> 2020 // Connexion ARC ‘Isolation Projects’ Self-Directed Residency, Montreal, QC.
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Among all the places I have lived, my experiences in Sackville, New Brunswick, on the Tantramar salt and diked marshes, have contributed most to my developing interest in the cultural and ecological implications of landscape narratives. Rooted in the desire for a resilient future for the coastal environments of New Brunswick in the face of climate change, I have initiated the exercise of uniting creative experimentation with research-based practice, in the hopes of building dialogue on these issues.
My position begins in the subjective notion of ‘home’, as a place defined by a lifetime of ongoing perceptual and sensuous experiences. Reminiscing on the Tantramar Marshes, I recognized that the nostalgic and aesthetic ideals I impose on this landscape through my consciousness warranted further interrogation. Looking beyond the sublime expanse of the marshland, vestiges of barns, once standing radio towers and disintegrating dike systems reveal a complex history of human intervention on the land. While these interventions, or landmarks, provide a universal understanding of what I mean when I speak of the Tantramar Marshes, I am wary of how the familiarity of the ‘seen’ erases the ‘unseen’ processes and histories that shape this environment in past and present.
The definitions of ‘erosion’ and ‘preservation,’ when applied to landscape, carry more than ecological and well-intended meaning. By contrast, these terms reinforce perceived nature/culture binaries whereby environmental forces erode and human systems have been developed to restore or ‘preserve’ said nature in its most ‘pure’ state. This binary ignores the fact that ecosystems are in constant flux, holding the evolutionary ability to adapt over time to environmental changes and stressors. Corporate environmentalist strategies such as restoration, conservation and preservation have relegated natural ecosystems to isolated protected zones, separate from our communities. Deeply rooted in centuries of colonial and capitalist violence, land acquisition, and resource accumulation, these strategies do little more than protect corporate futures and investments in land assets. This context has led me to reconsider what exactly is eroding and for whom we are preserving these remnants of nature. While I agree that we should not be causing further detriment to the environment, I am more so concerned by who, of what class, race, and gender, enacts preservation narratives. For what reasons, immediate and future, do we preserve? What communities, if any, does this benefit? Such is the paradox when we perceive our communities, infrastructure and daily life separately from nature.
Representing theoretical and creative research on the paradox of ‘erosion’and ‘preservation’, this project intertwines geography, ecology, and history within artistic metaphors of matter, process and technology to explore an embodied approach to care and resiliency for the Tantramar Marshes. I draw parallels between myself as an artist and the “problematic relationship between the preserved and not preserved.” Through the process of bodily engagement with materials and technology, I navigate my relationship to ‘nature’ within the physical and digital realities of isolation amid the current COVID-19 pandemic.
An introductory excerpt from my upcoming contribution to the publication ‘Shorelines,’ published jointly with Third Space Gallery and ACAP Saint John.
. Dictionary.com, s.v. “Erosion,” accessed 7 July 2020, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/erosion. The geological process whereby forces such as water, wind and waves cause the disintegration of the earth’s surface over time. . Dictionary.com, s.v. “Preservation,” accessed 7 July 2020, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/preservation?s=t. The “act of preserving” or maintaining something in its original state; in the late Middle English origin “to keep safe from harm.” . Katz, “Whose Nature, Whose Culture?” p. 45-62. These questions are inspired by her chapter in the book Remaking Reality which explores themes of nature as an accumulation strategy, corporate environmentalism, environmental preservation, and restoration and its limits. . Cindi Katz, "Whose Nature, Whose Culture? Private Productions of Space and the 'Preservation' of Nature,” In Remaking Reality: Nature at the Millenium, ed. Bruce Braun and Noel Castree (New York: Routledge, 2005) p. 53.
I acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.
I also extend my thanks to the following organizations for their support in the realization of this project:
And to Isabel Francolini for recording video/audio of the Tantramar Marsh, and Struts and Faucet Media Arts Centre for the equipment loan that made this possible.