator). (2018). The River. Live performance in Alberta, Edmonton on 2018 December 7.

 

Cowley, K. (2019) Maureen Engel and HUCO 530 [Personal interview]. 2019 January 21.

 

Dobson, P. (1981). Ethel Anderson [Personal Interview]. 1981 November 9. https://era-av.library.ualberta.ca/media_objects/avalon:3741

 

Matthews, M. (1993). VISTAS: Prairie Sounds from Alberta, Sasktchewan and Manatoba: The Far Field [CD]. Edmonton.

 

“Natalia Bruttles [Interview]”. Shout for Libraries: Homelessness and the Library.  Accessed on 2019 January 22.

 

Sturdy, C. & Hoeschele, M. and the Songbird Neuroethnology Lab. Chickadee Sounds. Accessed on 2019 January 19. http://www.psych.ualberta.ca/~csturdy/research.htm  

 

“Ursula Pilmeier [Interview]”. Shout for Libraries: Palentines Day.  Accessed on 2019 January 22.
Valente, L. (2000) Liana Valente Sings: Songs of Canada’s Violet Archer. [CD]. Edmonton.

HUM 101

“It changed our way of thinking and gave us the opportunity to know more about women and about their strengths. I know now that my life is rich and nobody will treat me like I am less or weak. I am strong with this program.”

-HUM 101 graduate

Every year, the Community Service-Learning unit at the University of Alberta supports not-for-credit, off campus learning opportunities for people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to higher education.20180615_092058

HUM 101 is offered twice a year for women at Wings of Providence, a second-stage women’s shelter. Each version of HUM 101 at Wings is organized around a separate theme. Themes have included “Radical Women,” “Home & Community,” “Women, Community, & Culture,” “Critical Media Literacy,” and “Rights of Passage.” Together with a coordinator and invited guests, HUM 101 students become a community of learners who explore ideas about the world around them.

In Winter 2018, femlab was thrilled to host 7 years: An Exhibition of Women’s Knowledge. The gallery was filled with poetry and prose created by HUM 101 students. Collectively, these works represent the knowledge of the many women who have graduated from the course.

 

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Angela Marino

By working in a collaborative effort with my mother, I am able to translate the journey of her illness and better understand her as she is now – Angela Marino

kim on couch

Confronting the Other; The Hybrid is a mixed media installation that offers emotionally intense portraits of a female figure undergoing a transformation from coherence to disarray.

Inspired by the artists’ experience of her mother’s encounter with severe and debilitating illness, the paintings depict a figure that multiplies, morphs, and at times seems to be engulfed by chaos. On the east wall, Kim is seated on an orange couch, surrounded by a vibrant and strangely unnerving cacophony of colorful forms.

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On the west wall are three circular portraits in which Angela’s mother, Kim. Her head floats in the middle of these medallion-like portraits; her gaze matches ours. Between the portraits is an oversized bench to encourage visitors to reflect on the impact of disease, the experience of loss, and the possibilities of building relationships.

Confronting the Other; The Hybrid runs from November 17, 2017 to March 23rd, 2018. Angela will present an artist talk, to be followed by a closing reception, at 3:00 pm on March 23rd. All are welcome to attend!

Angela Marino is from Hamilton, Ontario. She holds a BA in Studio Art and Art History from McMaster University and recently defended her MFA (Painting) at the University of Alberta. She works in acrylics and performance and is broadly interested in the way disease affects the human form. Her work is motivated by her relationship with her mother, who has Multiple Sclerosis.

 

Tashina Makokis

In our most recent show, Edmonton-based artist Tashina Makokis sets up a visual call-and-response between two very different kinds of paintings.

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Tashina Makokis, The Cancer Paintings 2016-17

On the gallery’s east wall are brightly coloured portraits of familiar figures from Canadian history. Nellie McClung, George Simpson, Emily Murphy, Frank Oliver, John A McDonald, and Duncan Campbell Scott each pose sedately and calmly. Makokis’s painting is bright and bold; she represents the faces of their figures (oh, the eyes!) in captivating ways. But each of these portraits is disrupted by disconcerting blobs, tentacles, cancerous growths around the face. These scratchy patches, which are made from paint mixed with pumice, rise up from the canvases; they threaten to take over the faces of these so-called “great Canadians.” Makokis challenges their greatness and, instead, draws our attention toward the roles that these and so many celebrated historical figures have played in the reproduction of colonial settler violence.

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Tashina Makokis, 2017

The west and north walls of the gallery hold three large landscape paintings, each representing not the land but the artist’s nude body. These erotic landscapes are set against ugly portraits in ways that call attention to the dynamic of a colonial gaze. These are celebratory paintings that insist upon the reclamation of indigenous bodies and lives.

Tashina Makokis is a nehiyaw iskwew from Saddle Lake Cree Nation. Her work in the gallery has been featured in an article in Canadian Art, and in this short film produced by Cree/Metis filmmaker and producer Coty Savard.

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Nellie McClung 2017

 

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Duncan Campbell Scott, 2017 (detail)

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In the slideshow: Tashina with a copy of Billy Ray Belcourt’s essay “Settler Structures of Bad Feeling,” in Canadian Art; Coty Savard with her crew in the gallery interviewing gallery director and curator Michelle Meagher; Michelle and Tashina fooling around in the gallery.

Buy prints of works from the Cancer Series here 

Within our bodies floating

“Picture some place where you feel safe. Some place you can go to feel good, to feel grounded, to save you from the memories” – Becky Thera

Becky Thera’s exhibition of new work in femlab is raw and suspenseful. The exhibition is both triumphant and troubling; it is a quiet display of loss and reclamation. In the secluded basement gallery in Assiniboia Hall, the viewer is greeted with a display of video screens and cloth prints.

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The video screens depict women’s bodies in water. In three of the screens, these bodies move through water in ways that at first invoke a feeling of drowning and then make it apparent that they are still in control. On a fourth videoscreen, set off to the side,  another body lays in a pool of dark liquid in a bathtub. She barely appears to move and leaves the viewer anxious for something, anything, to happen. The embroidered images on on stained fabric panels are simple yet exuberant portraits of defiance. 

This is an exhibition that is full of contradictions: it is expressive and in-your-face, while also quiet and reflective. These contradictions within the gallery speak to the personal and political complexities of sexual assault, without actually mentioning it directly. This omission is poignant – here, as elsewhere, sexual assault remains nearly invisible despite its oppressing pervasiveness among us.

guest post by Lynsey Race, Gender and Social Justice Studies MA student.

The Virtual Feminist Bookstore

“Books leave gestures in the body; a certain way of moving, of turning, a certain closing of the eyes, a way of leaving, hesitations. Books leave certain sounds, a certain pacing; mostly they leave the elusive, which is all the story. They leave much more than the words.”
― Dionne Brand, A Map to the Door of No Return

The Virtual Feminist Bookstore, curated by Winnipeg-based artist and scholar Roewan Crowe, is an installation that includes a wall of video screens, digital textile work produced by Steven Leyden Cochrane called Bookstore Artifacts, a microphone, a framed poster of Angela Davis, and stacks of feminist periodicals borrowed from the Winnie Tomm Reading Room, which is housed in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Alberta. Intended to elicit the feeling of the increasingly rare feminist bookstore, the installation draws visitors in to participate in the creation of a feminist poetry shelf.

The Virtual Feminist Bookstore is an installation and a happening waiting to happen; waiting for you, the visitor, to step into the imaginary space of the bookstore, to read and record a feminist poem that holds meaning for you. Step up to the microphone. Take a deep breath. Read the poem. Be present to its words, feel its energy.

Your poetry recitation will be added to the virtual feminist poetry shelf; your video recording will be added to the video monitors that, for now, await you.

The Virtual Feminist Bookstore: Screening Recitations, Bookstore Artifacts, and a Happening Waiting to Happen is on view and waiting for you at femlab until January 13th.