Stone Witness

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Stone Witness

Abbas Akhavan, Tanya Busse, Liljana Mead Martin

November 30, 2019 – January 19, 2020
Join us for the Opening on November 29, 7 PM
In rocky mounds, boulders, and cliffs, when shadows fall, where lichen grows, where cracks appear, we see faces. However grotesque, we see ourselves. This desire to be reflected in the stony landscape also has scientific grounding, as we are made of minerals.

But this empathy with the land has limits. What do shareholders and mine operators perceive as they level entire mountains? How are we reflected in tar sands operations that move more sediment in a year than all of the world's rivers combined? How do we understand the discrepancies between those who profit from extraction and those who feel the effects? Who is burdened with the role of witnessing and how much can they endure? We project our visages onto the land, but a Stone Witness sees it differently and can give testimony for millennia.

Through drawing, video, and sculpture, artworks by Abbas Akhavan, Tanya Busse, and Liljana Mead Martin consider human cultures of extraction in relation to geological time. Works in the exhibition include paintings made with organic light sensitive materials on paper made of stone, a video installation that conjures resistance to the resource extraction that fuels the military industrial complex, and sculptural works that trace connections between the body and the violence of the endless excavation and construction in the built environment.

This exhibition is set in a place with a very specific relationship to geology. Nanaimo, BC is a former coal mining town on the territory of the Snuneymuxw people, marked by petroglyphs carved in stone that speak to origin stories and cultural rights to the land, and undercut by mine shafts extracted through one hundred years of subaltern labour. That Nanaimo rides the northern edge of the Cascadia subduction zone makes the site of this exhibition even more resonant.

Thinking across geological time, Stone Witness takes place in a year in which Nanaimo Art Gallery asks what are generations?

Image: Liljana Mead Martin, The Bedrock Gardener, Gypsum, plaster, hydrostone, cement, black sand, red sand, juniper, reflective insulation, found plastics, dry pigment, 2019, Photo by Denis Ogrinc

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Stone Witness: Talk and Tour

Saturday, November 30, 1 PM
Everyone welcome
Join us for a discussion-based tour of the exhibition Stone Witness with artists Abbas Akhavan and Liljana Mead Martin in dialogue with curator Jesse Birch.  
Abbas Akhavan is an artist based in Montreal. His practice ranges from installation to drawing, video, sculpture, and performance. His work is deeply influenced by the specificity of the sites where he works: the architectures that house them, the economies that surround them, and the people that frequent them. Recent works have shifted focus, wandering onto spaces and species just outside the home–the garden, the backyard, and other domesticated landscapes. He was the recipient of the Sobey Art Award in 2015.
Liljana Mead Martin is an artist living in Vancouver. Her practice traces connections between the body, surrounding architecture, and local urban ecologies through choreographed movement, sculpture, photography, and drawing. In recent work, she imagines how the composites of a transitory site might be embodied, impressed, drawn, and materialized over time. Her work has been presented in exhibitions and residencies at Dynamo Arts Association, Vancouver, Artspace Gibraltar Point, Toronto, and Recess, New York. She received her MFA from Emily Carr University in 2016.
Image: Abbas Akhavan, #2, Chlorophyll on photodegradable stone paper made of stone, 2019, Courtesy of the artist and Catriona Jeffries

Truth to Material

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Truth to Material


September 20 to November 10, 2019
Join us for the opening reception on Thursday, September 19, 7 pm
Krista Belle Stewart is an artist and a member of the Upper Nicola Band of the Syilx/Okanagan Nation, currently based in Berlin. Her work with video, land, performance, photography, textiles, and sound unfolds over long periods of time, drawing out personal and political narratives.

In 2006, she traveled to the Karl May Museum in Radebeul, Germany, where she met with 'The Band of Broken Arrows' one of many groups of German citizens who call themselves 'Indianer' inspired by the fictional novels of author Karl May. Indianer dress up in costume and perform what they imagine to be a North American Indigenous lifestyle. Stewart documented her experience during this trip, but waited to further develop the project.

It has now been thirteen years since Stewart's initial meeting with this community. After returning to Germany as an artist-in-residence at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin, she reconnected with the group of Indianer she met during her first visit. The number of people in the community has significantly dropped, almost by half. However, the culture of appropriation continues on. This summer, she was invited to participate in a large gathering of nearly 1000 Indianer from all over Europe. Enacting a kind of inverted anthropology, Stewart developed a new body of work revolving around these encounters for her solo exhibition at Nanaimo Art Gallery. While Indianer communities may seem at a distance, this exhibition can also be a point of reflection on the legacies of cultural inequality in British Columbia.

Considering what happens when cultural appropriation becomes tradition, Krista Belle Stewart's project is the third exhibition in a year in which Nanaimo Art Gallery asks the question: what are generations?

The exhibition is accompanied by an essay by Berlin based Canadian writer Mitch Speed.

Image courtesy of Krista Belle Stewart

September   October   November 2019 Mailer - Google Docs

Seraphine, Seraphine Screening and Artist Talk

Saturday, September 21, 2 pm
Vancouver Island Conference Centre, 101 Gordon St., Nanaimo, Dodd Narrows Room A
Free | Everyone welcome
Register required, online or call 250.754.1750

Join artist Krista Belle Stewart for a screening of her video work Seraphine, Seraphine (2014), in which Stewart interweaves a 1967 CBC docu-drama about the first Aboriginal public health nurse in B.C. with excerpts from a personal testimony from the 2013 Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Both parts of this video feature the same person: the artist's mother, Seraphine Stewart. Contrasting the narrative constructed by our national broadcaster nearly 50 years ago with Seraphine's recent testimony as a residential school survivor, Krista Belle Stewart activates the dual role of the artist as both voice and witness. After the screening, Stewart will discuss Seraphine, Seraphine, and other projects.

Image: Krista Belle Stewart, Seraphine, Seraphine, Two-channel video installation, 2014


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Charlotte Zhang, Tania Willard and Steven Thomas Davies, Cecily Nicholson, Tau Lewis, Julia Feyrer, Elisa Ferrari and John Brennan 
July 19–September 1
Join us for the Opening Reception and a reading by Cecily Nicholson, on Thursday, July 18 at 7 pm
Public Tour: August 1, 5:30 pm
Curated by Christian Vistan and Jesse Birch
In an estuary, where freshwater and saltwater meet, materials accumulate faster than they can be carried away. The Nanaimo River Estuary supports life through biodiversity and nutrient cycles, serving as a resource and sanctuary for its inhabitants. Legacies of industrial and colonial land practices also significantly impact this environment. In this contested site, food, economy, waste, history, and memory settle together like sediment, only to be stirred back into suspension, creating opportunities for new understanding. 
The exhibition Estuary takes up the work of its namesake–materials and histories converge on the Gallery’s floors and walls. This repository of sculpture, textile, sound, poetry, and video shares personal stories and communal geographies. Estuary features hand-sewn tapestries rooted in recuperative labour, filmic tracings of Nanaimo’s disappeared Chinatowns, aural explorations of the estuarine environment, and other artworks that see an estuary as a place of flux and process. 
Considering the estuary and what generates and regenerates there, Estuary is the second exhibition in a year in which Nanaimo Art Gallery ask the question: what are generations?
Image: Tau Lewis, look how long I've been crying to get to you! (detail), Found furs, leathers, fabrics, 2018


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Estuary Walk with Nancy Turner and Geraldine Manson

Meeting Place: Nanaimo River Estuary Conservation Area, 1000 Raines Rd.
$20 non-members | $15 members Registration required, online or call 250.754.1750
pay online button
Ethnobotanist Nancy Turner and elder Geraldine Manson (Snuneymuxw Nation) share the breadth of their extensive knowledge of native and invasive plants as they lead a walk on the Nanaimo River Estuary. Spend the morning with them, getting to know this special place, and the things that are sustained by it. 

Estuary Talk with Tania Willard and Steven Thomas Davies

Meeting Place: Parking lot at 6 Maki Rd., before the entrance to Living Forest Campground.
Free | Registration required
register online button
or call 250.754.1750
This site has limited accessibility for those with mobility devices or strollers. Call the Gallery for details 
Artist and curator, Tania Willard (Secwepemc Nation) and, artist and filmmaker, Steven Thomas Davies
(Snuneymuxw Nation) collaborated on an installation that explores the submerged perspectives of eelgrass
beds in estuarine ecosystems. On the last day of Estuary, join them for a special dialogue on site, where they will speak about their respective practices, and their collaboration for the exhibition.
Image: Curatorial Research Image, April 5, 2019


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