June 25, 2019 to January 26, 2020
Open Channels presents the works of visual artists who took part in the Canada C3 sailing expedition organized for the 150th anniversary of Confederation, in 2017. Aboard the MV Polar Prince, they drew inspiration from Canada’s ever-evolving environmental, social and cultural landscapes, as well as from dialogue between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
The artists whose works are presented in this exhibition are Lizzie Ittinuar, Sarni Pootoogook, Deanna Bailey, Soheila Esfahani, Christine Fitzgerald, Anna Gaby-Trotz, Phil Irish, Benjamin Kikkert, Paula Murray, Dominique Normand, Geoff Phillips, Francine Potvin, Leslie Reid, Rachel Rozanski and Véronique Tifo.
Open Channels presents a selection of work by artists in Canada that address the central concerns of the present moment: the hybrid experience of the newcomer; the dramatic rate of biological, geological, and material transformations as we enter the Anthropocene; and the interconnected realms of experience and imagination in identity, memory, and territoriality.
As artists in residence on the 2017 Canada C3 (Coast to Coast to Coast) expedition aboard the icebreaker MV Polar Prince, these artists joined a diverse group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous voyagers: scientists, musicians, elders, historians, newcomers, youth, journalists, athletes, writers, entrepreneurs, educators, and community leaders.
Open Channels implies the flow of navigable water. Sailing along Canada’s three coasts, through actual open channels via the fabled Northwest Passage, is a phenomenon borne of warming ocean temperatures, a disturbing augur of the advancing climate change that already affects Canada’s coastal communities.
The idea of flow also pertains to fostering dialogue between strangers, currents intertwining those aboard ship and those on the land. Through exchanges of listening and speaking, individual narratives of lived experience catalyzed the acknowledgement of the shadows of history over contemporary life.
The works of art now on view in the wake of this ambitious experiment are also in themselves channels, conduits inviting the inflow of attention to the vulnerability of the environment in the face of climate change; how cultures migrate, morph and persist; the precarity and promise of reconciliation, and the challenges and opportunities facing the next generation.
Melissa Rombout, Curator
Open Channels is presented in partnership with The Students on Ice Foundation
About The Students on Ice Foundation
The Students on Ice (SOI) Foundation is an award-winning organization whose mission is to contribute to a healthy and sustainable future by providing a platform for learning, and for ideas and cross-cultural collaboration to flourish. Since 2000, SOI has brought together youth, educators and visionary leaders through expeditions and outreach initiatives in the Arctic, Antarctic and places in-between. The outcome is a global network that furthers international dialogue and action on key issues including climate change, ocean health and community engagement.
The Students on Ice Foundation would also like to thank Birch Hill Equity Partners; Arctic Co-ops; Gretchen and Donald Ross; Bill Lockington; Randall Howard; Peter J. Poole and Tarek Sherif for supporting the Open Channels exhibition and associated programming.
About the Curator
A former photo historian at Library and Archives Canada, Melissa Rombout is an independent curator of national and international photo-based projects. She led an innovative re-examination of Yousuf Karsh’s work produced by the (then) Portrait Gallery of Canada and Canada Science and Technology Museum: Karsh: Image Maker, recipient of the Canadian Museums Association Award of Outstanding Achievement (2010). Rombout is a member of the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, where she researches contemporary photography and political agency.
Inuit(e), (1922-2003, Kinngait [Cape Dorset], NU)
Blue Bird and Sedna, 2002
etching and aquatint | eau-forte et aquatinte
Sarni Pootoogook was among the early graphic artists working in the Cape Dorset printmaking program. Through the various legends of Sedna, two recurring motifs are relevant here: the presence of the bird as a companion or kidnapper, and the punishment of Sedna by her father, by chopping off her fingers, after which she metamorphosizes into a seal. In this work made shortly before her death, Sarni portrays the dual realms of supernatural and terrestrial life as gentle companions who flow alongside each other.
Leg 6 | Étape 6 : Nain, NL – Iqaluit, NU
(1961, Farnham, QC - )
Main de mer, 2017
collograph on Somerset paper | collagraphie sur papier Somerset
Collection of the artist | Collection de l’artiste
The artist thanks the Concordia University Part-Time Faculty Association (CUPFA) for their support.
Francine Potvin is a visual artist, teacher, plant aficionado, fervent gardener and the mother of three young men. She works principally in ceramics, drawing, printmaking and the cyanotype. She has been teaching ceramics at Concordia University in Montréal since 1993. Over the last thirty years, she has expressed the anima mundi in botanical and bestiary images rooted in her reverence and enchantment for native life forms and the sacred interconnectedness of all things.
“These works were made using algae and vegetable matter that I brought back from Leg 6 of the expedition. During the journey, I heard the thousandfold voices of the natural world and I saw the oldest mountains on earth, rivers, icebergs and sea. I saw the peregrine falcon and the polar bear. I sensed profound sorrow in the voices of Inuit dealing with the legacy of the residential school system. We, Homo sapiens, need a new sense of what it means to be human in our relationships to each other and to the interconnected world in which we live.”
Leg 5 | Étape 5 : St. John’s - Nain, NL
Métis (1960, Québec, QC - )
The Underworld, 2018
acrylic on canvas | acrylique sur toile
Collection of the artist | Collection de l’artiste
Dominique Normand gives visual form to omnipresent powers that shape the world of human experience in the Northern territories. She discovered her paternal Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) heritage as an adult and, enriched by her own experience with the Cree people of James Bay, explores the entwined harmony of all our relations, a traveller bearing a camera, armed with a brush. The sum of these encounters and the teachings she has received constitute a reservoir of powerful inspiration for her creation.
“In my work, I explore notions of identity, memory and territoriality. The Canada C3 experience spurred a flood of observations and an aspiration to express a poetic interpretation of the places visited. In listening to the First Nations and Inuit community participants during the journey, I have deepened my understanding of the hidden face of Canada’s history. Through my work, I reflect on these crucial issues to express the North as both a spatial and spiritual territory.”