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The Living River

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The Living River Project: Art, Water and Possible Worlds

A research symposium on water in advance of the AGW exhibition (Fall, 2018)

Saturday, March 8, 2017; 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Art Gallery of Windsor

 

The Art Gallery of Windsor is steps from the edge of the Detroit River; this one-day symposium aims to probe timely issues around water as investigated and expressed in contemporary art. The river, connecting Lake St. Clair with Lake Erie, is one of the world’s busiest waterways and border crossing points, and has the distinction of having dual heritage designation from Canada and America. The river’s shores embrace the largest metropolitan area on any international border. It is also one of the first International Wildlife Refuges, known for being a large habitat for many ecosystems and species. The Windsor-Detroit area has a fascinating history in relation to the river. Indigenous peoples have been recorded on the shores from as early as 400 A.D. Settlement by Europeans took place around 1650, with trade, culture and industrialization spurred by the river and its resources. The Detroit River defines an important international border and was also an integral part of the Underground Railway, a crossing point for slaves escaping to freedom. The river is mythic, steeped in history—a lifeline for people that live on its shore.

The Living River Project symposium will be an open-ended conversation involving presentations by regional artists engaged with water issues, including University of Windsor scholars, Dr. Lee Rodney and Rod Strickland. The local context of the river and water related to treaties and First Nations history will be provided by Indigenous elder, Mona Stonefish, and by Jessica Cook. New media and performance artist, Elizabeth Chitty, will talk on her recent body of work on the Niagara watershed and will lead a guided walk along the Detroit River. A simultaneous intervention conducted by photo-based artist Colin Miner will record the proceedings of the day. Finally, a “process intervention” involving the symposium participants will be led by artists Patrick Mahon and Troy Ouellette. In a set of linked activities, Mahon and Ouellette will further “the question(s) of water” and relate these spatially to an examination of local water geography and its complexity.

The symposium is one stage in the development of a forthcoming exhibition to be mounted in winter 2018. Co-curators Patrick Mahon and Stuart Reid will build upon previous iterations as they convene a new survey exhibition for the Art Gallery of Windsor that will consider the significance of water issues in the context of the Windsor region, culturally, historically, and environmentally.

Reid and Mahon began the conversation about water in 2012 through an artist research group called Immersion Emergencies and Possible Worlds that held two residencies, at Niagara Falls and the Banff Centre for the Arts, which engaged water as culture and resource. Those encounters resulted in a major exhibition titled The Source: Rethinking Water through Contemporary Art mounted at Rodman Hall Art Centre/Brock University in 2014 in which artists from a multitude of cultural backgrounds, working in a diversity of media, considered changing concepts of water and associated cultural, political and aesthetic implications. The publication for The Source, including writings by Reid, Mahon and renown water-specialist Robert Sandford, was published June, 2017.

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AGW Symposium Program.

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