lights camera sound actions | time-based contemporary art

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.

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