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Engaging Water as Culture and Resource through Contemporary Art

In the present socio-cultural moment, water is increasingly the subject of discussion and contestation in public discourse. As Canadians, we know it as a resource that is ubiquitous within our history and an increasingly desirable international commodity.  Our project uses research and practice in visual art to address the subject of water regarding its cultural and environmental importance, by linking the historical art practice of picturing nature with the potential of visual representation to offer opportunities for aesthetic and socio-cultural engagement.

It is a goal of the project to bring together Canadian and international artists/researchers from multiple backgrounds to highlight a multitude of linked concerns of those individuals and their work. The project views water from diverse perspectives in order to exemplify it as complex and variable, and to problematize the idea that there could possibly be a monolithic attitude towards such a “universal” substance. With its emphasis on multiple and possibly competing perspectives, our project offers itself not as categorical regarding water, but as a context through which information, attitudes and “values” – even spiritual or sacred ones — pertaining to water find a site of display and discourse.

A key preoccupation around which the project is built concerns shifts in the way water is presented in the art of today with respect to historical art. Questions as to how we understand the way visual representation affects our social relations in general and how they are relative to concerns of the environment and sustainability is important. Ultimately, the intention of this project is to form links between contemporary artistic representations of water, scientific and social science research.

Immersion Emergencies integrates approaches to artistic research and practice regarding the subject of water to manifest a broad spectrum of artistic methodologies, foregrounding the types of preoccupations shown by many contemporary artists today. Because research by artists takes many forms and includes such activities as fieldworktextual engagementstudio practice and experimentation, and the development as public manifestations and interventions, this project assumes the importance of artists forging links with other artists, researchers, and communities.

The conceptual approach of Immersion Emergencies to science and social science knowledge acquisition is based on strategies that will enable the artists to gain broad exposures to pertinent areas of study and, through discussion with researchers (as well as observations of their fieldwork when possible), to identify questions and concerns that may be transferred across disciplines. Interviews, field visits, and exploratory research are among approaches that will be undertaken to build a new knowledge base among the artists. The intention is not to do science as art practice, but to allow science and social science based inquiry and methodology to inform artistic engagement.

Project Information Poster (pdf)

 

Project Participants

Patrick Mahon – Artist & Lead Researcher

Artist, writer and teacher/academic. His artwork has been exhibited widely, both nationally and internationally in group and solo exhibitions. He led the SSHRC-funded collaborative artist’s project and published book, Art and Cold Cash,operating between 2004-2011. Mahon is represented by the Katzman Kamen Gallery in Toronto.

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 Gu Xiong – Artist & Second Lead Researcher

A multi-media artist from China who now lives in Canada, Xiong works with painting, sculpture, photography, video, digital imagery, performance art, and installation. He has exhibited in over 70 prominent national and international group exhibitions including the Shanghai Biennale (2004), the Kwangju Biennale (Korea, 1995); and the groundbreaking “China Avant-Garde” exhibition at the China National Museum of Fine Arts (Beijing, 1989).

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Stuart Reid – Curator & Research Collaborator

Over the past twenty years, Reid has held senior posts in several of Canada’s most effective community-based art galleries, both in Ontario and Saskatchewan. He is currently Director/Curator of Rodman Hall Art Centre at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario. He is the author of over 60 exhibition catalogues and several published books. While engaged with public art galleries, he has also maintained an active role as a writer on contemporary Canadian visual art and craft practice in the broader national and international communities.

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Colin Miner – Artist & Researcher/Coordinator

Works primarily in the areas of photography.  Miner has exhibited nationally in Canada and abroad in Germany and China.  He completed his MFA at the University of British Columbia and is currently in the second year of the PhD program at the University of Western Ontario.

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Nadine Bariteau – Artist

A multi-disciplinary Franco artist based in Toronto. Completed her MFA at York University and has exhibited nationally and internationally.  She has received arts funding grants and participated in residencies in Argentina, Belgium, and Canada.    Bariteau teaches printmaking at York and OCAD University.

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Raymond Boisjoly – Artist

An Aboriginal artist based in Vancouver. Boisjoly completed his MFA at The University of British Columbia, and has since exhibited in Canada and the USA. He recently participated in a residency at the Banff Centre and is represented by Republic Gallery in Vancouver.

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Soheila Esfahani – Artist

Grew up in Tehran, Iran, and moved to Canada in 1992. She received her Master of Fine Arts degree form the University of Western Ontario and was a semi-finalist for the 2004 RBC New Canadian Painting Competition.  Esfahani’s work is represented in public and private collections including the Canada Council’s Art Bank.

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Gautam Garoo – Artist

In the works of Indian-born visual artist repetitive actions present an emptiness that is emulated on the surface of the work.  OF interest to him is the past resurfacing in the present. Garoo received his BFA from the University of Delhi and recently completed his MFA at the University of Western Ontario.