Category Archives: Education

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)

Lucia Monge, Plantón Móvil (2010-)

Lucia Monge (1983-)

“Lucia Monge started bringing people and plants together as Plantón Móvil in Lima, Peru. This is a participatory, walking forest performance that occurs annually and leads to the creation of public green areas.

“Plantón” is the word in Spanish for a sapling, a young tree that is ready to be planted into the ground. It is also the word for a sit-in. This project takes on both: the green to be planted and the peaceful protest. It is about giving plants and trees the opportunity to “walk” down the streets of a city that is also theirs. This walking forest performance culminates with the creation of a public green area.

Plantón Móvil started in 2010 while I was walking around Lima, my hometown, and noticing how many trees and plants had their leaves blackened with smog, were being treated as trash cans, or even used as bathrooms. I started to put myself in their place, and thought I would have left town a long time ago. Instead they are sort of forced to sit there and accept this abuse because of their planted “immobile” state. I wondered what it would be like to encounter a walking forest that had taken to the streets like any other group of people would do, demanding respect.

Plantón Móvil, however, is not a group of people carrying plants: at least for that time being we are the forest. I find it important to make this distinction because it changes the nature of the gesture. This is about lending our mobility to plants so that they can benefit from the speed and scale that draws people’s attention. In return; we may momentarily borrow some of their slowness. Essentially, it is about moving-with as a form of solidarity.” (credit)

Diane Borsato, Your Temper, My Weather (2013)

“One hundred amateur and professional beekeepers performed periods of guided meditation and slow walking together in the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Walker Court. While exploring the tangible effect of collective stillness, the work created a platform upon which to
reflect on the health and temper of bees and their keepers, and on the policies and environmental conditions that affect our shared future. The work was performed for five hours for Nuit Blanche at the Art Gallery of Ontario.”

Credit: Morrell, Amish and Diane Borsato. Outdoor School: Contemporary Environmental Art. Douglas and McINtyre, 2021. Page 134.

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)

Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds, Most Serene Republics (2007)

Hock E Aye VI Edgar Heap of Birds, (Cheyenne/Arapaho, 1954-)

This work was a temporary memorial for Native Americans who died in Italy as part of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show in the late nineteenth century, and was installed at the Venice Biennale in 2007. It consisted of a series of 16 outdoor signs to remember and honor their loss, 8 outdoor signs that serve as commentary, several signs in the water-taxis encouraging repatriation of the Native people’s bodies from Europe to the U.S., as well as a large billboard at the Venice airport that stated ‘welcome to the spectacle, welcome to the show’ as a faux welcoming sign, which was visible as people walked through the airport check point. These Lakota warriors were formerly imprisoned in the U.S. and were given the choice to remain in prison, or go perform in Europe, which was not much of a choice.

Alan Michelson, Mantle (2018)

This work sits at Richmond’s Capitol Square Park in Virginia. The spiral shaped walking path honors the original inhabitants of the region, especially seventeenth-century Chief Powhatan (d. 1618) who united thirty-four Algonquian tribes. The site incorporates cast images of corn, squash, and bean plants around the edge of a reflecting pool, and is surrounded by groves of trees native to the area. The site requires active participation, unlike a statue on a plinth, thereby becoming a reflective activation of this space of reintroduced Native life and cultural memory.

— Michelson, Alan. “Mantle, 2018,” Alan Michelson. Accessed June 25, 2022: https://www.alanmichelson.com/mantle

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]

Alan Michelson, Earth’s Eye (1990)

Alan Michelson (1953-, Mohawk) created a type of sculptural reenactment when he installed Earth’s Eye (1990) in lower Manhattan’s Collect Pond Park, outlining the now absent pond, a freshwater source that sustained Manhattan residents until tanneries polluted it and it had to be filled in during 1803. Forty cast concrete markers (22”x14”x6” each) referenced the natural and social history of the pond with low-relief imagery of plants and animals, and were arranged in the outline of the pond. Passersby walked around and within the installation, “bringing previous states of the locale into the here and now.” (Everett, Deborah. “Alan Michelson,” Sculpture, May 2007, Vol. 26 No. 4. Page 31.)

Michael Belmore, Coalescence (2017)

“Michael Belmore’s Coalescence was conceived as a single sculpture in four parts, [as part of LandMarks2017/ Repères2017 invites people to creatively explore and deepen their connection to the land through a series of contemporary art projects in and around Canada’s National Parks and Historic Sites from June 10-25, 2017.]. Sixteen stones, ranging in weight from 300 to 1,200 pounds, are fitted together and inlaid with copper, then situated to frame the vast distance between the southernmost boundary of the Laurentide Ice Sheet near Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan, to one of its points of drainage into Hudson Bay in Churchill, Manitoba.

stone with copper

Sites in Riding Mountain National Park and The Forks National Historic Site, both in Manitoba, punctuate the stones’ migration. Together, the four locations mark meeting points between water and land: ancient shorelines, trade routes and meeting places, sites of annual mass migrations of animals, as well as the forced displacement of peoples.

Belmore uses copper as a way to invest the stones with labour and value. The stones come against each other to create a perfect fit, while their concave surfaces move apart slightly to reveal the warm glow of copper to reflect light. Each crevice is filled with a fire that will be extinguished with age, turning brown, then black, and reaching a luminous green hue as it settles into the landscape. They are a marker of how everything comes from the ground and returns to it, and how these processes stretch far beyond human understanding of time.

Belmore has created a moment of connection between deep geological time of stone and the linear human time of labour. On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Confederation, this connection acts as a reminder of how the timelines of national celebration do not take into account the timelines of the land on which they take place. The stones were going to traverse a land familiar with rising and falling waters to reach their locations, but spring 2017 brought a record snowstorm and a spring melt that washed out the rail line that serves as the main transport artery between Churchill and southern Manitoba.

The political negotiations that followed have left the responsibility for its repair unresolved — part of the continued legacy of colonialism, the challenges of northern transportation and migration, and the importance of international trade routes that go back to Canada’s first trading posts. Belmore’s piece remains intact in Churchill, its splitting and migration halted by the processes that reach out from its conceptual core.” [credit]