A (M)other World is Possible

Submitted by Paula Cameron

From October 22nd to 25th, York University hosted “A (M)other World is Possible: Two Feminist Visions,” an embedded conference at the Association for Research on Mothering’s wider gathering on mothering and the environment. I was lucky to attend on behalf of this SSHRC-funded project, and am still, months later, still absorbing the faces, art, and stories I encountered there.

I’ll begin with the note on which we left the conference—a collaborative multimedia presentation named “Gestating Art: A collective earth-based inquiry.”  The fruit of artists Wende Bartley (composer and sound artist), Barbara Bickel (visual and performance artist) and Nane Jordan (scholar, birth attendant, visual artist), the session marked the unofficial close to a weekend of eclectic talks and performances joined together by the entwined threads of gift and mothering. Wende and Barbara shared this work with us on behalf of their co-creators who couldn’t attend.

In the summer of 2009, these three women took up a residency at Artscape Gibraltar Point, an art centre nested on Toronto Island—fittingly in the historic home of the former Toronto Island Public and Natural Science School. (Though Nane was unable to attend in person, she was an active participant through audio and videoconferences.) In the four-week residency, this collective drew from practices such as ritual, sonic resonance, meditation, and storytelling to explore women’s spirituality through labyrinths and the natural and geographic features of the Island. As they write, “Working on/with the land becomes the gift in return to the earth and (…) community.”

Wende and Barbara opened their presentation/performance with sound and a ritual that entailed unspooling red thread to enclose presenters and audience in a sacred community space. Envisioning art as gestation, Bartley and Bickel presented video documenting the piece that marked the culmination of their residency: an earth-based ritual performance in which they used sculptural rakes and sound to work on and with the Toronto Island sandscape. The artists moved into a discussion of their process and led an informal discussion with us about their work. We, presenters and audience, finally moved into a circle, closing with collective sound work—expression of inexpressible gratitude for the presentation and the wider conference itself.

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~ by artpoped on December 16, 2009.

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