Ex­hibits ex­plore re­la­tion­ship, spir­i­tu­al­ity of water with us

Lethbridge Herald - - HOMETOWN NEWS - J.W. Sch­narr LETHBRIDGE HERALD

Water, its re­la­tion­ship with us, and with spir­i­tu­al­ity is ex­plored through sev­eral ex­hibits by renowned artist Ed Pien at the Univer­sity of Lethbridge art gallery.

Pien’s ex­hibits kick off the “You Are Here” se­ries of ex­hi­bi­tions, work­shops, per­for­mances and pre­sen­ta­tions run­ning from Septem­ber to March 2018.

“You Are Here” in­vites peo­ple to find new ways to think about the fu­ture of their en­vi­ron­ment. In the main gallery, “Liq­uid Be­ing” ex­plores the sen­tience and spir­i­tu­al­ity of water.

“Re­cently, I was in­spired by Ecuado­rial Ama­zon Indige­nous peo­ple, who were able to fight with the gov­ern­ment and foresters by say­ing they couldn’t cut cer­tain forests down be­cause they were sen­tient,” said Pien.

“Be­cause they are treated as ob­jects hav­ing emo­tions and feel­ings, they were able to win the case.

“I thought I could ex­plore the sen­tience of water in this work.”

The in­stal­la­tion in­cludes a chan­nel of water brought in from the St. Mary river which runs through a My­lar struc­ture. The water projects a shadow through the struc­ture and evap­o­rates over time. The shad­ows are part of a larger im­age pro­jected on the floor of the gallery.

Pien uses 150 litres of water in the ex­hibit, which is about the amount an av­er­age adult would drink over the course of the show.

“The sen­tience of water is re­ally hard to com­pre­hend,” he said.

“It takes a leap of faith and imag­i­na­tion, in a way. It’s hard to make a con­nec­tion be­tween our­selves and water be­cause we are so dif­fer­ent.

“Water oc­cu­pies time and space in a to­tally dif­fer­ent way than we do. But I imag­ine all water as one mas­sive or­gan­ism. Just like it is in­side of us.”

An­other part of the ex­hibit fea­tures a dig­i­tal an­i­ma­tion of water on a large por­tion of the gallery wall. The CGI an­i­ma­tion was cre­ated by James Graham in the uLeth New Me­dia De­part­ment, while text was pro­vided by en­vi­ron­men­tal lawyer and Indige­nous ally, Merell-Ann S. Phare.

In a sec­ond ex­hibit Pien said is “too new to have a name,” a large num­ber of My­lar fish have been sus­pended us­ing fish­ing line. The fish are etched so that when light is shone through them, their fea­tures can be seen.

A sec­ond pro­jec­tion shows the sil­hou­ette of a small child play­ing with sim­i­lar fish.

Pien said watch­ing the child in­ter­act with the fish is telling of how peo­ple in­ter­act with their en­vi­ron­ment. And at a cer­tain point, the scene be­gins to change.

“I didn’t want this to have a nar­ra­tive,” he said. “But it does, at a cer­tain time dur­ing the video — the fish be­come quite large.

“At a cer­tain mo­ment, it feels as though the fish is start­ing to fight back, and the child be­comes con­sumed, and is in the belly of the fish.”

Liq­uid Be­ing will be in the main gallery through Oct. 26.

The He­len Chris­tou Gallery will fea­ture more of Pien’s work in “Up in the Air.”

Af­ter con­duct­ing work­shops with youth from Lethbridge and Kainai First Na­tion, with se­nior new Cana­di­ans and through ULAG’s Cul­ture Vul­ture Satur­day pro­gram, more than 30 kites with images in­spired by the fate of fresh water fish and the re­sults cli­mate change cre­ated.

Images of the work by the young par­tic­i­pants, a video doc­u­ment­ing the per­for­mances of kite fly­ing, and draw­ings by Pien will be on dis­play.

“Up in the Air” runs from Wed­nes­day through Oct. 20.

Fol­low @JWSch­nar­rHer­ald on Twit­ter

Herald photo by J.W. Sch­narr

Artist Ed Pien has two ex­hibits cur­rently run­ning to­gether in the Univer­sity of Lethbridge main gallery ex­plor­ing dif­fer­ent re­al­i­ties and the re­la­tion­ship be­tween water and the spir­i­tual world. @JWSch­nar­rHer­ald

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