in the long grass like the ocean, w h e r e the ocean used to be Jennifer Brant & Jennifer Ireland
Jennifer Brant and Jennifer Ireland draw on their respective interdisciplinary practices to collaboratively investigate and re-envision decolonial relationships and responsibilities towards land and e n v i r o n m e n t . Configuring itheir artistic methods through an open and direct engagement with their environment, Brant and Ireland pursue material research that facilitates listening, observing, chronicling, and communicating with the natural world. Characterized by iiresponsiveness and to nurture the emergence of kinship and problem solving, the artists use audio, video, sculpture, performance, and drawing to articulate their experiences of land, enabling the viewer to imagine and intuit along with them.
Both artists are deeply invested in broad theoretical research, because to engage with environment and land is to engage with histories, current challenges, and future p o s s i b i l i t i e s . They reach multi-directionally through interdisciplinary works inspired by the writing of Donna Haraway, Priscilla Stuckey, Rebecca Solnit, and Jeffrey J. Cohen, focusing on the phenomenological iiexperience of land and place. Brant and Irelandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s research took them through conversations, story sharing, explorations of historical documents and maps, and through their own subjective experiences. Building upon past works in their practices that theoretically intertwine, they together made this series of works conceptually iicoupled around the shared stone, flora, and fauna of British Columbia and Alberta.
t h e farthest s h o r e Jennifer Ireland
Throughout the exhibition, Ireland iiundertook a series of performative gestures, titled: the farthest shore, sharing engagement with the artist’s local river, the Bow River. These moments with the river are efforts to come to better understand and to build a stronger relationship with the river. The moments are characterized by offerings; clay cups, story/poetry sharing and by touch. It is with the artist’s great thanks that they have the opportunity to collaboratively include the work of Canadian poet, singer, and songwriter, Clea Roddick.
“[my practice] is about examing relationships and responsibilites to the world... examining the relationships we already have, and reimagining the depth of possibilities.” — the artists in conversation
o n e
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â&#x20AC;&#x153;I am interested in the arbitrary divisions of landscape and land, how fallible they are, and how they have nothing to do with what what I am standing on. This invisible boundary that is only identified via a conceptual framework.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the artists in conversation
elbow is a depiction of the underlying geology of an area of land from Mohkinstsis/Calgary, spanning west across the border into British Columbia, drawn from energy and mining maps. The rug, made from wool stashed away by her mother, her grandmothers, and herself, probes the fallibility of borders and explores the composition of our material, corporeal, and familial foundations.
t h e word for world is forest Jennifer Ireland
the word for world is forest is an assemblage sculpture of young and mature spruce cones from the artistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s yard, gathered over one year from spring 2019 to spring 2020. The spruce trees are about fifty years old and have outgrown their space between the road and the home. Stressed by the constrained resources in this suburban setting, they produce more cones. This work aims to quantify the impact of such stress as the artist considers her responsibility to these arboreal neighbours.
sympoeisis Jennifer Ireland sympoiesis (making with) explores possible futures based on the reciprocity of cooperative living, and learning of the ways in which plants communicate, behave socially, share resources, and recognize kin. This chlorophytum comosum, a common house plant and nonnative species in North America, nurtures and nourishes through its above-soil network of stolons and plantlets. Sharing in the plantâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s practice of care, the artist has filled small, handmade clay bowls with water to support the plantlets. Heavily inspired by Haraway and Simmard, the work activates a speculative multispecies feminist methodology that encourages, through its small example, productively troubled solutions to environmental problems that address them at the root.
the kin we carry ( s h a r e d microbial d e s t i n y ) Jennifer Brant
For the kin we carry (shared microbial destiny), Brant retreats into a textile-based installation and video as a way of acknowledging, communing with, and mourning our microbial kin. Viewed from inside a tented sanctuary camouflaged by large scale drawings of soil microbes, the videos document the artist interacting with the microbial world.
t h e w i n d ’ s t w e l v e quarters Jennifer Ireland the wind’s twelve quarters is a vibrant series made of natural, locally sourced woolens dyed by hand. Conceptually inspired by bell curves and statistical analyses of growth patterns in nature, the work expands to encompass the unpredictable constraints and reciprocity of sharing and giving that occurs between neighbours and symbionts.
THE NEW GALLERY May 2—June 6 2020
els exhibit the idea of sharing space, coexisting and cohabitation, and how different organisms and symbiotes work to find homeostasis.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the artists in conversation
b i r d conversation: s a v a n n a h s p a r r o w
bird conversation: savannah sparrow is an audio recording of the artist singing the song of the Savannah sparrow, an Albertan songbird whose song has changed in response to the noise from the oil fields. It is played through a motion-activated speaker mounted outside of The New Gallery’s Main Space.
Jennifer Brant “[bird conversation] is an example of all the small changes that our human activity has made happen, has instigated... this work possesses that quality of trying to reach out and consider relationships and connections.” — the artists in conversation
touching t h e r i v e r Jennifer Ireland
Living along the Bow River in Mohkinstsis/Calgary, in the footh often walks to the shores of the Bow River. Since the spring touching the river. These moments with the river over the spr the Bow. Going back to the same places on the shore day aft her understanding, gratitude, kinship and responsibility with and the importance of touch, all serving as gentle yet critical prevalent conditions of globalization and colonization. As a se her deep gratitude for her access to the shores of the Bow Riv
hills between the prairies and the Rocky Mountains of Treaty 7 land, Jennifer Ireland g of 2020 and the advent of COVID-19, Ireland began documenting her practice of ring season, witnessed many changes in the often turbulent and clarifying waters of ter day, Ireland witnessed the riverâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s responsiveness to its environment, and nurtured the river. This ongoing series engages with themes of care, connection with land acts of resistance to the alienation and fragmentation of contemporary life under the ettler and Treaty 7 person with inherited responsibilities, Ireland would like to express ver by the Treaty 7 agreement.
v far a n e
e r y away from y w h e re l s e
very far away from anywhere else is part of an ongoing series in which the artist, Jennifer Ireland, sits quietly for long durations with various local rock formations. This gesture of giving and sharing time, is an effort to come to better understand, relate to, and nurture relationships with stone.
Highlighting the elements of motion and time, Ireland records videos of the stones during her time with them to share in exhibition with audiences. Some of the stones featured in this part of the series are erratics that hold long histories and important cultural significance for the Indigenous and MĂŠtis people of Treaty 7 region. Ireland, as a Treaty 7 person of settler descent, honours with gratitude the histories and ongoing relationships to these stones carried by the Indigenous people, as well as the generously shared stories and accessibility.
E x h i b i t i o n E s s a y Missy Leblanc
As I sit on my balcony with the spring sun filtering through the budding branches and the robins sing their morning song, I dream of another world, another life. A world that isn’t defined by fear of something we cannot see, something that has caused great harm. A world where the labour to care for ourselves and one another is not looked at as a burden of necessity, but an act of joy, of love. It seems erroneous and nonsensical to try to think and write around the fact that we are in the midst of a global pandemic. It has affected—and will continue to for years—the way we live our day-to-day lives and how we operate with one another. Jennifer Brant and Jennifer Ireland’s exhibition, in the long grass like the ocean, where the ocean used to be, was developed in the pre-pandemic world where it was supposed to take place. Centred on themes of care and decolonial relationships to the environment, the exhibition’s intention was to listen and respond to the lands that are currently called Alberta and British Columbia. However, the approach in its creation needed to shift as their physical exhibition on this land could not happen. The exhibition has, by necessity, altered to respond to the current crisis, a crisis that is still mutating while we try to navigate through it. in the long grass like the ocean, where the ocean used to be, asks us to consider the relationships we have with the environment, including the non-human life found within. What if these relationships carried the same weight as those that we call kin—a relationship built on love and care? What would that care look like for our non-human kin? The artists’ research has parallels to many Indigenous ontologies, where humans are not the centre of creation nor the centre of relationships. Kinship bonds and networks extend to, and between, the non-human world—to the plants and animals that feed us, the air and water that gives us life, to the land beneath our feet that nurtures us. Kinship networks with the non-human are all around us and impact us deeply. Down to the core, we carry these kin with us. The human body is home to trillions of microorganisms living beneath our nails, in our lungs, throughout our digestive tract, and covering our skin. Although some of these microorganisms can harm us, we have a mutualistic relationship with most; we sustain them, and they sustain us by providing nutrients, vitamins, and protection. When we wash our hands to get rid of the microbial life that can do us harm in order to stay safe, letting the suds of the soap breakdown and drown them as water engulfs our hands, we are inadvertently decimating the population of micro-kin that mean us no harm. The relationship we have with the microbial life on our skin is broken, washed away, and floating down the drain. A burial ritual that is repeated with wash after wash after wash.
Like the human body, the soil that lies beneath our feet and grows our food is filled with microorganisms, working and bonded together in harmony, protecting plants from stress and providing them with much-needed nutrients. This boundless cellular community nurtures our food and nurtures us, building relations along the way. However, modern invasive agricultural methods that focus on greater yields, coupled with the increased use of fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides, have led to soil depletion—a decrease in the microbial life found in the soil that provides the nutrients needed for plants to grow. The depletion of micro-kin in the soil has led to less nutritious food and a depleted gut microbiome, the kin that we carry with us. Although “care is a human trouble, this does not make care a human-only matter.”1 What if we imbued the soil, the microorganisms found within it, and the microorganisms within and on us, with the same tenderness and care as we would our human kin? Would we then mourn our lost micro-kin as part of our ritualized handwashing? Would we come up with new technologies so as to not harm our relationships with micro-kin? Would we stop putting profit and higher agricultural yields over soil health? Would we stop treating the land and all that surrounds us as commodities? Would we live with the resources given, rather than ravaging the land for more more more? How can we care for our non-human kin when “care” is such an elusive thing? What does it mean to take care, to hold care, to care for? The phrase “take care” connotes that “care” is no longer in your possession and that it must be retrieved, taken back. Is care something that is tangible that you can hold, that can be taken from you or that we can lose? What happened to the care we held so deeply for ourselves and our kin—human and non? To care for yourself and kin in a time of deep turbidity requires effort and labour, but what does that labour look like? Is it worth the effort? I pose these questions with no definitive answer, but with hope and provocation. Hope that if we reimagine the relationships with the non-human world, these kinship networks will lead to new ways of problem solving. If we de-centred the human and looked at our relationships with non-human beings as dialogical, we could break the cycle of abundance and scarcity. It will not come easy as we navigate the structures in place that are in opposition to the praxis of care, but it is our responsibility to do the work to take care. Hopefully, in our post-pandemic world to come, care is not something that we fight for or have to take back, rather, it is given freely to all our kin and is seen as a labour of love rather than one of survival.
María Puig de la Bellacasa, Matters of Care (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017), 2.
C o l l a b o r a t i v e R e a d i n g L i s t Any works by author Ursula K. Le Guin (1929 - 2018) Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies, Edited by Heather Davis and Etienne Turpin (2014, Open Humanities Press) A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit (2006, Penguin Books) As Eve Said to the Serpent: On Landscape, Gender, and Art, Rebecca Solnit (2003, Universtiy of Georgia Press) Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology, David Abram (2011, Vintage Books) Being Known by a Birch Tree: Animist Refigurings of Western Epistemology, Priscilla Stuckey (2010, Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature & Culture) Beyond the Mirror: Indigenous Ecologies and ‘New Materialism’ in Contemporary Art, Jessica L. Horton and Janet Catherine Berlo (2013, Third Text Journal) Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer (2014, Milkweed Editions) Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth, Elizabeth Grosz (2008, Columbia University Press)
On Decoloniality, Walter D. Mignolo and Catherine E. Walsh (2018, Duke University Press) Our Story: Aboriginal Voices on Canada’s Past, Tantoo Cardinal, Tomson Highway, Basil Johnston, Thomas King, Brian Maracle, Lee Maracle, Jovette Marchessault, Rachel A Qitsualik, Drew Hayden Taylor (2005, Anchor Canada) Poly-ontological Thinking in the Anthropocene, Ingrid Halland Rashidi Radical Mycology: A Treatise on Seeing and Working with Fungi, Peter McCoy (2016, Chthaeus Press) Research is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods, Shawn Wilson (2008, Fernwood Publishing) Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Cthulucene, Donna Haraway (2016, Duke University Press) Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (2015, University of Minnesota Press) The Faraway Nearby, Rebecca Solnit (2014, Penguin Books) The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate: Discoveries From a Secret World, Peter Wohlleben (2016, Greystone Books)
How Trees Talk to Each Other, Susan Simard (2017, Ted Talk)
The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing (2017, Princeton University Press)
Islands of Decolonial Love, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson (2013, ARP Books)
This Accident of Being Lost: Songs and Stories, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson (2017, House of Anansi Press)
Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning, Karen Barad (2007, Duke University Press)
To Speak for the Trees: My Life’s Journey from Ancient Celtic Wisdom to a Healing Vision of the Forest, Diana Beresford-Kroeger (2019, Random House Canada)
Memoirs of a Posthumanist, Rosi Braidotti (2017, Tanner Lectures on Human Values at Yale University)
Wildlife in the Anthropocene: Conservation After Nature, Jamie Lorimer (2015, University of Minnesota Press)
Jennifer Brant is an interdisciplinary artist whose emergent research and material-based practice tries to concurrently experience, facilitate, and chronicle interactions with both the human and more-than-human world. She explores systems and relationships, marginalized spaces, complicated emotional states, and futurity. Using installations and interventions, field studies, textile practices, ceramics, writing, and drawing, she encourages and documents moments that bring an awareness of interconnection and kinship, gently interrupt passivity, and cultivate alternative narratives to our current mythologies of progress and nature. Born and raised on the West Coast, an uninvited guest on the stolen territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ/Selilwitulh (Tslei-wa-tuth) people, as well as on the territory of the Tla-amin people, she divides her time between Vancouver and xʷɛʔɛt̓ay (Lasqueti Island), a small island off the grid. Brant holds a BFA and MFA from Emily Carr University of Art + Design and a BEd from the University of British Columbia.
Jennifer Ireland is a multimedia artist working to reconfigure ways of knowing and ways of being in land through the questioning of traditional epistemologies and abstract boundaries. Ireland strives to make work that is mindful of situation, site, context, and access. This ethic is found in her work through specific materials and methods which are often light, sustainable and provisional. Ireland’s multi-medium, research-based practice ranges from drawing, photography, video, and sculpture, to site-sensitive installation and performance. Each artwork is made as a proposition that operates simultaneously as suggestion and possibility for de-colonial wayfinding in the Anthropocene. As a Treaty 7 person, Ireland’s home is in Mohkinstsis/Calgary, Alberta, in the foothills between the prairies and the Rocky Mountains, the traditional lands of the Blackfoot Confederacy: Kainai, Piikani, Siksika, the Tsuu T’ina, and Îyâxe Nakoda Nations and the peoples of the Métis Nation (Region 3). Ireland holds a BA in Philosophy from the University of Calgary, studied drawing and sculpture at Alberta University of the Arts, and recently graduated from the 2018 Masters of Fine Arts at Emily Carr University of Art + Design.
Missy LeBlanc is a curator and writer of Métis, nêhiyaw, and Polish ancestry. LeBlanc is the inaugural Curatorial Resident at TRUCK Contemporary Art in Calgary, AB where she worked on a major project that included two exhibitions and a one day gathering centered around Indigenous language revitalization and Indigenous epistemologies. She was the winner of the 2019 Middlebrook Prize for Young Canadian Curators and a runner-up for the 2019 Canadian Art Writing Prize. LeBlanc was born and raised in amiskwacîwâskahikan and is currently based in Mohkinstsis.
THE NEW GALLERY May 2—June 6 2020 ©2020 The New Gallery Press / Exhibited May 2 — June 6 2020 Designed by Nivedita Iyer / Contributions from Jennifer Brant, Jennifer Ireland, Missy LeBlanc, Brittany Nickerson, Su Ying Strang, and Christina Dongqi Yao ISBN: 978-1-895284-24-9 All photos courtesy the artists and The New Gallery