COMMUNITY-ENGAGED PROJECTS

Messages from the Rocks - Stories of the Invisible

Linda Duvall and Jillian McDonald

research residency - summer 2021

public events - May 23 - June 10, 2022

exhibition - June 2 - July 31, 2022

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Duvall and McDonald's collaborative 2-channel video in which the two artists dug holes together on their respective properties in Saskatchewan and New York serves as the starting point of this residency and expanded artwork called The Dig

For exhibition information see our current exhibition page.

Artists Linda Duvall (Saskatoon) and Jillian McDonald (Brooklyn, New York) will spend three weeks co-creating their exhibition Messages from the Rocks - Stories of the Invisible at the Art Gallery of Regina with the public, beginning on May 23. 

 

Funded by a grant from Sk-arts Artists In Communities program, Messages from the Rocks - Stories of the Invisible is both a community-engaged project and a creation residency. Duvall and McDonald's activities include events, artworks in the public realm and transforming the art gallery into a laboratory for participatory art-making. Their expansive project includes:

  • An exhibition co-created with gallery visitors;

  • Posters and flags;

  • Nature walks;

  • An electronics workshop;

  • A field guide co-authored with school children, senior citizens and other members of the public.

Duvall and McDonald spent two years connecting with the Land and the people of Regina. Travel restrictions meant that in June 2021, the artists met with vertebrate biologists, provincial building project managers, archeologists, Indigenous Knowledge Keepers and geologists over online video conferences, followed by a one-week residency at the Art Gallery of Regina in August 2021. A key concept for their project emerged from the artists' visit to Regina: listening to the Land and the forces that animate it.

Messages from the Rocks - Stories of the Invisible extends beyond the gallery and expands notions of what Art is. The artists propose Art as a transformative research model that values participation, creation, experience, and the unexplained.

 

Duvall and McDonald will turn the Art Gallery of Regina into a laboratory for experimentation and co-creation of the exhibition with the public from June 2 to July 31. Pictures, stories, and artifacts contributed by community members all form part of the completed exhibition alongside artworks, such as a two-channel video of the artists' connection across distances through the shared act of digging in their rural (Duvall) and urban (McDonald) backyards. McDonald has produced a related series of delicately foreboding drawings of holes.

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In their research for Messages from the Rocks - Stories of the Invisible, the artists made contact with scientists at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. The scientists gifted the artists photographs taken by wildlife trail cameras. Because the camera failed to photograph the animals being studied, the biologists discarded these images as worthless. These photographs, which the artists refer to as "uncinematic miasmas," are marred with light flares and motion blurs. In the hands of artists, these ambiguous images have new value as aesthetic material and stimulators of imagination.

Photo credit: Royal Saskatchewan Museum, Regina Urban Wildlife Project

The artists enlarged these photographs that frustrated scientific quantification and presented them to school children who have rewritten their vagueries into personal narratives: a singing mushroom, an eye that lives outside of Regina, aliens searching for the "missing piece" that looks like a white flower, an idyllic island where everyone can snack on a gigantic blue Doritos chip, an octopus with a hat, a new breed of beaver. They have turned black and white facts into vividly coloured dreams. This is how the artists propose that we can all use art as a method to understand the world by embracing the inexplicable and incalculable. 

 

Drawings and stories collected from community members form critical research for the artists into the unseen and unexplainable. Drawings and stories will be collected into a Field Guide to the Invisible produced by the artists following their prolonged connection with the land and people of Regina.

"Nature Walks"

The artists invited Regina residents to join them for free "nature walks" led by scientists, Knowledge Keepers, and audio artists. The walks were opportunities to discover what we may typically fail to notice: animals in the urban landscape, spirits that live on the Land, and sounds of animals and electronics beyond human hearing.

Nature Walk to observe "invisible" animals with Dr. Ryan Fisher

Dr. Ryan Fisher, Curator of Vertebrate Biology at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, showed us how to observe animals that we may not normally see but surround us in the urban environment of Les Sherman Park.

Build an electronic bat detector workshop & bat spotting walk with Dr.  Mark Brigham

Bat Watching with Dr. Mark Brigham was preceded by an electronics workshop led by Ernie Dulanowsky of holophon audio arts. Participants built an electronic bat detector that translates ultrasonic frequencies into sounds within the range of human hearing. 

 

Participants from the bat detector workshop and others joined Dr. Mark Brigham to spot bats at sunset, alerted to their presence by the chirping of bat detectors. For some it was their first time to ever see a bat. Many other participants were surprised by bats that swooped and flew silently inches from our heads. Dr. Brigham noted we may be in close contact with bats and never notice. Truly, bat detecting a story of the invisible!

Dr. Brigham's quirky analogies and incredible store of information about these creatures entertained and informed all.

Connecting to the Land with Lorne Kequahtooway

Lorne Kequahtooway, co-founder of Buffalo Peoples Arts Institute, led this "nature walk," which depended less on walking and more on physically contacting the earth with our bodies. Participants were invited to form an intimate connection to and respect for the land and waters around us all who inhabit them. Kequahtooway shared personal stories of the unexplained ranging from why elders never give an answer to a direct question to personal experiences of "just knowing" and profound unspoken kinship with buffalo.

For those who communicate by sign, ASL interpretation was offered at this event.

Sound Walk with Ernie Dulanowsky

Have you heard light? Have you used a baseball diamond or a sculpture as a radio antenna? Have you noticed burbles, rumbles and sonorous hums of traffic on bridges, animals inside hollow trees and the magnetic power of the earth?

 

Participants in the Sound Walk did!

Using an array of homemade listening devices, audio artist Ernie Dulanowsky made the architecture and riverside paths of Les Sherman Park come alive with the secret world of sounds. Tethered by a mass of audio cables, we heard messages from the rocks, the air, hidden critters and technology throughout Les Sherman Park. Their project acknowledges non-Western systems of knowledge and the transformative power of imagination.

Bird Walk with Jordan Rustad