City To Sky – A Vancouver Biennale residency experience in Squamish

Wednesday June 24th, 2015

Kristin McIver is an Australian artist. Her practice includes sculpture, painting and installation utilising materials such as text and neon. She is the second of the Vancouver Biennale  International Residency artists taking over our blog this summer. Read on for the first glimpse at her final residency project.



Transcript of the video:

Being an Australian artist living in New York City, I have found my time in Squamish has provided a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with the natural landscape and find some respite from the urban environment of one of the busiest cities in the world.

My art practice is predominantly text based, so for the Vancouver Biennale Residency project I wanted to create an artwork which deals
with the endangered languages of First Nations communities, while highlighting the staggering natural beauty of this environment North
of Vancouver.

I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time with members of the Squamish Nation, who have warmly welcomed me into their community. I’m particularly grateful to Tsawaysia Spukwus who has assisted me greatly with my project, being one of only 10 fluent speakers of the Squamish
language. She is integral to preserving Squamish language and culture.

Tsawaysia and her family invited me to participate in a traditional canoe pull to celebrate to opening of the ‘Sea to Sky Marine Trail’.
This water trail acknowledges 7 Squamish villages with their traditional name, a great step in acknowledging the rich language and
long history of this special part of the world.

It was such a fun day, our canoe team pulled together as “one mind, one body, one spirit” to reach our destination at Nexen Beach. After
the opening ribbon cutting ceremony, we were treated to a traditional BBQ of wild salmon and bannock, and singing, drums and dance.

Through this engagement I’ve been touched by the First Nations’ acknowledgment, respect and identification with the natural environment. Something which is often overlooked in urban centers. It is this constant acknowledgement, before any speech, presentation or welcome ceremony, of the world and each other – “thank you for being here on this beautiful day” – that has let me to the starting point for my project.

Since my time with the community have come up with 4 works that relate to “this beautiful day”, and the 4 elements important to indigenous culture of Wind, water, wind, earth and fire. These include a sound, video, projection, and a neon sign respectively.

Alongside my research of the Squamish language, community and culture, I have been venturing into the beautiful forests, waterways, and rock
formations around Squamish to record the sounds of this environment and wildlife. It has enabled me to explore this beautiful landscape,
which is so varied and so spectacular.

Another adventure involved one of the most unique site visits of my career so far. The proposed site for the neon sign is only accessible
by boat, so David Crewson kindly obliged to take me there on his canoe, where we had to battle rapids and strong winds to reach the site, almost getting swept out to Howe Sound.

Despite having to overcome my fear of encountering some of the larger species of wildlife (Bears! Cougars! Wolves!), or flipping over in the
freezing waters of the Squamish river, this Vancouver Biennale residency has been a wonderful experience and one that will inform my practice and outlook on the world for a long time to come.


Connect with Kristin on social media

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The Vancouver Biennale International Artists Residency program is supported by Quest University. The artists who are selected to participate are rising stars in their own countries. The artists are required to involve the  community in Squamish in the realization of their projects. This program brings artists together in dialogue and builds lasting connections between the artists and the local community.

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