My latest piece is a cellphone adventure called TimeWarp. Its meant to be experienced in situ at the Markham Museum and Heritage Village. TimeWarp presents the adventures of Hanna Walk, a visitor to the Markham Museum who had a mystical encounter on the site. Participants use their cellphones to follow Hanna’s adventure as they walk through the site and see what she saw. Hanna extends an invitation to contact her @HannaWalk and help her unravel this mysterious story.
Back in Barcelona after five glorious days in Granada. I am full of questions and longing and stories. Granada felt familiar. We wandered through nooks and crannies and experienced breathtaking vistas. Parts of the city reminded us of Latin America and the Caribbean. The places that captivated me most were the caves of Sacramonte, and of course, Calat Alhambra. History is a tale told by the victors. Here, the official channels tell of civilizations that rose to great heights and built structures in which complex geometries were encoded. But how did this great empire fall? And what and whom have been lost? These Arabic speaking people came from as far away as the Sudan but nothing was said about who these Moors were/are. In Sacramonte the Cave Museum is located in a place called Barranco de los Negros. The dark-skinned people—the Moors, the Roma, the Sephardic Jews who were unable to leave and had nowhere to go were rounded up and banished to the other side of the Darro river where their isolation resulted in the now celebrated flamenco that is Spain’s claim to fame. I had the great fortune to experience some flamenco concerts on this trip. To me, the music sounds like a haunting meditation, a sorrowful and joyful intermingling of Africa and the Middle East.
What would have happened had they flourished til this day? Are all empires doomed to failure? These are some of the questions I am left to ponder.
Catholicism overtook the area. The new rulers wiped out or modified many of the Moorish structures, leaving their mark at the expense of the magnificence that preceded them. Later, they tried to restore the structures but their original technologies have been lost in time and many attempts were botched.
So now I’m back in Barcelona. I’ve spent the day pensively reading by a pool and relaxing. A very busy August awaits me back home and I have to hit the ground running. I’m so glad I’ve had this experience here in Spain. We’re, off to El Park Güell and in search of the ultimate tapas for my last night in Spain.
I awoke this morning just in time to see Heather silently rolling her suitcase out the door. Sadly, she has returned to Toronto. Last night we celebrated the end of her trip by strolling through the old town with friends, stopping for dinner and drinks on La Rambla del Raval and enjoying a flamenco concert.
Jetlagged and jacked up on coffee, we spent the week schlepping back and forth between the apartment we rented and the International Federation of Theatre Research conference so we decided to catch up on what we’ve been missing. We asked a cab driver to take us to some of the city’s key architectural wonders. We saw the Cathedral, Casa Batlló and Sagrada Familia. In the ancient days of my youth I visited these buildings. They are still, in a word, breathtaking.
Earlier, Heather, Honor, Nyani and I presented our work as a panel called Memory and ecologies of hope. Experienced together for the first time, our presentations were as intricately linked like a well-choreographed dance. Themes emerged such as— activating the archive through the body and creating acts of collective (re)membering. Memories, we all agreed lived in the body and can be evoked through performance.
The conference is over. Bitter sweet. We walked on the boardwalk along the seaside this evening under a perfect harvest moon. Honor and i returned to our apartment. There is so much richness to unpack, so many people we connected with and so much still to unfold over the next while as we reflect on the insights we’ve gained and apply them to our work.
In the next few weeks I’ll continue to write about the our experiences. A new journey awaits us. Tomorrow we’re leaving for Granada where Africa meets Europe.
Greetings from Barcelona. I’m here to present my work on Sonic Walks at the International Federation for Theatre Research Conference. Today is the day. I’m on a panel called Memory and Ecologies of Hope at 5:30pm. I’m looking forward to it but I must admit it is a bit daunting listening to academics prattling on in a shared coded language. I have always considered myself a practitioner, an artist. I’ll be laying out the theoretical ground my work rests on and I’ll be describing the work and talking about people’s responses.
It has been an amazing journey and I am privileged to walk with some formidable women. My supervisor Honor Ford-Smith, for instance, is on this panel. Her work links memory and violence. Heather Hermant’s work is about her journey to recovering the story of a historical character who took on multiple identities in order to survive and Nayani Thiyagarajah will speak of her work on creating an intergenerational intercultural dialogue with the women of her family.
So far, the conference has been amazing. I was blown away by its sheer size. Hundreds of people from all over the world have come together to share their wrok. I’ve met artists and scholars from the Caribbean, Europe, North America, Africa and Asia.
So far one of the highlights for me was in as session on Choreography and Corporeality yesterday where Thomas F. DeFrantz spoke about African American social dance as an Afrofuturist space. What I understood from his argument was that Black people in the Americas exist in the in a liminal, in-between non-place and dance expresses and enables a transcendance from this state of being.
Its also been very exciting learning about the myriad ways in which artists are involving audiences in their work. On Tuesday I encountered the work of Brazillian performance company Zecora Ura whose durational performance of Hotel Medea spanned midnight til dawn.
The audience helped the performers get ready for their wedding, atrtended the event, threw rice, danced at their party and hid in terror when cast in the role of the children Medea sought to kill out of despair and rage.
I’m getting ready for my presentation now. I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, here is a photo of a beautiful place where we attended an event that was part of the El Grec festival.
Every Tuesday I make the trek into Mississauga to work with my colleagues at the Art Gallery of Mississauga www.artgalleryofmississauga.com/events.html as the city’s first Artist in Residence. Basically, I dream up ways to stimulate rich conversations within the city. We’ve just launched a project called (un)settler. It consists of 20 community journals circulating around town to gather artistic responses to find out whether folks feel a sense of home and belonging. We’re interested in not just a “we are one” story but in articulating and exploring the “official” representation of Mississauga vs the reality on the ground. We want to uncover the underlying tensions such as: urban sprawl, box stores, decentralization, segregation, a growing influx of folks from all over the world and the oft unspoken phenomenon known as “white flight”. Nothing is off limits!
Follow the project on my blogs
This weekend I will be participating in two events:
1. On Saturday May 25, Miss Canadiana and Master of the Revels Christopher Pinheiro will be officiating at the launch of the annual Rock Paper Sistahz festival, which opens with an art exhibition curated by BCurrent’s artist in residence, Charmaine Lurch. This year’s theme is dating and you are invited to get up close and personal with an artist.
artists: Ann Marie Bourgeois, Sandra Brewster, Amira Al Amary, Suzanne Metz, Shirley Mpagi and Apanaki Temitayo
Saturday May 25 at 6:30 pm
b current studio at Artscape Wychwood Barns
601 Christie Street, Toronto, ON
2. On Sunday May 26 I will be speaking at a groundbreaking event at Brock University entitled, Where are you from? Reclaiming the Black presence in Canada. I will be surrounded by luminaries such as the Rt. Hon. Michaëlle Jean and venerable scholars including Afua Cooper, Barrington Walker and George Elliott Clarke. It is the inaugural conference of the Black Canadian Studies Association. We will be sharing research, ideas and insights into the Black experience in Canada. My presentation probes the question that is central to this year’s conference theme: why is Blackness is still framed as new and foreign in Canada even though Black people have been here for over 400 years? I will be presenting my work on creating walks that sonify Black geographies and intervene in the erasure of Blackness from the Canadian landscape. Hope to see you there.
Get your tickets here and come join us!
The conference runs from Friday, 24 May 2013 at 5:00 PM – Sunday, 26 May 2013 at 5:00 PM (EDT)
My presentation is entitled “Black Sonic Geographies” and will take place on Sunday May 26 at 9am
in Welch Hall 204
500 Glenridge Avenue
St. Catharines, ON L2S 3A1
Last week I participated in Critical Dialogues, a conference organized by Ontario Arts Council in collaboration with Ontario Association of Art Galleries. It found myself in the company of myriad representatives from artist run centres, public galleries, museums, independent curators and artists. As artists and curators from communities of colour and from Aboriginal origins were all there to critique, draw attention to, and explain how we navigate and negotiate the complexity of codes we encounter as Andrea Fatona puts it.
The keynote was given by Dr David Dibosa, (pictured above) an imminent UK based curator who gave voice to the our concerns and spoke about his work as an investigator of spatial practices and politics of representation at the Tate Modern. David states when institutions eventually invite those whom they once refused into their halls of honour, there is a tendency for the institutions to want to forget the past. He reminds us that “those institutions will forget but we must not forget”
Although I curate as well as create art I spoke about my artistic practice and my new work investigating place, in particular, the absence of Blackness in conceptions of the Canadian landscape.
Leah Snyder from Mixed Bag provides a most excellent summary. Here’s a link to her blog
After two intense years in the Masters program the faculty of Environmental Studies at York University, I have graduated! I’m excited about the shift in direction of my work. I’m now exploring Sonic Walks, a hybrid art-form that involves listening, walking and participating.
I will be leading a SonicWalk for 71*11d performance art festival. I’m happy to share my enthusiasm for sound with my audience/participants. This Sonic Walk will be similar to the one I facilitated for York University’s Summer Institute this August. I will be presenting a set of instructions to visitors to the festival who will embark on a journey of discovering and engaging with worlds enfolded in worlds through tuning into sound.
My sonic walk exploration started when I decided to transform Miss Canadiana’s Heritage and Culture Walking tour into an app. With my supervisor’s (Honor Ford-Smith) encouragement, I explored more experiential ways of presenting the work that went beyond the documentary frame. I endeavoured to express what Toni Morrison calls “the truth” rather than “the facts”. I ended up creating and recording HUSH HARBOUR, a Sonic Walk that situates participants in the midst of Toronto’s Black past. Creating the work has been a powerful experience that continues as I take people on the walk and witness their responses.
This work engages participants on a visceral level and opens a space for contemplation and questioning. It is my intent to create more Sonic Walks and to initiate others into the wonderful practice of experiencing the world through sound. If you are interested in experiencing HUSH HARBOUR, you can download the walk, install it on your mp3 player or smartphone and a good pair of headphones go to the North West corner of Wellington and Portland to follow the instructions you’ll hear…or you can contact me and I will walk with you and discuss the project with you. I have taken many people on the journey and I have presented the work to students of Performance, Women’s studies and Caribbean studies.
Please also come and join me in an exploration of sound at 7a*11d Festival.
when: October 28, 2012 at 2:30 pm.
where: Toronto Free Gallery 1277 Bloor Street West
Join Outerregion at:
exhibition runs from MAY 5 TO SEPTEMBER 3, 2012
WHERE The McMichael Canadian Art Gallery
10365 Islington Avenue, Kleinburg, Ontario
WHEN Exhibition opens on May 13, 2012 from 11 am – 5pm
and runs from May 5 until September 3, 2012
Join us for tea with Miss Canadiana on Sunday May 13 from 1:30 to 2:30 + 3:30 to 4:30
WHAT The Outerregion crew will be participating in McMichael’s new exhibition Fashionality: Dress and Identity in Contemporary Canadian Art explores the intersection of identity culture and clothing. It was curated by Julia Pine with artists: KC Adams, Ingrid Bachmann, Lori Blondeau, Dana Claxton, Cathy Daley, Nicole Dextras, Aganetha Dyck, Jane Eccles, Gathie Falk, Farheen Haq, Barb Hunt, Michele Karch- Ackerman, Meryl McMaster, Kent Monkman, Janet Morton, Jacques Payette, Camal Pirbhai, Barbara Pratt, Ana Rewakowicz, Natalie Purschwitz, Jana Sterbak, Camille Turner, and Mary Sui Yee Wong.
Many thanks to Ontario Arts Council
My Cultural Production workshop is coming to an end. The focus of this course was on the relationship between land, bodies and food. I have mostly focused on land and bodies. Today’s post touches on food. Not just food that nourishes the body but food that nurtures the soul.
This week I presented two talks. The first one was in an intimate classroom at OCAD for Johanna Householder’s performance class. The second was at a big lecture hall at University of Toronto for Alissa Trotz’s Women’s Studies students. Alissa spoke to her students about the importance of cultural producers to use zines, blogs and social media to take up the space of uncovering and telling alternative and hidden histories. I told them about what I know best— my work. Currently I am working on an audio walk of the hidden Black histories of the Grange. I’ve always made art in order to articulate my thoughts and feelings but since returning to school, I have amassed a large collection of words that help me articulate and share what I know using written and spoken language.
Last night I went to hear Women’s Studies Professor, Jacqui Alexander speak. I am still reeling as I write this—still recovering from an experience that was so powerful it left me unable to speak or move for several moments afterwards. Jacqui spoke the language of courage in a voice that is generally erased from academia. The room was charged with energy and emotion. She dared to name the unnamable and give voice to the unspeakable.
She read us two paragraphs from a book she encountered twenty years ago that changed the course of her life. The book, a history of a plantation in the Caribbean contained just those two paragraphs about a woman named Thisbe. Her husband had committed a crime and since Thisbe worked with herbs and medicinal plants, she was accused of consorting with the devil. She was tortured until she confessed her husband’s crime then beheaded and burned.
Jacqui was left wondering, why this woman, who in the context of the colonial Caribbean had no power, was such a threat that she had to be killed in such a public and gruesome way. She concluded that Thisbe’s power was both feared and coveted. She decided to find out more about Thisbe but searched in vain in the archives. This was a potent juncture in her research. It was only when she came to the realization that she did not know that she opened up to other ways of knowing.
Jacqui found Thisbe through healing work. Just as poisonous plants are often found in the same place as their antidote, healing said Jacqui, is the antidote to oppression. She gave voice to the bodies that crossed the Atlantic and pointed to the need for all of us, whether descendants of those who made the crossing or those who benefitted from their labour to go into the hold of the slave ship, to face our fear, to confront sorrow and grief and to find healing. Only then, she said, could we be released from its horror. She gave voice to the head on the pole, describing what it saw and experienced. She constantly reminded us to breathe as she led us into another dimension, a world hidden and obscured within the rational space of academia. It made me think about my own project and the impossibility of finding Peggy Pompadour, a slave woman, only through fragments in the archives. Peggy has to be sought in dimensions beyond the rational. I realized what I have always known. Like Thisbe, Peggy doesn’t live in the archives. I have to find Peggy within myself. I wanted to speak with Jacqui, to tell her how powerful this experience has been for me. I shook her hand but I couldn’t get the words out.
Luckily Ras Iville, of One Love Vegetarian restaurant, was there to nourish our bodies and bring us back into this dimension with his delicious corn soup. Cultural production takes risk, trust, courage, guidance and food. I slipped out after the Q & A, walking through the Grange, talking to Peggy.