lights camera sound actions | time-based contemporary art

Archive for March, 2015|Monthly archive page

Making Lucius’ Garden 1

In Uncategorized on March 31, 2015 at 12:58 pm

Chitty-LuciusGardenFirst of all, thank-you to all you lovely supporters on the Lucius’ Garden fundraising campaign! I so much appreciate your support. We are at 28% of the goal. It’s my first time crowdfunding and it’s a thrill to experience this direct support and encouragement. The tough-minded may not consider encouragement necessary when you’ve been at it for 40 years but I am not among them. Thank-you!

I am never happier than when in production on a work and it feels great to be enjoying opportunity these days. I am on a roll since I got to make Streaming Twelve last year and have Contribute and Confluence coming up in early 2016.

Lucius’ Garden is the fourth in a series of works about water, specifically the North Niagara Watershed. In this one, I am looking at water infrastructure, and the site of the performance is a public garden beside the Lucius Oille fountain at the corner of King and James Streets, which the second Mayor of St. Catharines donated to the people of the city upon completion of the first waterworks. The work is for the In the Soil Arts Festival and will be performed four times over the nights of April 24 and 25. I am very excited that later this week I am videotaping inside the descendant of that first waterworks plant, at the Region of Niagara DeCew Water Treatment Plant. (Thanks to Region culture staff for helping make that happen.)

Production is well underway. Last week I enjoyed the assistance of The St. Catharines Museum. I had already visited their collectionMuseum box in January when I purchased the licence for the 1938 photograph of Lucius Oille’s fountain which is the source of the Lucius’ Garden image (above – and thank-you to my daughter Nell Chitty for acting again as my Photoshop assistant). At that time, I hit the jackpot of seeing this box of goodies – original copies of the earliest reports of the St. Catharines Waterworks. Museum staff kindly allowed me to come to the Museum with my trusty Zoom H2N audio recorder where I read aloud from the first Annual Report for over an hour and a half.

Lucius’ Garden includes a soundscape of a number of “threads” which will be woven into four sound sources to be placed within the garden at the corner of King and James Streets. Two aspects of the audio follow from Streaming Twelve; I am again using the Mohawk translation of the Nanfan Treaty and again reading from an Annual Report of a government entity responsible for infrastructure concerning water. (For Streaming Twelve it was excerpts from the annual reports of the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario for 1942-44.)

Although I have not found myself interested in engineering previously, I find these historical documents to be fascinating in their detailing of the materials and mechanics of building the infrastructure that is so much a part of our cultural geography and built heritage. The 1879 Waterworks Report has the added pleasure of appealing to my sense of humour because of the language use, as well as the detailing of human error, naming names, that today would be no doubt litigious. The outlining of the public consultation process is also pretty funny in a nothing-changes sort of way. I find it curiously interesting prose and with luck you will too (and hopefully I did not go over the top with Victorian inflection in my voice!). Below is a short Soundcloud link to me reading Table A which lists where the original cast iron mains pipes were laid.

ElainaWith the assistance of Marie Bowering, Youth Coordinator of Southern Ontario Aboriginal Diabetes Initiative, we identified a singer for a water song, who in fact turned out to be Elaina Jones, who I first met when she was a small child. I am familiar with an Anishnabwe Water Song which we used to sing about 15 years ago in the Winds of Change drum circle and which I have encountered many times since, such as at the local Sisters in Spirit Vigils. Yesterday, Elaina met me at Joe Lapinski’s home recording studio and recorded a Mohawk Water Song which she learned as a teenager at Akwesasne. She sang with a clear, strong voice accompanied by her rattle and I’ll post that too on Soundcloud when available.

I am happy to be working again with Joe Lapinski, who is such an accomplished and sympathetic audio engineer. Joe helped me out with the sound for Streaming Twelve and back in 2004 performed live video mixing (using that nasty Jitter software) for Song For A Blue Moon when we performed at Tangente Danse Actuelle in Montreal. (Coincidentally, Song was the first time I used a Treaty in a work, which was the Treaty of 1752 – The Treaty of Peace and Friendship Renewed, used in Part 3: Eskenoopetitj.)

Most of the performers have been lined up and I am working on sourcing the submersible lights. Oddly enough, the most difficult thing is finding the right watering cans! Who knew that it would be so hard to find white or cream plastic garden watering cans without embossed roosters!

Confluence Field Trip #1

In Uncategorized on March 2, 2015 at 1:07 pm

Confluence Field Trip #1 from Elizabeth Chitty on Vimeo.

Niagara Shebang artists* came together February 20-22, 2015. Dreamwalker Dance Artistic Director Andrea Nann asked us each to lead a session reflecting our creative process. I chose a walk as research and field study for the work I will be making for the final Niagara Shebang performance at the not-yet-open St. Catharines Performing Arts Centre scheduled for April 21-24, 2016. The work is titled, Confluence.

photos: Vickie Fagan + David Vivian

We walked in Centennial Gardens close to downtown St. Catharines, circumnavigating Dick’s Creek in Canal Valley. This history of this area includes Richard Pierpoint, a freed Sengalese slave and soldier in the War of 1812 as well as the first and second Welland Canals. The park was a Centennial project for the City in 1967 and its recent past includes being part of the track for sex workers and shooting up. It has two sides, a beautifully restored park-like side and a wild side, very recently joined by an iron bridge funded by the new Laura Secord Trail, a project of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812.  Many of us walk our dogs here. The Performing Arts Centre is being constructed slightly west of this site at the confluence of Dick’s Creek, Twelve Mile Creek and the memories of past Welland Canals, its raceways and Shickluna’s Shipyard.

My last post reproduced an artist statement from 1990 for The View of the Landscape From Here. This was the first work I made about place, under the influence of lived experience (specifically my move from the Queen St. artist community in Toronto to the then-wildness of Jordan, ON.) Since then, much of my work, both as an artist and other, has been wrestling with ideas of the local and place. Confluence is part of this and is part of a series of works since 2008 focused on the North Niagara Watershed – Fall (2008), Distance of Their Mouths (2011), Streaming Twelve (2014) and the upcoming Lucius’ Garden (April 2015 for In the Soil Festival).

The project will include a series of Sound + Imagewalks for the public prior to the performance. Walking had threaded its way through my body of work, most noticeably in the landscape-based performances of the 1990s in which the audience walked trails and garden paths past sounds and images. A few years ago I began conducting soundwalks in Walker Botanical Garden at Rodman Hall Art Centre and recently I have seized walking as an art form and as research, emboldened by the resurgence of interest in walking art with artists such as the Hamilton Perambulatory Unit.

My instructions to the artists were to walk in silence as much as possible and to pass amongst themselves an audio recorder on which they would record sense-based observations. This reminds me of the basis of the pedagogy I developed early in my 16 years of teaching Creative Process at The School of the Toronto Dance Theatre, a studio feedback rule called, “See what you say”. This is often difficult to achieve. My purpose in the creative context is different than the pedagogical and I am using it as a strategy leaning us towards direct experience.

Because there was a problem with sound card storage, some artists recorded long monologues using their phones and here is David’s. David’s is rich with commentary outside of the instructions and is a pleasure despite or because of that!


Niagara Shebang artists are Aaron Berger, Adam Buller, Elizabeth Chitty, Mark Steiger, David Vivian and the newly-joined Deanna Jones. Brittany Brooks is a Shebang artist who was not present for this session. Animators (on the walk) are Vickie Fagan and Annie Wilson and the Shebang is facilitated by Dreamwalker Dance Artistic Director Andrea Nann. Centre for the Arts, Brock University is the co-producer and the project is supported by Ontario Dances. Niagara Shebang first performed at the Sean O’Sullivan Theatre at Brock University in 2013 and at the Sullivan-Mahoney Courthouse Theatre in 2014.