Category Archives: Discussion or Talking

Diane Borsato, The China Town Foray (2008-10)

“The China Town Foray, Intervention and photographs, 2008 – 2010

I invited the Mycological Association of Toronto (an amateur mushroom hunting club) to go on a mycological foray in “Chinatown” or, the Chinese supermarkets and medicinal shops in Markham, Toronto. With field guides and magnifying glasses, we debated Latin species names and toured the suburban marketplace in the same manner that we would research and identify Ontario fungi in the forest or field.

Special thanks for the work and expertise of Alan Gan, and the participating members of the Mycological Society of Toronto.

The event took place in various locations in Markham, Toronto, in the summer of 2008. In 2010, the urban forage was repeated in New York City, with the collaboration of the New York Mycological Society. Special thanks to guest mycologists Paul Sadowski and Gary Lincoff.

EXHIBITION HISTORY

AGYUTerrestrial / Celestial and Walking Studio, curated by Emelie Chhangur , Spring 2012, Toronto

Articule GalleryTerrestrial/Celestial, Presented as part of Mois de la Photo, curated by Anne-Marie Ninacs, Fall 2011, Montreal, Canada

Umami Festival Performance, The New York Foray, Urban foraging events with the New York Mycological Society. Curated by Yael Raviv, Spring 2010, New York City

Mercer UnionThe Chinatown Foray, Solo exhibition, main space, Fall 2009, Toronto” (credit)

Diane Borsato, All the Names for Everything (2017)

“ALL THE NAMES FOR EVERYTHING, Walk/Performance,  2017

ALL THE NAMES FOR EVERYTHING was a walk on Mount Nemo with diverse outdoor education leaders bringing various scientific and cultural perspectives on naming flora and fauna along the Bruce Trail in Ontario, Canada.

The popular nature educator Richard Aaron spoke of scientific botanical and common English naming, while Melanie Gray of wolf clan from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory discussed spiritual and medicinal connections to plants in addition to some of their names in Mohawk, and Jon Johnson, a community-based Indigenous scholar discussed place names and the history and ongoing presence of Indigenous peoples in the Toronto region.

Together we considered the origins and meanings of botanical names, numerous common names, and names in different languages of many of the places, plants and animals encountered along our walk.

I had been thinking about the colonial histories that are conspicuously silent (or worse, the violence and erasure still being perpetuated) whenever I study nature, take workshops, read field guides, or lead students and others in the woods. With this project – I hoped to expand the terms of nature-education, by bringing together a diverse crowd of knowledgeable community members interested in plants, ecological relationships, and land.

We discussed names that give evocative descriptions, that tell of our many relationships to plants and other creatures, to languages and names that were absent and lost to Indigenous peoples, and to racist names – that speak to our often difficult relationships with each other.

ALL THE NAMES FOR EVERYTHING is part of an ongoing commitment to developing relationships with Indigenous elders, artists, researchers, and educators – and including Indigenous perspectives in my own work and teaching.

The piece was part of a larger project by Elle Flanders and Tamira Sawatsky of Public Studio called New Field: Tracing Decolonisation.

Photos here by Emily Moriarty, Amish Morrell, Richard Aaron and Diane Borsato. ” (credit)

Maraa Collective, The Olfactory Chambers of Ward No. 88 (2014)

an agenda

Credit: Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts

Maraa Collective (2008-)

This walk took place in Bangalore, India in October of 2014, and used the format of a tourism walk to critically examine the processing of waste and the caste system. The walking route followed the same route as the street sweepers and waste sorters. In India, the Dalits caste has been traditionally responsible for clearing excrement.

This work may remind some of Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ work in which she shook the hand of every sanitation worker in New York City, shining a light on their labor and demonstrating respect for their work.

CreditL

Aislinn Thomas, The Slow Walkers of Whycocomaugh (2012)

Slow Walkers of Whycocomagh and Fast Walkers of Whycocomagh came about to address
what seems like an age-old problem: how to spend time walking with other people who
have an ideal pace different from your own. Negotiating precisely what “slow” and “fast”
looked like on any given day was an interesting part of the experience, as was noticing the different relationships to each other and the landscape facilitated by the different speeds. This piece was originally part of a larger project, the Whycocomagh Skillshare, which was conceived of in response to living in a rural context, in an intentional community that centres people labelled with intellectual disabilities. The skillshare took form as an ongoing series of free workshops, presentations and activities and was an attempt to actively seek out connection, engagement and exchange while challenging normative ideas of expertise and value. Since then, the slow walking groups have taken place in a mall in Mississauga, along rivers and downtown streets in Cambridge and on a mountain trail in Banff.

Credit: Outdoor School: Contemporary Environmental Art edited by Amish Morrell and Diane Borsato. Page 120.

Public Studio, The New Field (2017)

August 1-September 27, 2017: The Walk

In the New Field, Public Studio walked the entirety of the 900km Bruce Trail while actively exploring the question: What does decolonization look like?

Along the trail, Public Studio invited by artists, activists, scientists, writers, curators, philosophers, and youth groups to join them and activate the footpath as a way of sharing knowledge across a diverse public. Indigenous writer and “geomythologist” Lenore Keeshig lead Public Studio across the unceded territory of the Chippewas of the Nawash; artist and theatre director Ange Loft lead a tour that included theatre warm-up exercises and a discussion of land acknowledgments; Geologist and director of the Bruce Trail Conservancy Beth Gilhespy chronicled land formations, activist and artist Syrus Marcus Ware led thirty five kids on a botanical drawing walk; multidisciplinary artist Diane Borsato brought art students, a western botanist and a traditional Indigenous medicine woman into dialogue; and writer and critic Amish Morell’s graduate students walked, read poetry and reimagined the land at a reconstructed Iroquoian village archaeological site.

September 28 -30, 2017
The Creative Time Summit: Of Homelands and Revolutions
Stage Design & Closing Ceremony

On September 30, 2017 a public choir demanded the end to extraction and colonial destruction, to war and displacement driven by economic greed. On this day we demanded the earth be re-centered together with people and that the Canadian government include the Rights of Nature into the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Public Studio together with Hiba Abdallah created the set for Creative Time Summit and with collaborators Ange Loft and Terri-Lynne Williams-Davidson staged the performance of the Rights of Nature, a document based on Haida ideology demanding that nature be inscribed in Canada’s constitution.

Check out the Rights of Nature publication here.” (credit)

“Public Studio is the collective art practice of filmmaker Elle Flanders and architect Tamira Sawatzky. Public Studio creates large-scale public art works, lens-based works, films, and immersive installations. Grounded in the personal, social, and political implications of landscape, Public Studio’s multidisciplinary practice engages themes of political dissent, war and militarization, and ecology and urbanization, through the activation of site. Public Studio often works in collaboration with other artists.” (credit)

Cheryl L’Hirondelle, Cistemaw inyiniw (2001)

(credit)

In the summer of 2001 on the Makwa Sahgaiehcan Indian Reserve in the northern reaches of Saskatchewan, a woman was running, reenacting running done two generations earlier by Cistemaw inyiniw, a Cree man who delivered tobacco from community to community to ask for their attendance and support at ceremonies. He was part of the Moccasin Telegraph: a runner, a traveler, and a messenger. Cistemaw inyiniw (whose name is Cree for tobacco being) walked or ran even when horses were available to him. People were amazed at the distances he could cover and how he traversed them so quickly. Cistemaw inyiniw’s grandson, Harry Blackbird, recalls that “[h]e could cross all the rivers in the region without seeming to get wet.”

Wearing a racing jersey with a number (distinguishing her as a member of a formal event), Cheryl L’Hirondelle ran from one end of the reserve to the other (approximately twenty-five kilometers) on the main road through the community. In most places, her action went by unnoticed, but on the reserve—as in most small communities—everyone knows what everyone else is doing. During L’Hirondelle’s performance, and inspired by her action, some women in the community began a Moccasin Telegraph of their own by phoning other people on the reserve and notifying them about the event.

Aware of what normally constitutes the art audience, certainly not the people from Makwa Sahgaiehcan, L’Hirondelle’s goal was to involve another kind of viewer. Engaging this other audience, as it is with all art that seeks to resonate with a particular community, required her to negotiate a new set of rules and develop a different set of cultural strategies. In some pre-performance musings she remarked that “the activity has to somehow engage people instead of alienate them…it has to occur where people live and where performance has survived for many years—in people’s camps, homes and at the kitchen table.” Her task of “engag[ing] people instead of alienat[ing] them” was determined from the outset. Her strategy was to stage the performance in the local, engaging the community by performing a part of their history.

Cree syllabics for welcome
Cree syllabics for welcome

Cistemaw inyiniw’s story was handed down to L’Hirondelle in typical Native tradition, orally. In Native culture, stories are not simply stories. They are told and retold so that they resonate in the present, not as myths and legends, but as a vital part of history. They teach critical lessons and cultural values, like bravery and the necessity of communication. By mimicking Cistemaw inyiniw’s running, L’Hirondelle’s performance highlighted the distinctions and pointed to the ambiguities of what constitutes public, community, and audience. The Elder originally telling the story has a captive audience: they are members of the given community. However, in L’Hirondelle’s performance the audience is not so easily located. In some cases the term itself is challenged (when does a passer-by become part of an audience?), its definition moves out of focus and its location shifts.

Audience is commonly defined as the assembled spectators or listeners at an event. In L’Hirondelle’s action the viewers were not formally assembled; the performance was happenstance and informal. This questions the distinction between audience and public. Are the people in the community an audience simply because they witness the event? Or, do they have to somehow engage with the action to gain meaning from its occurrence? Can one be called an audience if they refuse to be involved and ultimately disregard the action? Possibly the public are those who choose (for whatever reason) not to be involved with the work. The audience could then be further distinguished as those who gain meaning from the event.

Visited by Joseph Naytowhow
Visited by Joseph Naytowhow

As L’Hirondelle ran through the community of Makwa Sahgaiehcan, a film crew captured her performance and the performances of three other people, Louise Halfe, Cheli Nighttraveller, and Joseph Naytowhow, who, on consultation with the artist, also interacted with the community. Each performer was given a disposable camera, a list of Cree syllabics, and chalk. They were encouraged to write messages in syllabics wherever they saw fit. The performers were also encouraged to ask the people they visited if they would still be willing to honor the age-old tradition of never turning a stranger from your door but, rather, inviting that person in and giving them food and drink. This is based on the Elders’ belief that you never know how far someone has traveled. If the person still abided by this tradition, “water” was inscribed in syllabics on the outside of the house. During her run, Cheryl stopped at two houses where she saw syllabics denoting “water” and visited with the people inside.

Cheli Nighttraveler
Cheli Nighttraveler

Each additional performer interacted with the community in a separate way. Joseph Naytowhow recited the story in typical Cree tradition by becoming the spirit of Cistemaw inyiniw. He offered tobacco to the people he visited and alerted them to Cheryl’s action. Louise Halfe chose to do a photo essay in addition to informing the community about the performance and recording their opinions of the action. Cheli Nighttraveller visited the home of an elderly man in the nearby community of Loon Lake and documented her visit with photographs.

During L’Hirondelle’s performance, three radio stations, Flying Dust Radio, MBC, and CJNS, broadcasted the story of Cistemaw inyiniw in Cree as told by Harry Blackbird. While Flying Dust Radio is broadcasted to the reserve, MBC and CJNS are stations that play mainly Top 40 hits. The idea of a Cree story interrupting the regular streams of Shania Twain and 50 Cent is subversive in itself.

Each component of the performance—L’Hirondelle’s running, the visits with the members of the community, and the radio broadcasts—extended public reception of the event. The visits with the community informed people of the performance, broadening her audience; the radio broadcasts ensured that the community had access to the original story; and L’Hirondelle’s action physically inscribed Cistemaw inyiniw’s story in the landscape of northern Saskatchewan.

The term “public art” doesn’t resonate with most Native people. After all, they do not make up a large percentage of the museum audience. They certainly aren’t viewed as constituting the public or even one of the more carefully defined “publics.” Rather, they are part of a community. Will the community of Makwa Sahgaiehcan remember L’Hirondelle’s performance as a great moment of contemporary Native public art? Probably not. However, it will resonate in the minds of those who witnessed it as an honorable act.”

Sarah Rodigari, This Must Be the Place (2020)

man leaning on table with cowboy hat

‘This Must be the Place’ (2020), Keith, Ravensthorpe, Western Australia

“(Work in Development)
International Art Space, Spaced Residency, 2020

This Must be the Place, connected a series of utopian visions as defined by the communities situated in Hopetown/ Ravensthorpe in remote Western Australia. Sarah’s project considered the idea of utopia as a matter of perspective, a continuous disappearing horizon between the present and the future. Conducted through a series of walking interviews Rodigari looked to address how rural utopian ideals of sustainability (social, economic, cultural, historical, environmental) inform the making of place. In light of climate change and within our history of colonial-settler Australia.

At the end of her six weeks, Sarah presented a humorous, poetic and insightful performance script, ‘Hearsay’ back to the community based on the interviews and conversations she’d undertaken. The performance connected past narratives with speculative futures against present realities of mining, farming, drought and flood. Presented: Spaced 4 Residency, Rural Utopias, International Art Space, Perth, 2020.
Link to Spaced Project Page
This is a work is in development.

Doucmentation excerpt
https://vimeo.com/469583631” (credit)

Sarah Rodigari is currently working with the community of Ravensthorpe. This work forms part of one of Spaced’s current programs, Rural Utopias.

Sarah Rodigari is an artist whose practice addresses the social and political potential of art. Her work is site responsive, employing, durational live action, improvisation, and dialogical methodologies to produce text-based performance and installations.

Here, Sarah shares an update from Ravensthorpe.

I come from a big city and apparently live in the most densely populated suburb in Australia. I have spent most of my life in homes without a backyard. Modern living is accessible and convenient. There is a lot of choice – I wonder if because of this I spend a lot of time making unnecessary decisions, like which yoghurt to buy – everything is small, efficient, manageable and perhaps easily disposable. I don’t own a car, I walk everywhere. It has taken a while to slow down and let go of the accumulated habit of creating order and immediacy that I packed with me. I haven’t let go, or necessarily slowed down, I’ve just noticed that with distance, comes time. I think I’ve taken up more space, literally, hopefully not metaphorically.

The ute is the biggest vehicle I’ve ever driven, I was a little reticent to drive it at first, but now that I’ve been driving all over the shire meeting locals and conducting interviews about what makes an ideal word, I’m in love.  I have learnt to 4WD which, city speaking, is just to say that I found a button to press. In a big car, under an endless sky on an open road. Like the generic protagonist in every Hollywood road movie, I get the feeling that out here there are no rules, everything is possible, and anything goes.

The utopia protagonist is no one, no gender, identity, history, ancestors, likes, dislikes,

They come from nowhere and bring nothing with them. (Bernadette Mayer, Utopia)

There’s nothing that can’t be done everyone’s giving it a go. If enough of you band together, you can make it happen, like the heavy haulage route, the herbarium and the swimming pool in Ravey or the community garden and the Mens Shed in Hopey.

When I ask about what might constitute an ideal world most people pragmatically suggest that they’re already here. I try to argue that utopia can’t exist in the present, it’s about striving for a future that we’re yet to realise – like a four-day work week or a universal minimum wage. This is hard to argue with people who have moved to a pretty and quiet beachside town on the edge of nowhere specifically to retire. This is the utopia they’ve been aiming for.

We agreed that isolation meant being far enough away for everything else to be conveniently accessible. But that didn’t mean not being globally connected. You can’t just ‘tune out’ to the weather, the coronavirus or the price of wool etc. It’s easy for me to arrive here with ecological assumptions about primary industry. Through my conversations, for many people farming and mining aren’t outrightly bad or wrong, the complexity of these industries and their relationship to land are lived with and negotiated daily. Does a simpler lifestyle allow more emotional and pragmatic space to address the ebb and flow of life, to embrace the paradox of a mine and farm next to a world heritage park and say, ‘yes and’?

As I step in closer to the community, simpler might mean less variety at the supermarket or choice on tinder but negotiating a co-existence with their environment and each other has a degree of attention and care creating a co-dependence that is very hard simply shut down.

This Must be the Place

It seems unusual to not want to be or strive for an ‘elsewhere’. Most of the people I have spoken to here in the Ravensthorpe shire consider here the place to be. I’ve been told on several occasions not to tell anyone just how great it is here: two small towns that are 200ks from the nearest service centre.  Right next to a UNESCO listed national park with endemic flora and fauna which have survived an ice age. Numerous empty, pristine, soft powder sand beaches against multiple shades of blue ocean. Fish that that practically jump onto the jetty for you. People here live well into their 90s.  The farmers have read Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu. There are multiple social clubs, a historical society and a community resource centre that is also a library, tourist office and eco shop. The staff know your name and calmly help with all your administrative, recreational or retirement needs. “Romance novels, it looks like you’ve already read them all, we’ll have to order some new ones in.”

It also has an aging population, with limited medical facilities. Education is also limited; most children have to leave at the end of primary school for secondary boarding schools. It is also prone to droughts, bushfires, flooding, shark sighting. Fruit and vegetables are relatively expensive and not super tasty (I hear cities are given priority when it comes to quality). The internet is patchy, put people seem to get on just fine without it. The limited water that is available is hard to drink.

On Friday February 14, at the Merlot club, the woman next to me asked if I’d like ice in my wine. “It’s rain-water ice” she said. I turned and asked why the water wasn’t from the tap she said, “no one drinks the water here, it’s terrible.” Colin to my left echoed “the water’s terrible”. It’s bore water and they’re scraping the bottom here. How can Utopia be a place with no water?

For nearly three years now. Ravensthope has carted its water from Hopetoun. BHP put in 42 bores and we’re now having to be careful which bores are mixed together to keep it below a salt level. We’re talking 40 years to refill, if we got normal rain and we’re not getting normal rains. (excerpt from Hearsay script)

With each new mine there is the potential for infrastructural support.  When BHP came, they supported new bitumen roads, water bores, schools, police stations, local sport associations and business. They also built an entire new suburb and offered employment opportunities for some locals. (The government loves this, I guess it means there’s less for them to do).  Alongside this local housing prices rose, some people sold, others could no longer afford to pay rent and left. Many, along with their new jobs took out mortgages, which, when the mine closed after seven months of operation, left them struggling to repay their loans and unable to sell.

FQM, the Nickle mine that is about to re-open, likes to employ locals, they don’t practice fly in fly out or drive in drive out. They encourage their employees to live in local towns and to get involved in the community as much as possible, they’re not BHP, they can’t afford to ‘throw money around, after all they’re a business. The price of Nickle is set to rise again due to the increase in manufacturing electric batteries for cars.  They are bringing about 400 new staff to the area, that’s the same amount as the current population of Ravensthorpe.

There can be a divide between locals, farmers and miners. It’s not just that they keep different hours, one miner pointed out, small towns embrace the mines and the money but resent the influx in population and the change it can also bring to the quite nature of the town. Hopetoun was the most inclusive community she’d lived in so far.

Over the course of my residency I interviewed 20 people about isolation, belonging, home and utopia. Each interview lasted about two hours, some went for longer, working with five of these interviews I wrote a lyric poem and performed this back to the community over coffee, cake and sandwiches at the community resource centre. I have included and excerpt of the Hearsay script above.

On my last morning, I sit on the beach drinking coffee. I’m not ready to go back to the city.

I watch one of my favourite local dogs, a failed sheep-trial dog now much-loved domestic pet, herding waves.  It’s little like striving for utopia. He’s making an excellent job of this impossible task. The poet Trisha Low suggests that to desire utopia is to desire emptiness: as a place, it is unattainable. Such a place is never truly possible to bring into being. Thomas More knew and suggested this when he coined the term back in 1516, it literally means no-place. Low suggests that maybe Utopia is not about striving for a future place but is about the impetus behind it “imaging life beyond what we know is possible… striving to create new ways to exist in the world in relation to one another” (Low 2019: 30).

Against the backdrop of what increasing feels like a global apocalypse, the shire is also on the precipice of social, ecological and economic change. It is by no means an ideal world, but I have experienced a care and intimacy amongst the community that hold moments of a utopian gaze that as left me longing for more.

-Sarah Rodigari” (credit)

Sarah Rodigari, Strategies for Leaving and Arriving Home (2011)

person walking next to road

Sarah Rodigari, Strategies for Leaving and Arriving Home (2011); Photography: Adeo Esplago; Presented: Performance Space Sydney, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne and Artspace, Sydney
 as part of Art as Verb.

“Walking is a type of process-based research which informs my performance practice. I use walking alongside other social modalities such as conversation to document relational knowledge and to consider how place is historically determined, invented and retold.” (Catalog, “From Here to There: Australian Art and Walking)

“A six-week performative walk in which I relocated 880 kilometres from Melbourne to Sydney in the winter of 2011. I On my back I carried a tent, a sleeping bag and a four-day supply of food. As no ‘official’ walking route exists between these two cities, I mapped out my own path, choosing to follow the train line as best I could. When this was not possible, I followed the Hume Highway. I walked approximately twenty kilometres per day. I had no support vehicle; instead, I invited people to be my support by walking with me or joining me via the project blog.

In addition to documentation presented through essays, maps and the blog, I have included images of people who participated in the project by either walking, offering accommodation, food,a lift, or passing conversation and local knowledge. The inter-personal affective relations experienced in this exchange expose a vulnerability found within the embodied image of this walk: a woman walking alone along a highway. In turn, this mediation changed the process of the walk and thus shaped the nature of the project.” (credit)

Allison Smith, The Muster (2008)

“The Muster is a one-day, open-air celebration centering on the question “What are you fighting for?” posed by artist and self-appointed Mustering Officer Allison Smith (b.1971, Manassas, VA). This public art event takes place on Governors Island, the former national military post located in New York Harbor. Once there, visitors can tour an encampment of more than 50 campsites and art installations, created by an army of “enlisted troops” selected by Smith and the Public Art Fund. The afternoon includes an array of activities—mock battles, American Folk portrait painting, magic shows, quilting bees, soapbox speeches, and more—culminating with a formal “Declaration of Causes” on a central stage.

As a military term, muster refers to a gathering of troops for the purposes of inspection, critique, exercise, and display. The Muster adopts the language and aesthetic of a Civil War reenactment. Like Civil War reenactors, participants in The Muster engage in the articulation of identities through performance and expand on the reenactor’s belief that events lost to history can gain meaning and contemporary relevance when performed live in an open, participatory manner. However, The Muster does not involve enacting a specific war from the past; instead, Smith uses the format to create an occasion and a forum for individual expression of diverse causes.

Beyond its military roots, The Muster also bears a resemblance to a country fair or an early 20th-century carnival. Blending art, craft, culture, history and social activism, the event embodies Smith’s interest in community and freedom of expression. The causes of the participants vary widely, from the political to the whimsical, addressing art history, technology, gender, democracy, and sociology.

For more information visit www.themuster.com.” [credit]

Saleh Khannah, In Between Camps (2012)

A more recent walking artwork highlighting the intersection of walking and race is In Between Camps (2012), which consisted of a group of six researchers and artists, Ismael Al-bis, Fabio Franz, Matteo Guidi, Thayer Hastings, Ibrahim Jawabreh, Saleh Khannah, Sara Pelligrini, Giuliana Racco, and Diego Segatto, walking across the West Bank from the springs of al-Arroub to Solomon’s Pools (three massive stone reservoirs) south of Bethlehem in search of an ancient Roman waterway, the Arrub Aqueduct. The project originated from the Campus in Camps program developed by Al-Quds University, an experimental education program in the Palestinian refugee camp of al-Dheisheh. The purpose of the project was to both reactivate the water system’s source, and imagine a time-frame before the contemporary apartheid-reality of walls, colonial land parceling, and occupation of Palestine. While they were hiking, the group was stopped by Israeli soldiers who were suspicious of the Palestinian participants due to their skin tone and dress. The international participants intervened and explained the trip, their search of the aqueduct, and showed them the map, engaging in a type of information overload tactic, not unlike the tactics Codogan described for minimizing the perception of criminality. After the walk, the group created a booklet (Booklet ) reflecting on the history of the site, their experience, and how the various layers of race-based rule and exclusion are projected on the land.

Hastings, Thayer. “Tracing a Line Through a Fractured Palestine, from al-Arroub to Bethlehem,” Walking Art / Walking Aesthetics. Accessed May 16, 2022: https://walkingart.interartive.org/2018/12/thayer-palestine