Migration Exhibition at La Fab Sur Mill

In 2022 members of the Ottawa-Gatineau Printmakers Connective began our project on Migration, which we all agreed was a timely and important subject. What surprised us all was the variety of perspectives we took: from the vast animal journeys; migrants fleeing from hostilities or immigrants seeking new possibilities; to more ethereal migrations.

The Hanging Team, Beth Shepherd, Madeleine Rousseau, Shealagh Pope, and Freida Hjartarson , at La Fab April 19th

I will quote here from the news release prepared by the La Fab Sur Mill Arts Centre where are exhibition will be showing from April 21 to June 4, 2023:

Migration has always been part of the human condition. Over history, people have moved to seek new opportunities such as a higher-paying job, a better social or cultural setting, or a chance at an education (Deidre Hierlihy: Margaret with jackrabbit (1937)). Human migration too often, however, is not by choice, but by necessity. As of May 2022, it is estimated that more than 100 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced as a result of conflict, persecution, human rights violations, and violence. Roughly 42 per cent of those displaced are children (Murray Dineen, The Littlest Migrant). The act of migration can be perilous. Migrants risk their lives, and some never reach safe haven. Many are not welcomed when they do arrive (Lynda Turner, Reverberations).

Migration is also an ongoing, defining pattern for many animal species. Migratory animals move in response to changing seasons or to use different habitats over their life cycle (Patricia Slighte, Aloft). Many of these migrations are awe-inspiring feats of endurance (Shealagh Pope, On the Move). However, changes to the landscape can threaten the ongoing existence of species that depend on movement for their survival (Beth Shepherd, Flow: Recruitment and Escapement).
Canadians living in inner cities are seeing their access to green space gradually diminish as more infrastructure is built where parks and trees used to be. The migration of green space further out of our ever-sprawling built environment is worrisome for the long-term sustainability of these urban neighbourhoods (Madeleine Rousseau, Vivre sans toi?). In addition to figurative works, the exhibition includes conceptual and abstract interpretations that explore how movement between different realms or media can be represented as migrations (Freida Hjartarson, Migration).

The artists participating in “Migration” raise timely and important political, economic, ecological, and social issues. This exhibition invites the viewer to consider their own relationship or history with migration. The exhibition also allows viewers to gain a better understanding of the distinctive characteristics and vast potential of print-based art and its role in fostering constructive dialogue around contemporary issues. 

Centre des arts La Fab sur Mill Arts Centre

This is a video of the hung show prepared by Richard Austin, Visual Arts director of La Fab Arts Centre. 

Typesetting “Elegy for the Silver Eel” As Concrete Poetry

I have recently become interested in concrete poetry – where the visual form augments or sometimes supplants the linguistic meaning. On doing further research I learned that concrete poetry is usually associated with the international Concrete Poetry Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. The movement emerged from the work of Eugen Gomringer of Switzerland and the Brazilian Noigandres group, and quickly spread around the world. Although the Concrete Poetry Movement lost its momentum by the 1970s, its legacy and influence live on.

Typically, concrete poets work with the visual power of the page that results from the shape and placement of typographical elements vis-à-vis the whitespace. Applying the notion of concrete to any artform acknowledges its materiality and how that materiality informs its function and meaning. I felt this could be useful in drawing analogies that aid in understanding the materiality of the altered landscape, the loss of species, and the overarching politics of climate change.

This spring I had the opportunity to do some typesetting at the Carleton University Book Arts Lab as part of a creative writing workshop on climate change. In March and April, I typeset my poem “Elegy for the Silver Eel” in a visually expressive form.

Intrigued by duality of Concrete Poetry at the intersection of language and image, I typeset and printed:

  1. “Elegy for the Silver Eel” as a poem – the shaped text with a title on the top and author at the bottom right, in a literary fashion; and
  2. Elegy for the Silver Eel as an object of visual art, where I removed the typeset title author and hand-signed each print at the bottom in the manner of a fine art print.
Figure: Duality of Concrete Poetry

The font for both versions is Helvetic Italic which I thought contributed to the sense of flow. Once typeset, each version was printed using the Vandercook letterpress on 6-inch square artist tiles (Strathmore Bristol, vellum finish, 100 lb.). To read about my process, please click here.

Many thanks go to Nadia Bozak, professor in the English Dept., and Larry Thompson, Master Printer at the Book Arts Lab, Carleton University, for this opportunity.