Wednesday, August 28, 2013

be my ocean

Uprooting again.

This time there is comfort in the move, and I think it's because I'm not entering a completely foreign territory that I'll have to re-learn to navigate. There will be Douglas Fir, Cedar, Ferns, Ravens and Deer. I take comfort in knowing that the relationships I am developing with my current surroundings will not lay dormant, and that I can transfer that learning to a similar place. Maybe it's like learning the same language, but a different dialect:

I will no longer have the rocky coastline nearby, or River Otters, Herons and other waterfowl. I will be slightly inland, and on the mainland, with a new vocabulary of Coyotes, Bear, Skunks, Porcupines and Raccoons. I've been missing these larger omnivorous mammals in my last five or six years of living on islands and in the city, and I'm looking forward to seeing their signs again. A lot of the Gulf Islands are ecologically unbalanced - deer are allowed to propagate freely alongside humans, cats and dogs, because the coyotes have been culled to protect house pets, and to prevent competition for human-farmed meat.

It's undeniable that the majority of the world is already one big human-farm in one way or another, but I still enjoy feeling the power of the things that surround me - not just in terms of grand scenery and beauty, but in terms of a wariness and respect that other powerful entities are out there that can do drastic things outside of my control.

I suppose this is why I've gravitated to the ocean when I've lived on the Gulf Islands. There is a definite sense of humility in bobbing along the boundary between water and air - being completely incapable of even perceiving what is happening in the water that surrounds me.

May the bears and the storms be my ocean, in this next place-of-living.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


One month ago, I entered the second July Intensive, which is the halfway point for my Masters of Applied Arts at Emily Carr. On my first day in the studio, I transcribed the following on a big sheet of paper and posted it on my little piece of wall:

The story never stops beginning or ending. 

It appears headless and bottomless, for it is built on differences. 
The story circulates like a gift; an empty gift which anybody can lay claim to by filling it it to taste, yet can never truly possess. 
A gift that stays inexhaustible within its own limits.

-Trinh T. Minh-Ha, from Woman, Native, Other

This became a theme for the work I undertook in July, but I think it also describes my relationship with my cohort of fellow low-residency students.

This particular Masters is a low-residency program. I spend eleven months of the year talking to my instructors and fellow students online, and one month together in person. It's a fascinating and dynamic pedagogical project, but it also feels like a social experiment. We are subjected to the extremes of communication methods. For the majority of the time, we are writing quasi-academic forum posts that might never be read by each other. Then, for one month, we are lounging in a hottub together, sweating together through long days and nights as we install our interim exhibition, swimming in our underwear under the moon at Kits Beach, or dancing until the sun rises at an all-night party in Stanley Park.

Near the last day of the intensive, I removed Minh-Ha's quote, and posted another transcription:

I'll leave the stones here
But I'm taking the dream with me
Into the unknown.

Fischli and Weiss, from The Right Way

See you next year, co-heart.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


The arrangement of objects on my big tabletop called out to me, so I photographed it. I didn't adjust anything on or around the table, including the light umbrella. The object in the center is a rock.

This image makes me aware of how my art practice has transformed over the last year. It's nice to get that perspective every once in a while.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Four Stories

I just got back from two weeks in the Yukon. The first few days were spent mounting this beast at the Yukon Arts Center. More details on the project are here:

I'll talk more about the second project I was working on, coyote, another time.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Maui I

dawn at Haleakala

from temple of Cloud
red Sun emerges, humble and tentative
rising into a perfect portal
greater than sight

Sea Turtle

how embarrassing
to think you might be:
aggressive, competitive, defensive, hopeful, ambitious
lessons taught with a glance

Nakalele blowhole

weeping nostril of the rock
ancient conversations
speak of distant futures

graves in the Rainforest

leaves and great vines shower
of compassion

compost bin

writhing with life:
Cockroaches and Maggots
here is a gift.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

tracing feeling remembering forgetting

For one hundred days last year, I did six drawings per day. Each day was a single sheet of watercolour paper; six drawings per page.

I did the drawings at completely random times. I made a spreadsheet on my computer that made random times, and entered the times into my watch. My alarm would go off, and I'd draw.

The drawings are also in random directions and attitudes (up/down-ness). So there are floors, skies, leaves, lots of ceilings, keyboards, signs, desks, cars, trees.

Eventually, times came up when I couldn't, or wouldn't, draw, when the alarm went off. I filled these in with black spaces.

I'm presenting the hundred pages (along with another work) at the Yukon Arts Center as part of their Summer exhibition. In doing so, I've decided to reflect on the drawings, and on my sense of time and memory. At first I was going to just put them up in a grid, but I'm realizing that that's not how I see time, necessarily. At the least, it's not the way I want to represent time. And it's certainly not the way I remember those hundred days. I'm not a human calculator. Time is way more fluid than what I see on a calendar, and it's interrelated with memory, feelings.

The final installation will probably be about 14 feet high, and sprawl across the wall. We'll see. Still lots of work to do - remembering, recording, experimenting, tracing, feeling. Responding to the images that are already there. A diagram of real time, which is not always measurable on a watch.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Passing-Between Place

If I were a deer I'd feel safer passing through this place.
The solution (this time) is to look where I'm going, 
look away from the machine I hear him operating.

Fully inhabit the trail
deer steps man steps ape steps 

the machine fades


in the hills


speed up
look like you got somewhere to go

someone gardening says hi
say hi back
he turns away, unaware
of what I just was

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Drawing Deer

with my body as an instrument
tracing lines
  with perceptive steps

layers of time:
      sun, birdsong
a calendar of pebbled scat: soft and bright to hard and dark, to earth
to moss

the startling permanence of discarded plastic

a misstep

that dislodged a stone


There is such a variety of places on this mountain I've begun to explore. Carefully picked trails up shadowed mossy ledges, dry airy heights where ravens call far above the arbutus. Broad sweeping valley of old trees, where trails braid open like a Northern river, then diverge into no-trail, across the western slope.

I wonder how Deer conceive of relationships to these places? Is their passage across these slopes a similar journey of sentiment? The confusion and complexity of a deadfall-strewn gorge, the restful ease of a secluded ledge, bedded with ages of moss.

Do they return to specific places that they feel a fondness towards?

Do Deer gather somewhere on this mountain, on moonlit nights,
at the small lake
only seen in aerial photographs and dreams

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Deer Meditation

Still From Trespassing

I've been documenting my daily swims at the ocean and putting them into a video grid. I'm calling it Trespassing for a few reasons, but I won't mention them all. One reason is that the major part of my journey to the oceanfront involves trespassing through several neighbours’ yards. The entire time I have to be wary of the presence of other humans, who are extremely possessive of their property. I’m very serious about never getting caught, because I have built a deep familiarity (and a meaningful relationship) with this particular swimming-place, and with the animals that live around it. My caution leads to my acting more like a deer than a human:

During summer weekends when the neighbours frequent their cottages, I usually swim in the morning or evening. Over time, I have tended to forego the human trails in favour of deer trails, which afford me more privacy and places to hide when I hear people. When I  do hear a person, I freeze in my tracks. I have learned to stop often, be patient, and listen. I am relieved when I check the trail and see hoof prints instead of boot prints.

When I read the above paragraph, it’s actually unclear whether it's from the perspective of a human or a deer. The thought strikes me: There is a direct relationship between moving like a deer, and perceiving like a deer.


I am celebrating today because I finally found another trespass-route, in the exact opposite direction. This one goes away from the water, between properties and up onto the mountain. Finally, I have a quick route from my home to the network of deer trails that combs the entire island. No human trails anywhere. Every footstep follows a path carved by another species. 

At first, I broke through the branches loudly, distracted by my own thoughts, too much to do. Stress and confusion and expectations.

Eventually, slow down and listen to the rain, rub my hands on the rock face. Arbutus. Waist-deep in salal.

Crouch under a huge cedar log for a long time and listen to the rain, in a quiet bedding-place where deer have doubtless slept for decades. 

Walk slowly and quietly, stopping often. Underfoot, the gentle resistance of rotten logs and the pillowing moss.

Startled now by another snap - an incautious deer, across the slope, freezes in embarrassment. 

We stop and watch each other. 

I say hi. 

He flicks his tail. 

We move on.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Making Meaning

A stream coming out of a wall
concrete wall
that goes way high up to the highway.

The stream pours out through rotting leaves rotting trees
and quickly disappears again into another culvert.

I don't know if you would consider it a stream, any more.

I don't know if you would consider it a place, any more.

There would be no reason for people to stop there
I did stop
and why did i?

And so I've been doing drawings of it
and including myself in those drawings
and drawing it inside myself
in an attempt to get a sense of it
and to understand my participation in defining it.

With all this thinking,
the area is gaining importance for me
It's turning into something.
Maybe it's turning back into a place.

The drawings have turned into a figure
that the place is within.
But the place also extends beyond the figure.

The next experiment is to go back and imprint this back onto the concrete wall
and I don't think anything more needs to be said about it right now.

Except that it's a fairly clear night,
Full Moon
That has already risen so I'll be in the shadow of the wall.

I'll be starting at around 11:00
I'd like to see if I can stick around until sunrise
and just see what happens out there.  

Monday, January 14, 2013

Ready to go

This animation setup has been in my head for over a year. I can't believe it's taken so long for me to buy all the equipment and get it going. I know that holding off on this setup has has been blocking certain fields of exploration. Ideas would come into my head, and the thought-process would arrive at this setup, and I'd shelve the idea. I have a hard time spending money on myself for this kind of thing. I'm glad I finally went out and did it. The floodgates are open.

The camera tripod will be bolted to the wood that the watercolour paper is stretched on, so there's no problem if I jostle the table. The camera will still be in the same place relative to the paper.

The lights are really important - I need even lighting over the entire sheet of paper. I've muddled around with all kinds of cheap lighting setups in the past, but this is going to be so much crisper looking - and it's simple to pack up and move, too.

When I'm working on the paper, I'll have a remote for the camera so I don't have to stand up and press the "take picture" button. Using the remote also prevents me from jostling the camera, so everything stays nice and still.

I also have a USB cable that connects the camera directly to my laptop, which runs a piece of stop-motion software called Dragonframe. I can have another little table beside me with my laptop on it, and while I'm working I can play through the animation I'm creating.

The watercolour paper is drying right now. Once that's done, I'll bolt in the tripod and get working! This is very exciting. I haven't animated since I started my Master's program at Emily Carr. Partly it's because I didn't have this setup, and partly it's because I hadn't found anything worth investigating with animation until recently.

I'll explain more about the object(s) of my exploration eventually.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Next Project, Maybe, With Dog

The third iteration of Walking East will take place between February 17th and 23rd.
This time, I hope to bring a close friend along as a research assistant :
Rowan has been one of my closest companions since I first brought him home from a Whitehorse animal shelter, seven years ago. He now lives with my parents, where he gets more exercise and access to open space than I can offer him.
My way of perceiving my surroundings when I walk with Rowan is difficult to describe. It often seems like we’re a collective sensing body. I see him smelling the air, and so I stop to smell the air. He perks his ears and halts suddenly, and so I halt and listen. I can rarely hear what he heard, or smell what he smells, but I can imagine it, and I react to it regardless.
In the same way, Rowan will stop and look around attentively when I stop to look at something. I am his long-distance colour-detecting eyes at a six-foot height; he is my ears and nose and motion-sensing eyes at eighteen-inch height.
I feel him bounding through the ferns with my own legs; his joy becomes my own, and transmits into my own legs. We often find ourselves lost in the woods, jogging, crawling, climbing, or sitting watchfully for long periods of time.
I am already feeling the urge to start this walk further outside of the city. The incessant sounds of the traffic and the hard sidewalks are going to be doubly uncomfortable with Rowan alongside.
I suspect that the rules of this walk will change somewhat to accommodate Rowan’s comfort levels and sensitivities (which are different than my own), but I suspect that the way I perceive my environment will be far richer, far more sense-conscious, than in the previous walks. I had a glimpse of this towards the end of my last walk (see my previous post).
In the meantime, I’m doing more work that reflects and builds upon Walking East 002. I’m looking forward to sharing some of that soon.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Walking East 002 - Results

(see previous post for a description of the parameters of this project)


Digital Photograph

Site For Dialogue

Digitally Manipulated Digital Photographs

Swimming With Sea Turtles - Call From Hawaii

Digital Photograph


So I’ve decided that this is not weather to move in, or at least not weather to move fast in. I’ve got a can of chili for lunch. I have a whole bunch of Cup-A-Soup, I’m going to have some right now, and I’ve got Kraft Dinner. So I think what I might do is just hole up here a while longer because that feels like… the thing to do. Moving on means what, uh, getting into the rain, the wind, and that’s just going to… I think things are going to end quicker down there. This – I can be comfortable up here. So that’s what I’m going to do.

 Origin of the above thought: 

I was standing tightly under the lee side of a hemlock, out of the wind and rain. I stood for a long time and drifted off, daydreaming, half-looking, semi-conscious. I was reminded of deer that I’ve observed in the past – I thought about how I was like a deer standing under a tree in the rain. I wondered how similar their perception of this kind of moment would be to my own – a kind of alert quietness, shifting weight, aware of the moisture in the air and the temperature, thinking about food and water, but content to just stand for the moment. 

My breath, a cloud of moisture.

 And that led me to consider that what I should probably do is to stay put like a deer does. To act like a deer. To stay dry by staying put. 

This was contrary to what my habits told me, which was to get down off this hill and get back into an area of human habitation. 


 Deer taught me something – to listen to the weather, to act according to what it tells you.

Waiting out the Rain - Deer Teaching
Digital Photographs


Digital Video

Light is Falling Batteries are Dying

Still From Digital Video


There is a fascinating negotiation between species happening here. I’m sleeping in a large undeveloped lot, big cedar and ferns, in between houses. I can hear dogs barking all around. There’s sign that some large animal has been through here – the ferns are trampled rather than walked-around. A lot of animals having been sleeping under the cedars here – the ground is smoothed into hollows – and there are more trails than I think dogs would make. There’s chewed-up-and-shat out cardboard on the other side of the tree I’m camped under – I can’t tell if it’s bear shit or what, there’s deer shit, and there’s also the dogs in peoples’ yards. So I’m thinking about what the dogs are barking at, whether the dogs are doing to hear me, and whether the dogs keep away the bears. I have to cook, so I have to consider whether bears or dogs will smell it, and how I have to ‘bear bag’ my food now.

Whereas most of my conscious decisions were based on visual sensations in the city and suburbs, now I’m consciously negotiating on visual, olfactory and auditory levels.

The sun is setting now, the light is changing and a police siren is going off in the far distance. I don’t know if it’s the howl of the siren or the falling light that started it, but the coyotes just started howling (their sound is in tune with the police siren) and the dogs in backyards are barking in response. Now I realize that the trails and hollowed-out areas under logs are from coyotes. They obviously sleep in this lot. It’s going to be an interesting night.



Coming back is really fuckin’ hard, I tell ya.
Standing here, waiting for a bus and being completely inactive and passive and waiting for something else to transport me, something beyond the actions of my own self.
I haven’t done that in the last four days.
Time is completely different as well.
It’s all one big time.
Now I’m whipping by in one of these same vehicles that have been battering me with their sound and movement for the past four days.
Time is no longer subjective.
I’m back in this big illusion of a ticking clock that’s subject to nothing but itself.
No weather, no sunrise, no sunset, no tired feet, no wind.