Students in the Visual Communication Design program at the University of Alberta often get the opportunity to tackle real world challenges in class.

Recently, one such opportunity came from the Canadian VIGOUR Centre (CVC), a U of A Academic Research Organization focused on cardiovascular health. When the CVC found itself in need of an update to its visual identity, Associate Professor Susan Colberg saw it as a perfect fit for her design students.

“Working with units, groups, or organizations on Campus provides rich and challenging ‘real world’ learning opportunities for the students that involve designing for complex communication needs,” said Colberg. “The working relationships that are established during design and consultation processes often grow into longer term working relationships or collaborations after students graduate from the BDes program in Visual Communication Design.”

Once the class had submitted their design proposals, the CVC eventually settled on one from student Trevor Lau. The CVC soon adopted his logo for their organization, which is now fully incorporated into their brand identity.

 

Curious Arts spoke to Trevor about his experience working on the CVC logo:

CURIOUS ARTS: Can you tell us about the process of creating the CVC logo and how your design came to be chosen?

TREVOR LAU: When creating the logo itself, I went about researching into what the CVC wanted. I did this by analyzing other cardiovascular companies’ visual identities.

After getting a gist of what exactly I was creating, and considering the information of what the client wanted, I went about sketching. After sketching many logos, I went about narrowing down which logos would best suit the needs of the CVC. I went about submitting two logos to the client, and fortunately one of my designs was selected.

CA: What will you take away from your experience working with the CVC?

TL: After working with the CVC, I have gained experience with a client whose visual identity relates to medicine. It has allowed me to change my train of thought and design a more corporate aesthetic.

It has also has provided me with satisfaction as it benefits both myself and the U of A department of design. I hope the design department receives more recognition and clients from our work so that future students can benefit like I have.

CA: Are you graduating in 2017? If so, where do you aspire to take your design career?

TL: I am graduating in the year 2018. What I aspire to do encompasses working with digital interfaces. I would also like to find work related to visual effects.

Designer Trevor Lau with client CVC and Professor Susan Colberg

 

Professor Colberg offers this advice to students as they embark on their post-university design careers:

“Use your design ‘powers’ for good,” she says. “Seek out meaningful projects that you enjoy and do work that really helps people. Establish relationships of trust with your clients and coworkers. Collaborate. Ask lots of questions. Enjoy the process. Make the world a better place through sensitive, well-considered, well-researched and useful design actions.”

The U of A is thrilled to congratulate three Art & Design graduate students who recently received scholarships for their diverse and varied pursuits.

 

Bahaa Harmouche

Bahaa Harmouche (MDes, Visual Communication Design)

Bahaa Harmouche, a Masters of Design student in Visual Communication Design, is the recipient of the Mahkzoumi Graduate Scholarship in Lebanese Studies. “To be honest, I never thought I would get it, and it was an amazing surprise,” says Harmouche about the annual scholarship that is only awarded to two recipients a year.

Harmouche explains the reason he was surprised is because of the controversial nature of his work. Born in Lebanon, his research is about how to work towards social cohesion between gay youth living with HIV and the gay community who marginalizes them, a sensitive subject that is still a taboo in Lebanese culture. So to receive a grant from a Lebanese organization for this work meant a great deal to Harmouche who sees it as an early break through of discrimination (at least in academia) in Lebanon.

Harmouche’s work has included digital storytelling projects with messages for the LGBTQ+ community encouraging social cohesion.

With the help of this grant, Harmouche plans to work towards a PhD in the future, working closer with minorities on this subject and social issues. A self-described “social designer,” Harmouche aims to redefine what design is nowadays: “not to design for the fun of it, but to design for purpose, and to address needs for the well-being of our communities.”

 

Myken McDowell (MFA, Printmaking)

Myken McDowell, a Masters of Fine Arts student focusing on Printmaking, is a recipient of the 2017 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant.

With an interest in Super-8 films from the late sixties/early seventies, McDowell has been studying Super-8 footage of family life — birthday parties, dads coming home from work, road trips, kids playing dress-up — and uses this footage to create photographic prints and videos of her own.

She explains, “I am very interested in personal archives, and how these records of childhood and domestic life can shape our sense of who we are and how we understand the world.”

For McDowell, watching Super-8 films is the start of a multi-step artistic process that involves carefully selecting stills from the original film, manipulating them digitally, producing a series of photo-based prints, and then scanning the prints to make a video.

An example of McDowell’s photopolymer prints.

“It’s expensive to work this way—a minute-long video equals about 700 hand-printed frames,” says McDowell. “This scholarship means I get to continue making the type of work I want to make—maybe even a video that’s more than a minute long!”

 

Michiko Maruyama (MDes, Industrial Design)

Michiko Maruyama is another recipient of the 2017 SSHRC grant. A Masters of Design student in Industrial Design, Maruyama also has a degree in Medicine from the University of British Columbia, and is currently doing her residency in Cardiac Surgery in Edmonton while simultaneously pursuing her MDes degree.

While pursuing her undergrad degree here at the U of A in industrial design (where she focused on toy design and children’s furniture), Maruyama was diagnosed with a rare disease requiring surgery and radiation, but still managed to not only complete a medical degree from UBC, but also continue her art and design studies, develop an “art meets medicine meets education” website (Art of Learning), and produce a number of creative projects that have received recognition across multiple disciplines.

Maruyama work has included a series of children’s books using a style of traditional Haida artwork, the first of which (“Dirty Paws”) teaches kids important lessons about the spread of bacteria and viruses, and the importance of washing hands. In the field of toy design, Maruyama’s “Ostomy Doll” — a cute and cuddly teddy bear designed to teach children with gastronomies how to take care of their ostomy — was presented at the Canadian Conference on Medical Education in Quebec.

Maruyama’s “Ostomy Doll” project also involved conducting research to evaluate each toy for their effectiveness as a communication tool, educational resource and entertainment value. *Image from ArtOfLearning.ca

The SSHRC grant enables Maruyama to continue combining her love of medicine and design in innovative ways where plans to create and improve of surgical tools and equipment. More of Maruyama’s work can be found on her website, “Art of Learning.

Congratulations to all three of these recipients!

Behind every intricate costume, dramatic lighting, epic soundscape and intricate set on any theatrical production is a designer. Their job is to create a convincing world with a unique style and personality.

To do this, they not only have to be well trained artistically — drawing, painting, drafting, 3D CAD, to name a few — but they have to understand the social, political, economic and visual world of the entire play.

“It’s our job to help bring the director’s artistic vision to life, and manifest it in the onstage world of the play,” says Bailey Ferchoff, a 2nd-year BFA Theatre Design student. “By taking the inspiration of the director and combining it with our knowledge of the technical and creative sides of theatre, we are able to mould and create immersive and engaging worlds for the audience to explore.”

Set model by Bailey Ferchoff

To get a taste of just how broad a skill set a theatre designer must have, one only has to come visit the annual Theatre Design Portfolio Show, featuring the work of the University of Alberta BFA and MFA Theatre Design students.

Recently, the 2017 Theatre Design Portfolio Show took over Second Playing Space at the Timms Centre for the Arts with an amazing exhibition of costumes, miniature set models, sketches, props, artwork and more, giving visitors a glimpse of what goes into creating what audiences see on stage.

Costumes by Ksenia Broda-Milian, Zoe Rod

 

“Theatre art is quite different from other fine art forms,” explains Caro Vanrensberg, a 3rd-year student in the BFA Theatre Design program. “It’s a combination of architecture, drawing and painting, clothing and garment construction, lighting and technical theatre, scenic art and construction. There’s nothing quite like it.”

Ferchoff adds: “It’s a very interesting and varied show. You’ll see everything from costumes to sets, to life drawings, to our personal work. It’s incredibly interesting to see the different styles and techniques that each of the students possesses.”

Models and sketches by Beyata Hackborn

Models and sketches by Beyata Hackborn

 

Models and sketches by Brianna Kolybaba

Models and sketches by Brianna Kolybaba

 

Vanrensberg sees the Portfolio Show as an opportunity for people to see how theatre artists take a story or a concept and transform it into something bright and living, and so personal to them. “I think people might be surprised by what they see.”

In addition to her design studies, Vanrensberg is also the President of the Student Scenographers Association, the official group of designers within the Faculty of Arts. A passionate spokesperson for the program, she talks about how the students do more than just refine their art and design skills, but also learn the professional and communication skills necessary for the business.

“You have to learn what it takes for a production to succeed, and over time you figure out your own style and what works for you,” she says. “We take technical and directorial classes, history and theory of drama classes, and then our core of design courses to round out our understanding of how to produce a show.”

 

Bailey Ferchoff

Originally from Morinville, Alberta, Bailey Ferchoff plans to pursue a Masters degree after her BFA to continue her studies in theatre design, and eventually branch into film with her interest in prop construction and special effects makeup.

 

Caro Vanrensberg

A native Edmontonian, Caro Vanrensberg also plans to pursue a Masters with her interest in interactive theatre experiences, and ways of creating more eco-friendly theatre practices with reusable materials and waste reduction.

 

The 2017 Theatre Designers Portfolio Show ran April 3-7, 2017, in Second Playing Space, Timms Centre for the Arts. More photos of the 2017 Portfolio Show can be seen online.

The 2017 Theatre Designers Portfolio Show featured work from the following students:

1st Year BFA Design:
Madi Blondal
Anita Diaz
Karlie Christie

2nd Year BFA Design:
Bailey Ferchoff
Beyata Hackborn
Brianna Kolybaba

3rd Year BFA Design:
Elise Jason
Sarah Karpyshin
Caro Vanrensburg

4th Year BFA Design:
Rebecca Antonakis
Zoe Rod
Kai Villneff
Liza Xenzova

Qualifying year pre-MFA Design:
Sofia Lukey

1st Year MFA Design:
Reza Basirzadeh

2nd Year MFA Design:
Ksenia Broda-Milian

3rd Year BFA Technical Theatre:
Tiffany Martineau
Noriko Marumo

4th Year BFA Technical Theatre:
Nic Juba
Aidan Ware

For more information about the BFA and MFA Theatre Design programs, visit the Department of Drama website.

Three U of A music students have been awarded scholarships to study abroad at the Franz-Schubert-Institut (FSI) in Baden bei Wien, Austria.

Undergraduate Hilda Lam and graduate students Oliver Munar and Minghao Liu were awarded the three 2017 FSI scholarships to spend five weeks in Austria participating in the course Poetry and Performance of the German Lied: Master Course for Singers and Pianists.

Franz-Schubert-Institut

An annual partnership program with the U of A since 2009, the Franz-Schubert-Institut provides music students an opportunity to immerse themselves in a 5-week intensive study of the Lied, classical German romantic poetry set to music. Students at FSI are typically advanced voice and piano musicians, and are given extensive performance coaching and access to masterclasses from some of the world’s top singers and pianists.

Curious Arts caught up with Oliver Munar, completing his Master in Music degree in vocal performance, to find out more about the Franz-Schubert-Institut.

Oliver Munar

Oliver Munar is one of three University of Alberta students to win the 2017 Franz-Schubert-Institut scholarship.

CURIOUS ARTS: What attracted you to the Franz-Schubert-Institut program?

OLIVER MUNAR: The Franz-Schubert-Institut attracts musicians who are interested in deepening their knowledge in some of the most beautiful music ever written, that of the German Romantic era. Ever since I started taking voice lessons, I have been a fan of songs from this era and I am most eager to perform them as often as I can. Songs from this era are incredibly rich in imagery and emotion; the institute offers a unique opportunity to study them with distinguished artists who have made their career performing this repertoire.

I feel very fortunate to have worked closely with Dr. Deen Larsen, founder and director of the Franz-Schubert-Institut. It is through his inspirational lectures and discussions that I feel inspired to deepen my own knowledge of this music and poetry.

CA: Tell us about where you’re going and what you’ll be studying in this program.

OM: The institute is located about 25 km southwest of Vienna in a place called Baden bei Wien, nestled in the famed Vienna Woods. For five weeks, I will undertake intensive studies of German art songs and poetry with leading interpreters of this genre. I was asked to prepare 24 different songs for the five weeks of study!

Baden bei Wien

Baden bei Wien

CA: How was your experience with the U of A music program?

OM: I’m really grateful to the Voice Area and the Department of Music for allowing me to take this journey. The last two years in this tight-knit community have been wonderfully fulfilling, and I truly feel I’m on a path of greater discovery. Working with John Tessier and Shannon Hiebert so intensely has been challenging and immensely rewarding. I am eager to see where my voice wants to take me next.

CA: Anything else you’d like to say about the FSI or the music program?

OM: I’m truly humbled by the generosity of those who are making this opportunity possible. My deepest thanks to the Franz-Schubert-Institut for this opportunity, and my deepest gratitude to the Voice Area faculty for their support and encouragement.

For more information about the University of Alberta Franz-Schubert-Institut scholarship and more Study Music Abroad programs, visit the official webpage.

Bright Burning Playwright Colleen Murphy

Playwright Colleen Murphy

Bright Burning (I Hope My Heart Burns First) was commissioned by Studio Theatre. Lee Playwright-in-Residence, Colleen Murphy, was invited to create a new play for this specific graduating class. The long development period provided a very unique opportunity for the students. I sat down with some of the cast to learn about their experience.

 

Jacob Holloway: Technically we started working on this show when we started our program. The Department of Drama hires a playwright in residence every few years and we were lucky to have Colleen Murphy for the duration of our time here. She came to see everything we did in our first year and would briefly interview us about our backgrounds and interests. But we were pretty removed from the creation process until the end of last season when we got to see the script and do a weeklong workshop that was then followed up by a number of workshops over the past couple of months. We didn’t get our casting until October 2016.

Jaimi Reese: We actually read many different roles as Colleen was working on the script. It was cool for us because we were getting the perspectives of different characters as we read for them and followed their individual through-lines. Often when you get a finished script, you’re focused on your own character and their place in the world of the play. But when you don’t know who you’re going to be and you’re reading all these different parts, you’re looking at the play in many different ways. She mentioned to us that she knew she wanted it to be continuous with no intermission and unity of time and place; she knew she wanted to deal with themes of social inequality but that was pretty much all she had to start with. But then she saw us and invented characters based on what she saw us do, which was very exciting.

 

Bright Burning Early table read

Lee Playwright-in-Residence, Colleen Murphy, worked with the director and actors throughout her play creation process. Actors read early drafts of the play around the table multiple times and discussed character journeys and story points with the playwright and director.

 

Chayla Day: Yeah, it’s pretty cool because she told us later that when she started the writing process she had all our headshots in front of her. Which is hilarious because you start thinking well, what did she see in my face and my performances that made her write this character for me? I’m playing a drug addict prostitute and I’m thinking – oh, cool – glad my headshot can show people that. [laughs] So that was really interesting and she’s been very open and accepting of us contributing things. She’ll ask us often if we can track our character throughout the play to make sure that certain logistics work and that we can always locate them. And about a week before rehearsals, we had a workshop with her and she said if there’s any big thing you want for your character, this is the time, and I’ll put it in if you need it and we can have that discussion. I’ve never been able to feel like I’m helping to craft the writing of a play that way.

Emma Houghton: One of the things I’ve learned the most about is less to do with acting and more with writing. How you need to have such a thick hide when it comes to killing your darlings. Sometimes in the earlier drafts a character would have a trait that they focus on and in the original drafts I would wonder: will this work? Because often when something is just added in it’s still a bit rough in the beginning. Sometimes the idea is there, but doesn’t come back for a couple pages and makes you wonder if this is something that needs to be more consistent or reconsidered? It helped show me that if I want to write my own stuff I have to be willing to experiment with different ideas and get feedback from others who can help tell me if it works or not.

 

Bright Burning behind the scenes in rehearsal

The play’s action occurs in a mansion’s two level foyer. As early as the first workshop the actors moved through space, marking exits, entrances and moves from downstairs to upstairs, to contribute to the thinking about design, character business, and the shifts in the story.

 

Philip Gellar: Seeing her writing… it was so fascinating. She makes sure that the words do it for you as an actor. She would write a big climax or peak in a character’s arc and she would ask: could you get there? Were you acting to get there? And if it was yes, then she’d say: then I need to write you that momentum to get you there. I feel like she’s really done that, obviously you need to still act, but when you get a script like that it’s almost like you drive it. You get onboard the train and it takes you there. That’s something she asked for feedback on quite a bit and the show does so well, it has this beautiful momentum. It’s such a wonderfully rhythmic piece and that’s her writing, and to get to see that develop is amazing.

Emily Howard: Another interesting facet is that it’s very different having a play written about, and set in, Edmonton. I look at these characters and I imagine it’s the people I see as I walk on the street. It’s us. I think that makes it a lot closer and it was written for us, so on many levels it’s much easier for us to get into it and understand. They’re talking about locations and roads we know. There’s one line that she added about getting to our character’s house, in this fancy neighbourhood that actually exists. I could get in my car and drive there to see it. When we’re on stage it just makes it so much closer to home. It’s very strange. There’s also a challenge because this show is so realistic that you want it to still be theatrical but also rooted in truth.

 

At the time of these interviews rehearsals had just begun. Now, you get to see the culmination of this three year long process. How fitting that the final show for these students is one that started when they first arrived. Enjoy the show!

 

Presenter: U of A Studio Theatre
Event Title: Bright Burning
Dates: March 30 – April 8, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.
No performance Sunday, April 2
2-for-1 Admission: Monday, April 3 at 7:30 p.m.
Matinee: Thursday, April 6 at 12:30 p.m.
Venue: Timms Centre for the Arts, University of Alberta
Single show tickets: $12 student, $25 adult, $22 senior, available online now and at the Timms Centre box office one hour before each performance.

Free But Happy Concert: Apr. 2 @ 3pmOn Sunday, April 2, the University of Alberta Symphony Orchestra (USO) will perform their last mainstage concert of the season, Free But Happy.

Free But Happy will feature the world premiere of Prelude in C-Sharp Minor, an original work composed by student Sean Borle, an Edmonton-based composer currently finishing his final year in a Bachelor of Music with a specialization in Theory and Composition.

Composer and U of A student Sean Borle

Sean Borle is an Edmonton-based composer currently finishing his final year in a Bachelor of Music with a specialization in Theory and Composition.

What’s been your best experience working on the Free But Happy concert?

Working directly with the orchestra has certainly been my favourite part of this journey. Conductor Petar Dundjerski and the University Symphony Orchestra have been extremely fun to work with and have really done the piece justice.

After a composer finishes writing a piece, there is no better feeling in the world than hearing a real orchestra bring it to life, especially one as high a calibre as the USO. I’ve met a lot of really amazing and talented people along the way, and I’m honoured that those fantastic people people have poured their energy and passion into this project.

How did you come to create Prelude in C-Sharp Minor? What was your inspiration and process?

It is not often that a composer is able to score a live orchestra, so when I began writing this piece, I knew I needed to use as much of the ensemble as I possibly could. I began with a simple cello melody and expanded it to the full string section, eventually adding full winds, four percussion parts, as well as piano and organ.

I wanted to create warmth in the sound, as well as darkness, which I hope the audience will experience as they listen to Prelude in C-Sharp Minor.

You’ve said you also like to write music for film and video games. Tell us about the adventure videogame you composed for, and what kinds of films and games you’d like to score.

Last semester, I was able to take a course called Computers and Games through the department of Computing Science, where five other students and I designed and developed an adventure game called Torus. This game was particularly challenging to score because the in-game settings were very diverse, ranging from an elven castle to a 20s mansion and a frozen temple in “Cyborg-China.”

Scoring games like Torus is always a lot of fun. I particularly like to score serious film and games; I enjoy taking an epic story and filling it out with an epic score.

Other than music, what else do you like to do in your spare time?

I love the world of videogames; it’s a world that is really starting to be recognized as a serious art form, and definitely deserves it. I’ve spent countless hours in different videogame worlds, experiencing different landscapes and cultures, like those of Halo and Skyrim. I’m also a writer of fiction and poetry.

Skyrim screenshot (credit: Geforce)

Epic videogames like Skyrim (pictured) often feature large scale orchestral music.

Now that you’re finishing up your final year at the U of A, what’s next for you and what’s your ultimate career ambition?

This coming Fall, I’m hoping to pursue a Masters degree in Film, Television, and Game Scoring. After that, I’d like to really enter the industry and work on big projects. My dream is to end up scoring film and games full-time. I want to carry on the traditions of composers like Howard Shore and Martin O’Donnell, but also add something new to the mix.

* * *

Presenter: The Department of Music
Event Title: Free But Happy
Dates: April 2, 2017 at 3 p.m.
Venue: Winspear Centre
Tickets: $20 Adult and $10 Student & Senior; can be purchased at the door (cash only) or in advance at ualberta.ca/artshows.

This is a repost of an original Sound Studies Initiative/Laurelle Miciak interview with Brian Fauteux (March 7, 2017)

Poet, songwriter, novelist, ladies man: Leonard Cohen was many things to many people.

Since his warm embrace by Montreal’s literary scene in the 1950s, Cohen’s singular voice propelled him to the fore of Canadian arts and culture. In 1967, he released his first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, and quickly found an expanded audience. Cohen’s masterful lyricism and ability to interweave themes of love, sex, death and faith garnered countless awards and a lifelong career as a recording and performing artist. His final album, You Want it Darker, was released three weeks prior to his death to critical acclaim.

Yet Cohen was never satisfied by worldly success—his life was marked by long periods of solitude and a lifelong quest for spirituality. Religious and spiritual themes were ever-present in his work, and followed him from his early days as a young writer to his ordinance as a Zen Buddhist monk in 1996. As Cohen’s life progressed, his search for meaning intensified and found expression in religion, the recording studio, onstage, and on the page.

Sound Studies Initiative spoke with UAlberta professor and musicologist Dr. Brian Fauteux to learn more about Leonard Cohen’s fascinating and multifaceted story.


Sound Studies Initiative: Leonard Cohen was publishing poetry for nearly a decade before he released his first recording as a singer-songwriter in 1967. What do you think fueled this artistic transition?

Brian Fauteux: A distinctive aspect of Cohen’s musical career is that he released his first album in his early-30s, emerging as a songwriter who was notably older than many of the rock and folk musicians who were popular at the time. It has been said that he finally decided to pursue a recording career for economic reasons. His written works were not selling as well as he had hoped and music seemed to be a way to generate a decent living. He also wanted to be able to reach more people with his words and his voice and music helped him to do this. However, while he was publishing poetry, he often performed with a guitar and his written work was shaped by the instrument. Cohen also played the guitar when he was young and at summer camp and played in a band in the early 1950s while a student at McGill University. He felt that there was little difference between writing a poem and writing a song. So, there is a longer relationship with music that preceded the official start of his recording career.

SSI: Cohen was linked to several prominent artists early in his career: Lou Reed, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg. Which of these contemporaries had the greatest impact on his writing and/or musical style?

BF: Judy Collins was a major champion of Cohen while he was beginning his career as a songwriter. Collins featured him as part of a singer-songwriter workshop at the Newport Folk Festival in 1967 and had a hit with Cohen’s “Suzanne” on her In My Life (1966) before he released his first album (Songs of Leonard Cohen, 1967). This, of course, helped to build an audience for his songs and to support his transition from the written word to song. I’m tempted to say that Dylan might have had the biggest influence on Cohen’s actual style, however. If we think of Dylan’s releases in 1965, Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited, these albums were released just a few years before Cohen became a recording artist and they were very influential in terms of demonstrating how words and lyrics could have a poetic quality within popular song. Cohen was a big fan of these albums and I’m guessing he found, in Dylan’s work, a model for how he could combine his poetry with song. Although it was less substantial than the folk scene New York City, Montreal also had a vibrant scene in the 1960s. Both artists spoke their lyrics at times, Dylan was cited frequently in reviews of Songs of Leonard Cohen, and both artists have been used to debate whether or not pop lyrics should be considered poetry.

SSI: Some of Cohen’s written works were criticized in the 1960s for being too racy. How was his music pushing the envelope at the time? Did it stand out from other folk music being released?

BF: I’m not extremely familiar with Cohen’s written works but I do recall that Beautiful Losers generated a mixed response from critics. Robert Fulford, in the Toronto Star, I believe, called it revolting but also the Canadian book of the year. Lou Reed expressed appreciation for Cohen’s written works around the time Cohen turned to music. I think this speaks to the fact that music in the late 1960s was a platform for dealing with some of the more serious or racy themes that Cohen was drawn to. Rock and folk were musical genres that were being taken seriously in the late 1960s, due in part to the fact that they dealt with themes of sex, war, and spirituality, often with introspective lyrics, but there is something about Cohen’s music at that time that sounds even more dense and serious. His first album was released at the end of 1967, just after the Summer of Love, but he sounds much darker than some of his contemporaries, communicating a sense of loneliness a little bit of self-pity as well. The sound of his early folk music is a little more simplistic too.

SSI: Cohen’s music was secular but consistently drew upon sacred themes and archetypes. It seems that many artists are not able to blend these themes so easily or successfully – what made his work different?

BF: Cohen excelled at blending themes of romance with sacred themes and archetypes. This was evident on early songs like “Suzanne” and “So Long, Marianne,” but also incredibly present on one of his most well-known hits, “Hallelujah.” The song has been called a “secular hymn” and Maclean’s described it as the closest thing in pop music to a sacred text. Obviously, a major contribution of Cohen’s artistic output is that it demonstrates that people can have significant spiritual connections to secular popular music. I can’t say for sure why Cohen was so effective at blending the secular and the sacred. Perhaps this is due to the amount of time and thought that went into his writing. “Hallelujah” took five years to write! He has also said that he wanted to be a songwriter to please both women and God. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that he grew up as a Jewish boy in Anglophone Westmount (a wealthy neighbourhood west of downtown Montreal) where Jews and Protestants were grouped together by virtue of not being French or Catholic. Montreal is a city full of sacred symbolism (for instance, the giant illuminated cross atop Mount Royal that overlooks the city) but it’s also very much a secular urban space.

Join Dr. Brian Fauteux and other UAlberta professors in appreciating another folk music artist and luminary at next week’s “Let’s Celebrate the 2016 Nobel Prize: Bob Dylan”. This event will celebrate Dylan’s songs in various languages, feature an exhibition and round table discussion, and include a keynote speech by Dr. Fauteux, titled: “Bob Dylan, Storytelling, and the ‘Authentic Celebrity'”.

The event takes place this Tuesday March 14th, 2017 at Convocation Hall from 5 – 7:00 p.m. All are welcome, and refreshments will be served! For more information, please contact reynschi@ualberta.ca.

This event has been sponsored by KIAS, Faculty of Arts, Canadian Center for Ethnomusicology, Sound Studies Initiative, the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies, and the Music Department at the University of Alberta.

A trip to FAB Gallery quite often takes you outside of your world for a brief moment. Angela Snieder’s dreamy prints do just that. Looking at them you can’t help but imagine the mysterious world that they are giving us a glimpse of. You’ll be surprised when you look closely and see just how they were created.

Your prints invoke such a mysterious feeling. Almost like we are seeing pictures of other worlds. Can you tell me a bit about the themes you are exploring in your work?

That mysterious feeling you are describing has always been important to me, not only formally (in the images I am making), but also in terms of the motivations for making the work. For me, the feeling of seeing “another world” relates strongly to the strange relationship between physical and psychological spaces – the oscillation between knowing a thing, and being surprised, compelled, or unsettled by it. I utilize mystery and ambiguity in the images to create a space that is a kind of equivalent to the elusiveness of our perception.

detail of Storm I 2017 digital print by Angela Snieder

What got you interested in this particular exploration and style of working?

This particular exploration is new in some ways, but largely the core interests and motivations have persisted. In the beginning of my time at the University of Alberta, I felt it made most sense to create photographs by getting as close to the experience as possible. I would go out at night and shoot long film exposures of school fields in winter, trees, grass… scenes that held some of that mysterious feeling of obscurity or “in-between”. I’m not sure when it happened, but eventually I wanted a way to manipulate the subject matter more explicitly. In many ways, the diorama made a lot of sense. It’s a space that can mimic larger natural or built scenes, but that offers the artist more (or different kinds of) control. In addition to offering control over lighting and construction, the diorama is a space that can straddle the real and the unreal – which is very compelling for me.

detail of Diorama III 2016 photopolymer print, chine-collé by Angela Snieder

Can you tell me a bit more about your process in composing your prints and how you create the work? You use dioramas and then photograph them?

My process for building and photographing the dioramas is above all spontaneous and intuitive. From the start, it was helpful for me to work quite quickly and with non-precious materials (mostly cardboard boxes from the alleys in my neighborhood, of which there are many!). This was crucial because it allowed me to make decisions rapidly and without worry. Using a digital camera, I had the obvious benefit of being able to look at each photo as I shot and to react to what I saw happening. At first it was a lot of trial and error, which is actually very fun when the space is so malleable and easily manipulated. This playfulness was so exciting and was something that I realized was lacking in my practice. Eventually I worked out different effects (mainly through lighting and motion) that generated feelings of natural processes but also of more ambiguous dream-like spaces. With the photographs I then made a series of photo-polymer prints, and a pair of large digital prints. In the final, darkened room of the exhibition, there are three new dioramas that project onto the walls from light-sealed boxes using the same technology as the camera obscura. The difference is that rather than seeing a naturalistic projection of the outside world into a viewing box or chamber, the constructed worlds get projected out into the space of the room.

detail of Diorama II 2016 photopolymer print, chine-collé by Angela Snieder

What do you hope gallery visitors leave thinking about?

Firstly, I hope that visitors will have experienced some curiosity or surprise in the exhibition. Broadly, I hope that they will leave thinking about ways that illusion and artifice play a role in their own experiences and memories. My goal is for this reflection to encourage any kind of attentive contemplation of our physical and psychological relationship with the world.

 

Exhibition title: Angela Snieder: Obscura
Exhibition dates: until March 18, 2017
Venue: FAB Gallery (1-1 Fine Arts Building)
Gallery Hours: Tuesday to Friday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday 2 – 5 p.m.
Admission: Free

Miriam Rudolph: dispossesion

Miriam Rudolph’s work has a sense of urgency in it’s beautifully layered and patterned narratives. Her show leaves you thinking about our own place in these narratives of our planet.

I had a chance to ask Miriam a few questions about her work.

Broken Seed Jar by Miriam Rudolph

Can you tell me a bit about your work and the environmental and activist themes you were exploring?

disPOSSESSION is an exhibition that explores the accumulation of wealth of few and the displacement of many with a focus on the expansion of soy and beef production in Paraguay, ensuing environmental, social, and economic consequences, as well as connected indigenous land rights and peasant food sovereignty issues. In my artworks, I explore the disappearance of the dry forests of the Paraguayan Chaco due to deforestation, the idea of enclosure as a symbol of privatization and capitalist systems, the struggle to maintain diversity through seed saving traditions in the face of expanding monocultures, and the displacement of local populations due to land grabs.

I grew up in Paraguay, South America. My life and my thoughts are forever linked to that beautiful and complicated place. I was raised in a socially complex setting with a colonial past and present in which European/Canadian settlers live next to indigenous communities, landless Latino peasants, and large estates owned by Paraguayan elites or, increasingly, by international investors and transnational corporations. Living standards, access to land, food, and education, as well as interests in land usage vary widely between the different groups. From this experience of unequal and unjust distribution of wealth and access comes a desire to bear witness and contribute to a dialogue on such issues as cultural change, sustainable farming and the environment, dispossession and migration, and food sovereignty.

Artwork by Miriam Rudolph

Your work is very narrative, can you tell me a bit about the stories you are telling in your work?

Through printmaking, I am building a visual narrative that not only analyzes but also embodies the issues I am addressing. In some of my prints, for example, I layer printed images over and over again to build up large-scale imagery that dwarfs smaller counterparts to portray power relationships. In other instances, I print on both sides of a translucent Asian paper, allowing the paper to embody a physical barrier between the past and the present. Demarcations of plate marks subtly reference enclosure or the gridding of land surveying. In another series, I explore the imagery of lightly etched figures of men, women and children, fences crossing the entire image, and detailed drawn sections of dense forest printed upside-down and disappearing off the edge of the paper. The translucency of the figures suggests a lack of presence, either a distant past or a disappearing future, while the other components of the image suggest separation or enclosure and the disappearance of the dry forests, an inversion of the natural order. I keep the titles of my works short and straightforward to give the viewer a key to enter the image’s narrative.

Seeds of Hope by Miriam Rudolph

Can you tell me a bit more about your process in composing your prints and how you create the work?

My methodology consists of gathering research materials, such as essays, articles, documentaries, literature, satellite imagery, personal testimonies and observations, and using them as layers of information in my artworks. I work with both scientific and empirical knowledge. I then try to figure out how to translate what I have read and heard into images that will carry the content I am trying to convey and that will draw the viewer in. In my etchings I have developed a process that takes advantage of the reproducibility and repetition of printing plates to achieve a complex build up of images that mirrors the multi-layered narratives involved in these issues. I have created a library of etched plates that I utilize as drawing tools to build up the imagery freely and intuitively on the sheet of paper, while maintaining control over the narrative content.

The physical and chemical process of leaving marks on the surface of a copper plate by etching it in acid lends itself remarkably well to my narrative imagery, allowing me to edit and layer the images. After making proofs, I can re-work and re-etch the printing plates, before inking them up, wiping the surface clean again, and running them through a manually operated printing press to transfer the image onto a damp sheet of paper. It is a very labour intensive process, but I love the subtleties and the variety of mark making I can achieve through etching. I can make highly detailed drawings, such as the forests and traditional gardens I have drawn using a steel needle, or I can brush loose washes of ferric chloride onto the copper to etch the clouds. These more general, abstracted marks carry emotion; they create a melancholy and ominous mood in the images. The clouds were a way for me to express a form of power, corporate power or market power that I could never quite seem to pinpoint or humanize in my readings. While my work is melancholy and dark, it is also beautiful. I’m trying to draw the viewer in, to seduce the viewer to step closer and then engage with difficult issues.

What can viewers expect to see?

In the gallery there are four separate spaces, each representing a part of the narrative. There is one space with more traditional prints that connect to each of the issues I talk about. Then there are also three larger print installations. The form of each print installation is important to carry its content. Colonization by Cattle, for example, is presented as a panorama built from multiple panels of Asian paper to portray the epic proportions of this ongoing linear narrative. The herd in its sheer number of cows and in its scale overwhelms the small remaining forested section. While on one level the herd appears quite threatening in its scale, the cows are drawn in an almost gentle or benign way, since in reality they are innocent participants, or even victims, in this expansion of meat production.

Colonization by Cattle by Miriam Rudolph

The Soy Field and The Garden, consisting of a grid of 146 paper tiles pasted on the wall, form a fragmented vision of the land impacted by industrial agriculture. I combine my own grid with satellite imagery of regions in the Chaco where soy plantations are cropping up. I again work with layers of imagery to portray a kind of take-over by the soy plants of the land. The scale of the whole piece also gives a sense of that take-over through its overwhelming size, encroaching on the one remaining traditional garden. On some of the tiles I’ve printed a more mechanical pattern of plants to reference the engineered monocultures. On other tiles I’ve printed a red droplet pattern to refer to the repeated application of toxins that fall on the land and seep into the ground.

The Soy Field by Miriam Rudolph

Seeds of Hope is a free hanging banner suspended above ceramic seed jars that hold the sacredness of life embodied in a seed. The vertical triptych invokes a gesture of blessing from above for the labour of planting and the traditions of saving seeds. The hands, drawn open in a giving or with a gesture of planting, symbolize the collective effort needed to fight for the right to save seeds and the collective effort to produce food in a sustainable way. However, the disembodied hands can also be read as the disconnect between people and the land or planting traditions.

Seeds of Hope by Miriam Rudolph

What do you hope gallery visitors leave thinking about?

While my research and imagery pertain to a specific region in South America, the issues I address are global issues and also lend themselves to comparison with Canada’s – and other countries’ – colonial heritage and agricultural practices. I’m hoping to create an awareness of where our food comes from and under what circumstances it has been grown or raised. As average consumers we can make choices to influence the food business industry. Do we support sustainable and/or local food sources? How does transnational agribusiness affect local populations and farmers? What colonial attitudes do we still have towards people, land, and food production? Through my artwork, I am hoping to turn “matters of fact” produced by the sciences into “matters of concern”, as sociologist and philosopher Bruno Latour says so fittingly, and perhaps inspire viewers to see their world differently.

 

Exhibition title: Miriam Rudolph: disPOSSESSION
Exhibition dates: until March 18, 2017
Venue: FAB Gallery (1-1 Fine Arts Building)
Gallery Hours: Tuesday to Friday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday 2 – 5 p.m.
Admission: Free

The plot of Government Inspector is a classic case of mistaken identity.

When a young civil servant is mistaken for a high-ranking government inspector in a small town in Czarist Russia, fear ensues when the town’s governor and government officials clamour over the consequences of their wrongful actions. Though the satirical play by Russian and Ukrainian dramatist and novelist, Nikolai Gogol, originally premièred to mixed reviews because of the slanderous ridicule of the Russian government, it was Emperor Nicholas I that enjoyed it the most and encouraged continued performances. Now 150 years later, Government Inspector’s comedic approach to the themes of self-deception and lawlessness is as powerful today as it was when it was first produced.

Ron Jenkins went with the David Harrower adaptation of Government Inspector, and he and designer Colin Winslow have created a timely political satire full of bright colours and off-the-wall characters. Hear Ron and Colin talk about their ideas behind the set and costume design in this production of Government Inspector.

We asked actors; Jacob Holloway, Jaimi Reese and Sarah J. Culkin how the set and costume designs influenced their performances.

Ron and Colin get into more detail on how directors and designers work together in theatre.

Now that you’ve heard more about the process of putting a play together, Jacob, Jaimi and Sarah think you should go see one!

The theatre experience is different every single time because YOU are in the audience.

Just think of how much funnier this will be when you are watching it surrounded by your friends who will also be laughing.

Government Inspector runs each evening at 7:30 p.m. February 9 – 18, 2017 in the Timms Centre for the Arts (87 Avenue & 112 Street). For the full creative team, show dates and ticket details, see www.ualberta.ca/arts/shows/theatre-listings/government-inspector

Presenter: U of A Studio Theatre
Event Title: Government Inspector
Dates: February 9 – 18, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.
Matinee Thursday, February 16 at 12:30 p.m.
Venue: Timms Centre for the Arts, University of Alberta
Single show tickets: $12 student, $25 adult, $22 senior, available online and at the Timms Centre box office one hour before each performance.