By Schnarr, J.W. on September 17, 2017.
Water, its relationship with us, and with spirituality is explored through several exhibits by renowned artist Ed Pien at the University of Lethbridge art gallery.
Pien’s exhibits kick off the “You Are Here” series of exhibitions, workshops, performances and presentations running from September to March 2018.
“You Are Here” invites people to find new ways to think about the future of their environment. In the main gallery, “Liquid Being” explores the sentience and spirituality of water.
“Recently, I was inspired by Ecuadorial Amazon Indigenous people, who were able to fight with the government and foresters by saying they couldn’t cut certain forests down because they were sentient,” said Pien.
“Because they are treated as objects having emotions and feelings, they were able to win the case.
“I thought I could explore the sentience of water in this work.”
The installation includes a channel of water brought in from the St. Mary river which runs through a Mylar structure. The water projects a shadow through the structure and evaporates over time. The shadows are part of a larger image projected on the floor of the gallery.
Pien uses 150 litres of water in the exhibit, which is about the amount an average adult would drink over the course of the show.
“The sentience of water is really hard to comprehend,” he said.
“It takes a leap of faith and imagination, in a way. It’s hard to make a connection between ourselves and water because we are so different.
“Water occupies time and space in a totally different way than we do. But I imagine all water as one massive organism. Just like it is inside of us.”
Another part of the exhibit features a digital animation of water on a large portion of the gallery wall. The CGI animation was created by James Graham in the uLeth New Media Department, while text was provided by environmental lawyer and Indigenous ally, Merell-Ann S. Phare.
In a second exhibit Pien said is “too new to have a name,” a large number of Mylar fish have been suspended using fishing line. The fish are etched so that when light is shone through them, their features can be seen.
A second projection shows the silhouette of a small child playing with similar fish.
Pien said watching the child interact with the fish is telling of how people interact with their environment. And at a certain point, the scene begins to change.
“I didn’t want this to have a narrative,” he said. “But it does, at a certain time during the video – the fish become quite large.
“At a certain moment, it feels as though the fish is starting to fight back, and the child becomes consumed, and is in the belly of the fish.”
Liquid Being will be in the main gallery through Oct. 26.
The Helen Christou Gallery will feature more of Pien’s work in “Up in the Air.”
After conducting workshops with youth from Lethbridge and Kainai First Nation, with senior new Canadians and through ULAG’s Culture Vulture Saturday program, more than 30 kites with images inspired by the fate of fresh water fish and the results climate change created.
Images of the work by the young participants, a video documenting the performances of kite flying, and drawings by Pien will be on display.
“Up in the Air” runs from Wednesday through Oct. 20.
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