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May we suggest

Reviews / August 20, 2018

Hold Fast Contemporary Arts Festival

Various locations, St. John’s, August 8 to 12, 2018
Alana Bartol performing <em>we cannot fathom the depths of our shadows</em> (2018) at Eastern Edge Gallery. Courtesy Hold Fast Contemporary Arts Festival. Photo: Dan Smith. Alana Bartol performing we cannot fathom the depths of our shadows (2018) at Eastern Edge Gallery. Courtesy Hold Fast Contemporary Arts Festival. Photo: Dan Smith.

As part of the 19th annual Hold Fast Contemporary Arts Festival, organized by Eastern Edge Gallery, artist duo Samagiik, comprised of Asinnajaq and Camille Georgeson-Usher, hosted a walking tour that asked participants to think about how they might embed symbols of love in their surroundings. The tour began with an intimate conversation in Samagiik’s installation this world; here. The sculptural work was built out of a collection of objects, each with a connection to a place one of the artists loves. A cascade of dried plants and flowers hung from driftwood attached to the ceiling. The volume and vibrancy of the trailing plants contrasted with delicate strings of pale leaves strung through wires that drooped from the driftwood. Other objects were arranged on the floor, where participants sat with the artists discussing how they might visually represent signs of love. After the conversation the group set out with a bucket of chalk and marked their symbols on sidewalks and buildings throughout the downtown. By bringing together the acts of making a large sculpture out of such small, fragile souvenirs, and marking the downtown with impermanent chalk symbols of love, Samagiik actualized sites of care and attention anchored between place and memory.

At Eastern Edge Gallery, Alana Bartol performed we cannot fathom the depths of our shadows. In this piece, Bartol uses the art of dowsing to provoke questions about the negative impact of the offshore oil and gas industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. Bartol stood in a roped off area, behind a machined-aluminum pendulum filled with test tubes of ocean water and core samples from an abandoned oil well off the coast of Newfoundland. Audience members were invited to come up individually to ask a question of the pendulum. During an artist talk the previous evening Bartol explained that she comes from a long line of dowsers and has incorporated divination into her art practice as a way to think about how we relate to our environment.

Bartol and Samagiik’s work complemented each other in that their interactive components forced viewers to reflect on their relationship to the physical world around them on a personal and political scale. While we cannot fathom the depths of our shadows carried a more sombre tone than this world; here, together these pieces reminded audiences that we have a responsibility to be attuned to how our actions shape our surroundings in both subtle and concrete ways.

Eva Crocker

Eva Crocker is a freelance writer based in St. John’s. Her short story collection Barrelling Forward was a finalist for the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for Emerging LGBTQ Authors and won the Alistair MacLeod Award for Short Fiction. Her debut novel All I Ask will be published by House of Anansi Press in spring 2020.