“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.
AGYU, Terrestrial / Celestial and Walking Studio, curated by Emelie Chhangur , Spring 2012, Toronto
Articule Gallery, Terrestrial/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 Union, The Chinatown Foray, Solo exhibition, main space, Fall 2009, Toronto” (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.
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.
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.
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.”
“Lickable Cities is a research project that responds to the recent and overwhelming abundance of non-calls for gustatory exploration of urban spaces. In this pa- per, we share experiences from nearly three years of nonrepresentational, absurdist, and impractical re- search. During that time, we licked hundreds of surfac- es, infrastructures, and interfaces in cities around the world. We encountered many challenges from thinking with, designing for, and interfacing through taste, in- cluding: – how can and should we grapple with contam- ination?, and – how might lickable interfaces influence more-than-humans? We discuss these challenges to compassionately question the existing framework for designing with taste in [Human-Computer Interaction].” [credit]
“Claudia Zeiske is a keen walker and founding director of Deveron Projects.
Walking Lunches are a series of moving meetings between Claudia Zeiske and artists, arts professionals and other participants.
Claudia provides a written agenda prior to the walking lunch, as well as sandwiches and tea during the walk. The lunch partner brings a camera and takes three pictures (portrait, landscape, still-life) on the walk. Afterwards Claudia writes minutes and archives them, along with the images taken by the partner.
Recommended: good shoes, waterproofs, hat and gloves
Walking Lunches are an adaptation of ‘working lunches’, combining the purpose of a business meeting with fitness and environment appreciation. The idea is that instead of lunch-time meetings people are encouraged to undertake movable get-togethers, where they walk for the duration of a normal meeting (i.e. between 1-2 hours). Targeted for busy people who want to keep fit but can’t ‘afford’ the time.
‘The intention is to set up a network of walking lunchers which has a snowball effect over a 6 month period. These moving meetings will be orchestrated by myself; each week I will encourage at least one other person to walk. The walking partner in turn will commit to undertake at least 2 further walking lunches. If successful this project should create an exponential rise in the number of people walking over the 6 months of the project. If everybody I walk with (minimum 26 people), walks with at least two other people, this will already be 26+2×26 = 78 people. One can imagine how much this number will go up if every one of those walkers encourages 2 more walkers, and they in turn do the same…..’ Claudia Zeiske”
Lisa Myers, ‘and from then on we lived on blueberries for about a week’, made for MAP Spring 2013, 6’44” (animation with assistance from animator Rafaela Kino). This work pays homage to an on-foot journey her grandfather undertook to flee Shingwauk Residential School in Ontario. Myers herself once did an 11-day walk tracing the route of her grandfather’s journey.
“When he was a boy, artist Lisa Myers’s Anishinaabe grandfather walked some 250 kilometres along Northern Ontario railroad tracks for one reason: to escape Shingwauk Residential School in Sault Ste. Marie.
Myers recorded her grandfather’s account of this journey during a conversation with him in the 1990s—and she listened it to it many times before she made the decision, in 2009, to walk the route he’d described alongside her cousin Shelley Essaunce and her nephew Gabriel.
Myers and the Essaunces took 11 days to walk the 250-kilometre journey.
“After this walk,” Myers writes in a 2016 Walter Phillips Gallery exhibition essay titled “Rails and Ties,” “I began thinking about how to locate myself within my grandfather’s story, and about how I wanted to convey its different iterations. One thing that struck me was that he survived by eating blueberries growing along the tracks. He said, ‘and from then on we lived on blueberries for about a week.’”
“When I recall walking across the railway bridge over the Mississauga River north of Lake Huron,” Myers writes in “Rails and Ties,” “I think about my fear of the elevation, and how gusts of wind unsteadied my steps. Finding my footing meant looking down and seeing the river rushing 50 feet below the railway ties of that century-old steel bridge. The Mississagi River flows into Lake Huron, the railway crosses the river, and from my grandfather’s account of his journey this was the first place (after leaving school) where he heard his language and saw Anishinaabe people cooking and sharing food down by the river. They welcomed him, and fed him.”
Lisa Myers, “Blueprint Garden River bridge” (2015)
Lisa Myers, “Tracking My Blueprints blueberry, rolling pin wood block print variable” (2012)
Lisa Myers, still image from then on we lived on blueberries for about a week, 2015.
“The spoons represent sharing, sustenance and the gathering of people,” Myers writes. “When I line these spoons up side by side, the reddish-blue marks continue from one utensil to the next, recalling an imaginary topography or horizon line created by the trace of berry consumption.”
In this sense, walking and artmaking become different ways of tracing and “straining” an experience.
“Straining to survive, or even to be accepted, means the less digestible parts of stories need to be retained, traced, remembered and told,” Myers writes.
Of course, Myers is not alone in thinking about walking as a mode of Indigenous resistance and survival.
“There’s the water walk that is happening, and which is not directly art-related,” Myers said in a phone interview. “But I think Indigenous artists are wanting to also acknowledge that these forms of activism are happening. There was walking from a community in Nunavut, [Idle No More] walking to Ottawa to make a point.”
“Walking to safety is a really important narrative in talking about survival, and surpassing survival to freedom,” says “Walks of Survivance” curator Srimoyee Mitra.” [credit]
an archaeology of the familiar and forgotten was a live art project made in collaboration with the artists Gail Burton and Serena Korda between 2005 and 2010. At the core of the work was a walk route in the East End of London that we used as a repeated route, walked with groups of participants, often at night. Commissions and invitations took the project to other locations; for example creating a chip shop tour of the postcode district of E8 in 2007, a walk and series of posters for Exeter’s Spacex Gallery in 2008, and an immersive installation at Camden Arts Centre in 2006. Permanent site specific artworks are viewable in Bethnal Green Old Town Hall. We continue to exhibit artworks and ephemera generated by the collaboration.