transcanada 3

TransCanada 3 is an upcoming conference at Mount Allison University, July 16-19, 2009, co-chaired by Christl Verduyn and Smaro Kamboureli, Canada Research Chair in Critical Studies in Canadian Literature at the School of English and Theatre Studies, University of Guelph. It will pay explicit attention to literature, arts, and the media, but will also explore the educational, political, cultural, and physical ecologies that have helped, or may in the future help, Canada to renew itself and to embrace its emergent as well as traditional identities. Some themes to be addressed:
  • First Nations: Treaty Rights and Justice in the Anglo-French history of Canada
  • Acadia: Exile and Return
  • Diasporas, Transnationalism / Transculturalism
  • Radical and Transformative Methodologies and Pedagogies
  • Hemispheric Studies
  • Affective Geographies
  • Ecology and Mobility


on landscape

Shauna McCabe recently participated in one of two panels that took place focusing on the concept of landscape as it is being used by contemporary researchers, presenting on the artistic rendering of memory and landscape in the work of artist Rebecca Belmore. Held in conjunction with the Association of American Geographers conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, the overarching intent of the sessions was to explore landscape in terms of its contemporary engagement as heuristic tool, cultural artifact, ecological concept, or political entity:

Landscape has a long tradition within the history of geographic thought, though the definition of what landscape is has differed over time. From Carl Sauer in the 1920s to Kenneth Olwig today, what constitutes landscape has shifted, with varying degrees of significance given to the natural, cultural and political aspects engendered by the concept. The use of the term has also been used to describing a portion of the earth's surface, to refer to representation, as well as to describe a way of looking at the world. While the importance of landscape as a topic of inquiry has waxed and waned, it appears that there is a new resurgence of interest. This session seeks to draw together papers which have in common a focus upon landscape in order to explore the manifest ways in which this foundational geographic term is understood and employed by contemporary researchers.

Sessions I and II examined the ideas from ten different critical positions.


the lost highway project

CHARTS regularly invites visiting lecturers — notable artists, scholars, researchers and theorists — to participate in scholarship and share their thought-provoking ideas and research practices with students and the local community. In February 2009, artist Michael Alstad will work with participants in an intensive workshop within the advanced interdisciplinary seminar offered by Shauna McCabe. Titled
Anarchitecture: The Lost Highway Project, the seminar is presented as an architecture/landscape studio and will introduce participants to ideas of "locative practice" and interdisciplinary creative forms as a means of researching built landscapes, at once documenting and inventing place.

Locative art is often described in terms of technologies - tools such as microphones, cameras, GPS, wireless communications protocols, and a host of other sensors and technologies, all means of connecting information to geography, to explore and engage with the spaces which we inhabit. Locative media is not necessarily "high tech," however; even hand-drawn maps and poetry are marks of personal cartographies and senses of places. Extending ideas of Walter Benjamin and, later, the Situationists, many artists use walking and "drifting" as means to generate alternative maps of space.

In Anarchitecture: The Lost Highway Project, diverse creative practices will underlie the locative research tools, and the psychogeography consists of contemporary spaces - transitional zones, outskirts and remnant landscapes - encountered as a global community. Working with a local site which will offer the substance and backdrop for research and creation, the landscape studio will investigate the imaginative identity of this and other “lost,” marginal spaces.

Integrating the research within a web framework, participants will work with Alstad to give virtual presence to the investigation and the new landscape that emerges. The website will merge the creative information and media by utilizing collaborative software, social networks and georeferenced material. By generating new and contrasting myths and stories through space, the project will create 'Anarchitecture', an alternative use of architecture. In this way, The Lost Highway becomes a shared imagined space: it exists only in virtual space, and only as we have imagined it.

Michael Alstad is a Toronto-based researcher, artist and curator working in installation and digital media. He is a founding member of the Canadian artist collectives Year Zero One and Symbiosis. Michael has coordinated several site-specific projects in Toronto including The Bank of Symbiosis, The Hoarding Project, the Transmedia video billboard exhibitions, Geostash and Terminal Zero One. His web/video/interactive works have been exhibited in several media arts festivals and online exhibitions. His previous work includes Pixelgrain, documenting and mapping disappearing prairie structures of the grain elevator, to portray a parallel rural landscape in the midst of transition, and Teletaxi, an ongoing series of videos/animations that examine the mutation of specific urban sites in Toronto documented over multiple time frames and perspectives, created and exhibited via a moving taxi.


creative construct

Last week in Ottawa, The Creative Construct: Building for Culture and Creativity symposium brought together international participants to exchange ideas and practices on the development of cultural and creative spaces; cultural planning and investment strategies for cultural infrastructure and cultural districts; and collaborative approaches to enhancing the cultural vitality, creative potential, and competitiveness of cities and communities.

The Creative Construct: Building for Culture and Creativity international symposium was organized by the Centre of Expertise on Culture and Communities at Simon Fraser University in collaboration with the City of Ottawa and from April 28th to May 2nd encompassed a series of plenary talks, panels, cultural research salons, and tours. Results of the symposium will be posted on the project website: http://www.symposium2008.ca/e/index.html.

How creativity generates unique spaces and the challenges of maintaining artistic priorities in creative economies were recurring themes. In this panel moderated by Caroline Andrew, Kate Shaw (Melbourne University), Will Straw (McGill University), Alan Stanbridge (University of Toronto) and Scott Thomson (Association of Improvising Musicians, Toronto) addressed issues and possibilities related to informal and alternative spaces and uses.


virtual artists/virtual architecture

RMB City is an installation of "virtual city planning" created by Chinese artist Cao Fei, AKA China Tracy, in Second Life, a landscape that is a parody of contemporary Chinese culture - a giant panda swinging on a crane counterweighted by OMA's CCTV building, for instance, and a commentary on the intensive urban hyper-capitalist development taking place across China:

"RMB City will be the condensed incarnation of contemporary Chinese cities with most of their characteristics; a series of new Chinese fantasy realms that are highly self-contradictory, inter-permeative, laden with irony and suspicion, and extremely entertaining and pan-political. China's current obsession with land development in all its intensity will be extended to Second Life. A rough hybrid of communism, socialism and capitalism, RMB City will be realized in a globalized digital sphere combining overabundant symbols of Chinese reality with cursory imaginings of the country's future."

In true "post-post-" fashion, you can see the documentary of the opening for China Tracy Pavilion in Second Life from June 2007, created as part of her participation in the rl Venice Biennale.

An exhibition featuring the latest iteration of the RMB City project continues at Lombard-Freid Projects in NYC until April 5, 2008.

panel presentation

Representational Engagement with Urban Space: Responses to the National Gallery’s exhibition
Art and Society

Saturday, March 8 @ 5:00 pm Kamloops Art Gallery

Representational Engagement with Urban Space has been conceived as a forum to consider the KAG’s feature exhibition Art and Society in Canada 1913-1950, organised and circulated by the National Gallery of Canada, in relation to contemporary art, urban development, and quality of life in Canadian cities. The ideals and legacies of socially engaged arts groups, the Group of Seven, the Social Realists, and Les Automatistes, are discussed by three diverse Canadian scholars and researchers with the Small Cities CURA: Shauna McCabe (Newfoundland/New Brunswick), Andrew Hunter (Ontario), and Bruce Baugh (British Columbia). Sponsored by the Small Cities Community-University Research Alliance, Thompson Rivers University, in collaboration with the Kamloops Art Gallery. Free admission.


visualising process: Ed Burtynsky on documenting Shim-Sutcliffe's Integral House

imagineacity - installation views:
introduction + Ed Burtynsky - Integral House site photograph
wall (l-r) Shim-Sutcliffe Architects - Integral House (Toronto) process drawings; Ed Burtynsky - Integral House site photography; MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple - Canadian High Commission, Dhaka, Bangladesh (process drawings)

imagineacity - installation views:
Shim-Sutcliffe Architects - Integral House (Toronto) process drawings;
Ed Burtynsky - Integral House site photography

The Integral House sits at the edge of a Toronto ravine, a residential project that re-imagines boundaries of public and private, cultural and natural, monumental and intimate. Commissioned by Dr. James Stewart, calculus scholar and musician, the structure was to be not only a personal dwelling, but also a social venue for music and performance. Addressing unique contextual factors, situating the house in relationship to the strangely urban condition of Toronto ravines, architects Brigitte Shim and Harold Sutcliffe infused architectural design with sculptural form to convey a sense of connection to the unique qualities of site. Moving beyond a model of architecture as a neutral grid or box, the geometry of the design is dominated by the curve as it descends into the ravine, manifest in details such as an undulating perimeter wall and reflecting pool at the base, reiterating the structure’s natural context.

A unique record of the demolition and construction process was produced by photographer Ed Burtynsky, who documented the evolution of the house. One of Canada's most respected photographers, Burtynsky is best known for his depictions of global industrial landscapes that examine nature transformed through industry, transposing the raw elements of mining, quarrying, manufacturing, shipping, oil production and recycling into highly expressive visions, seeking out sites that are rich in detail and scale yet open in their meaning.

Burtynsky was commissioned by Shim-Sutcliffe Architects to document the construction of the 18,000 square foot home on the Rosedale Valley ravine and to produce the architectural photography of the site development. Burtynsky offered insight into his visual approach to the architectural construction as an industrial site, in this CBC interview on site with Shelagh Rogers in 2005, going into year 2 of documentation of the project.