Nature's City: Performing the Urban Garden
curated by Allison Peacock (PhD Candidate, HUMA)
Following discussions on the subjects of smart cities and gentrification, our third salon focus shifts to investigate the urban garden as a critical site for representing aspects of nature in the built environment. This salon took place at the Notman Garden and the adjacent Osmo Café, located in a retrofitted historic building newly devoted to start-up enterprises. The Notman Garden has been recently acquired by the City of Montreal, and is a local success story for residents and community activists who organized and petitioned the City of Montreal to protect the garden from condominium development. Referred to in recent media coverage as an ‘urban oasis’, this garden contains several trees over 100 years old. The canopy of the Notman Garden is a discrete forested plot around the corner from one of the busiest intersections in Montreal (St. Laurent and Sherbrooke), and the city currently faces several major challenges in the redesign the space for public use. Reflecting from inside the garden’s terrain, how can performance offer an affective and experiential understanding of the particular challenges of this space? In what ways can the performative be deployed in the context of urban nature preservation and community activism? Artists, scholars, and local residents gave short talks and lo-tech performative interventions reflecting on these questions.
Graphic Design: Eduardo Perez.
Dr Tony Antakly
Winning the uphill fight that saved historic Notman Garden : The role of Citizen’s advocacy, art, heritage, politics, and academics
Tony is a professor of biochemistry and molecular medicine at the Université de Montréal (UdeM), who also has a keen interest in environmental and heritage issues. He received two doctoral degrees in cell biology and medical histo-chemistry followed by post-doctoral studies at Columbia University and the National Institutes of Health in the United States. His main scientific research areas are in steroid hormones, and natural products with therapeutic benefits. Some of his findings have had clinical impacts, particularly in cancer and inflammation and the object of human clinical trials currently in development.
It is known that numerous chemical toxins (such as dioxanes and environmental estrogens) which are largely industrial waste products, bind to steroid receptors in the body once absorbed. However, unlike natural steroids which are essential for normal physiology, they stimulate abnormal cellular effects, including cancer and other diseases. Hence, Tony is an adept of healthy living and the importance of trees and clean air, which are a central part of fighting disease. When he saw that the Notman Garden with its magnificent centennial trees were being threatened by the construction of a condominium housing complex, he reacted by co-founding a citizen’s advocacy group to stop the project. After more than eight years of struggle, street demonstrations, political representations and art venues around the Notman garden, the Group finally won, when the City of Montreal bought the Notman Garden in 2018 to preserve this heritage and green site.
Janice Ka-Wa Cheung
The T[ ]
Janice Ka-Wa Cheung was born in Hong Kong. In 2017, she completed her studies in media art at City University of Hong Kong. Janice's MPhil research looked at the eye of the embodied spectator in interactive installations, resulting in several conference presentations and publications. Janice is currently a Ph.D. student in Interdisciplinary Humanities at Concordia University. Under the supervision of Dr. David Jhave Johnston, Janice continues to pursue research-creation with an interest in the notion of self in media art. Janice is eager to examine embodied self-exploration and the self-presentation of artists, and questions how artists and spectators use art to construct their own identity. For more of her works, visit her website: http://www.janice-cheung.com/
This is the Information Age, information is flowing and circulating around us in every moment. Thanks to the internet, we can try to learn, search, seek for whatever information we need remotely and instantly. However, let’s think together, when is the last time you saw your surroundings, or nature, by consciously connecting with your senses? Me, I have never touched or seen a pig in my life. The way I know pork is that it comes from a pig, which I only recognize from books, the internet, and from what my mum and teachers told me. This work will deconstruct second-hand information pixel by pixel, urging myself and visitors to directly experience a world with their own sensation.
Sunrise Commitment (Screening)
Erin Hill is a choreographer, performer and writer based between Montreal and Amsterdam. Her work gathers a multiplicity of mediums under the name of dance, attempting, via embodiment, to arouse polyphony of the senses and a noticing of this event. Through long duration practices, she works with her body as a site of experimentation; to notice habits of perception and to question how these habits are linked, historically and politically, to privilege and orientation. Tangled up in phenomenology, Erin creates spaces for tuning-in to somatic states, to disrupt what is taken for granted and to dance as a practice of redirecting dominant forces. In 2018 Hill received a Masters from DAS Theatre (NL, formerly DasArts). Her work has been presented in theatres and festivals across Canada, in New York, Amsterdam, Austria, Germany and Lebanon. Alongside her own creations, Erin works with Montreal-based object theatre and puppetry collective Café Concret.
'From April 17 2017 to April 16 2018 I told myself I would watch the sun rise; I called this decision the Sunrise Commitment. I would get up one hour before the sun was set to rise, check my heartbeat, photograph the horizon as it shifted from dark to light, write about the state of my body and the state of the sky. From this practice came the performance of the same name: Sunrise Commitment. This piece invites an audience to cometogether outdoors at a chosen eastward-facing destination, one hour before the sun is set to cross the horizon. Coffee, tea and blankets are always nice. Emerging in the distance, in repetitive flows, heating up in relation to the oncoming rays, is a dance performed by two people and the Sun. This piece was created closely together with the dancers Kelly Keenan and Rebecca Rehder. We first performed this work on May 31st 2018 in a field in Amsterdam Noord. Next, on the banks of the Rhine Canal in Amsterdam. Then, across a river and in a soccer field in a small German town called Gießen. The most recent Sunrise Commitment happened here in Montreal, in the Champs des Possibles, during the OFFTA festival. This video was captured by Sandrick Mathurin during that performance on June 1st 2019.
the sunrise is a show that won't wait for latecomers to begin
the sunrise does not promise anything spectacular
the sunrise happens everyday
the sunrise is always exactly as it should be
the sunrise watched
the sunrise listened
... and when it ended the day had already begun'
“Listening as walking”: Meditations for a slow-walk in the Notman garden
Burdock Jenkins-Crumb is an interdisciplinary artist based in Tio’tia:ke/Montréal and BFA candidate at Concordia University. Their creative research is rooted in mindfulness, embodied listening and urban ecology. They make scores as tools to compose music for the oboe, their primary instrument, and to investigate listening as an exploration of the here-and-now in the context of the urban ecosystem. These performances aim to blur the distinction between performer and audience, and between human culture and nature, thereby advocating for the personhood of extra-human beings. Through their creative practice, they hope to cultivate ecological awareness, deep listening, non-hierarchical communication, and fascination with noise. In the future they plan to further develop their creative practice through agriculture and herbalism.
“Listening as Walking” is a scored performance where listening is embodied through the actions of breathing and walking in the Notman forest. The walking meditation is meant to ground the performer in the here and the now through mindful observation of sensations in the body, and of external events which resonate within the body. When understood as mindful observation, listening is necessarily an active process which encompasses all of the senses rather than just sound. Listeners are encouraged to cultivate unconditional love and to acknowledge our impermanence and place in the urban ecosystem. By deeply listening to our own experience, we can become better listeners to all other living beings. This work is a call for us to recognize that we are active players in the urban ecosystem; and that in order to find happiness and to heal our relationships, we must give up the desire for control and instead cultivate compassionate and empathetic listening.
Lucie Lederhendler (MA, Art Education) is a Montreal-based exhibition designer, artist, and curator. Her research, which wonders how an art practice might foster mythologies and connections between humans and the non-human world, has been published in Canadian Art Teacher and Quebec Heritage magazine. Her environment-based artworks have been included in several shows. She is the director of the art collective Studio Beluga, which produces spaces for accessible exchange between emerging artists and the public.
This zoetrope is one of the outcomes of a research project that reflects on the artist-as-witness to the Falaise Saint-Jacques, a feral escarpment in South West Montreal. The artist collected information about the place over the course of a year in order to identify the mythologies that surround it. Narratives of usage and neglect connected implicated parties across millennia, while simultaneously showcasing the rapid movement of geological forms in a post-industrial, urban landscape. Originally installed at the crest of the Falaise, Crowsuperimposes a story onto the landscape about the connection between community activists and non-human users. A small, grassroots group is able to supervise the full length of the escarpment because they are sensitive to the wildlife there: the crows make a fuss when the protected boundaries are infringed on, and the people know how to listen to them.
Rooted in Coloniality: Decolonizing and De-centering Botanical Gardens
Tracy Qiu is an ornamental horticulturist and public garden professional, researching how botanical gardens reckon with coloniality while tackling issues of diversity and inclusion. Her interests in questions of access and “belonging” in botanical garden spaces have led her to a horticultural apprenticeship at the Niagara Parks Botanical Garden (Canada), an internship working with Pacific Islander indigenous plant knowledge at the National Tropical Botanical Garden (Hawaii), and travel through botanical gardens in China, Japan, Singapore, South Africa, and Australia. During her Masters of Science at the University of Delaware, Tracy explored racial diversity in public garden leadership from the perspective of critical race theory and critical museology. A recipient of the Joseph Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship, she aims to create critical and collaborative research with practical applications for the field of botanical gardens.
As living museums, scientific institutions, and curated plant collections, botanical gardens have situated themselves on the frontlines of biodiversity conservation and governance, with goals to address issues of “human well-being” aligned with conservation and environmental sustainability such as poverty, environmental injustice, and engaging underrepresented audiences. Despite these objectives, few botanical gardens acknowledge their implicit and explicit role in the history of colonialism, including the exploitation of slave labour, Indigenous peoples and epistemologies, and environmental resources. Additionally, the history of botanical gardens is interwoven with the history of scientific exploration, natural history collections, and European traditions of ornamental horticulture; all of which have a profound impact on the way green spaces are presently perceived, managed, and occupied. This presentation will make visible the role of botanical gardens in colonization and nature-based epistemologies, while asking critical questions about botanical garden futures and the different ways of knowing our environments.