Quarterly

Q37: Interspecies Thresholds

How can we approach the non-human with authenticity? Resisting stereotype and symbolic simplification, can we instead move between the imperfect modalities available to us: the empirical gaze, new anthropomorphism, the intuitive, the speculative, poetic slippage, radical empathy? With multiple precipices occluding once familiar ground beneath our feet, we may find this threshold in an unexpected direction—and instead of stepping outwards, sink into a space below executive consciousness where we may gain entry to a more-than-human world by giving in to being something less than fully in control.

Q36: both/and

We live in times that are impure — confusing and compromised — and this requires contingent thinking and acting. What happens when artists get involved in complex, difficult issues, where different parties are involved and there might not be such a clear-cut right and wrong? Or alternatively, when the costs of ambivalence may be impossibly high? This issue is framed around both/and: the role of complicity in social-ecological systems and how to maintain a contingent – yet effective – position as an artist and ecological participant. Guest edited by Perdita Phillips.



Q35: Decolonizing Ecologies

This issue of CSPA Quarterly destabilizes Colonial Settler perspectives in ecological art practices. By bringing together artists and writers who re-center BIPOC, and particularly Indigenous, voices in decolonial eco-art, this issue proposes a different way to view ecology. These artists each offer an incisive critique of a Western model of land-engagement, and its roots in ownership and exploitation.

Announcing the CSPA Quarterly’s New Rising Co-Editors

The CSPA QUARTERLY is proud to announce our rising Co-Lead Editors, who will be sustaining the publication and transitioning to eventually become Lead Editors.

Jamie Morra is an art historian living and working between the United States, Scotland, and Spain. Her interests include the aesthetics of ecology, human-animal relations, and ways in which technology has come to mitigate the formal qualities of everyday life. Her background in theories of art and the environment inform her work with artists as a facilitator, producer, project manager, researcher and writer. In 2014 Morra co-founded Residency 108 to invite artists to share her deep connection to the natural world and abiding concern for the issues facing our planet. The program aims to underscore the connections, both formally and conceptually, between art and nature. Morra holds a B.A. from the Gallatin School of Individualized Studies at New York University, an M.A. and a Curatorial Certificate from Hunter College.

Evelyn O’Malley is a Senior Lecturer in Drama at the University of Exeter, where she teaches, researches and writes about environmental theatre and performance. Published work includes the monograph Weathering Shakespeare: Audiences and Open Air Performance(2020), in addition to articles and book chapters on theatre, performance, sea and mountain-scapes, weather, climate change and reproductive rights. She has also written short pieces for Waymaking: an anthology women’s adventure writing, poetry and artAn Ecotopian Lexicon and Tree Tales.

Her collaborative research in the field has included working with scientists and meteorologists from the UK Met Office and University on a Natural Environment Research Council Climate Stories project, in addition to a UK Arts and Humanities Research Council project on Atmospheric Theatre: Open Air Performance and the Environment, with Chloe Preedy. She is also a collaborator on a global SSHRC practice-research collaboration Cymbeline in the Anthropocene, led by Randall Martin.

She is from a mostly grey place called Baile an Bhóthair (the town on the road) in Dublin, Ireland, and now lives and works in another mostly grey place called Exeter, England, where she can be found struggling up hills on her bike, never dressed for the weather and still surprised, heartstopped by the city’s occasionally-magnificent light.

The CSPA Quarterly is a publication arm of the Centre for Sustainable Arts. It is meant to give a longer format and deeper space for exploration than some online platforms provide, and to reflect the myriad ways in which sustainability in the arts is discussed, approached and practiced. The publication features reviews, interviews, features, artist pages, essays, reflections and photos. It is a snapshot of a moment in time, a look at the many discussions in sustainability and the arts through the lens of a particular theme. It is part of a rigorous dialogue.

Jamie and Evelyn will be working together to:

  • Develop an archival, digital publication of the Q
  • Develop and sustain new income streams for the Q
  • Plan issues for 2024 and beyond, assuming sole Lead Editorship in that year
  • Sustain the Quarterly and its continued relevance.

They will be working with the guidance and support of current Lead Editor Meghan Moe Beitiks, whose final issue will be Q40.

We are incredibly grateful to be bringing on these prolific, skilled, insightful and talented writers and administrators, and look forward to their vision for the Quarterly as it changes and adapts over time!

Questions? Please email editor@sustainablepractice.org

Q30: Issue Takeover: Lamentation

WEAD, Women Eco Artists Dialog, is a nonprofit focusing on women’s unique perspectives and contributions in the eco and social justice art fields. Our global constituency numbers 400+/- activist feminist art workers (inclusive reading of “art, feminism, woman, gender”). WEAD’s issue takeover — Q30: “LAMENTATION” unearths GRIEF found in members’ art and words. Facing oppressive loss of critical ecosystems, where is hope?

Q29: Silence

When words and sounds fail, silence has the potential to both open up space for listening, and serve as an oppressive force. This issue will examine Silence in various practices and processes, as both a facilitator of healing and a catalyst for trauma. Artists are silent, question silence, are empowered through and threatened by silence, listen in silence, stew in silence. This issue is a quiet one, but it is by no means without agency.

Q28: Animating Ancestors

Guest Edited by Feresteh Toosi. Animating Ancestors is a special themed issue of the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts Quarterly journal which features projects that breathe life into the past. The word “animate” comes from the Latin verb animare meaning “giving life to.” Ancestors are all the plants, animals, people, fungi, soil, water, that constitute our lineage on this planet. This issue includes contributors who bring these inherited realities alive for their audiences through their creative research.

Q18 DESCRIBED: Skinny

Lead Editor’s note: We will be publishing excerpts from Q18: dis/sustain/ability, guest edited by Bronwyn Preece, in order to make the content accessible to blind readers with audio screen readers. We’ll also be including audio descriptions of the Quarterly’s original layout designed by Stephanie Plenner. Please stay tuned for future posts and share widely. In this chapter, Chun-Shan (Sandie) Yi describes the process for the work “Skinny.”

“Skinny” Layout designed by Stephanie Plenner,
described by Katie Murphy, Photos by Cheng-Chang Kuo


Making art about Crip bodies has always been an urge to not only explore the meanings of our existence — and the social relationships with others — but also as a deliberate choice for constructing visual and tactile languages to document disability as a cultural phenomenon and familial history.

Rahnee (named used with permission) and I are sisters, not by blood, but by our connections to disability. Our contractured fingers and toes, and our Asian blood, made us sisters. Rahnee is half Thai and half white; I am a Taiwanese. Rahnee has psoriasis and I was born with two fingers and toes.

As a personal assistant, I help Rahnee with personal hygiene, including showering, applying lotions, massaging her skin and dressing. Sometimes I use my finger tips to peel off the excessive skin to relieve Rahnee from her swollen and inflamed skin. I would feel the body fluid rushing out of her skin between my nails and finger tips, then I would massage her skin with a thick layer of lotion. We often talk throughout this process as peer support time: sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry, and sometimes we are just exhausted together.

It always felt like I was making sculptural art with Rahnee’s body: our conversations — languaged through strokes of hand — became a part of the stories woven and shared by each other. At the end of each “hygiene-care art” sessions, I would sweep the skin flakes off the bed sheet and on the floor, and form mounds of them before tossing to the bin.

Most of us have taught to see disability as something negative, debilitating, weak, incapable or vulnerable. it is something that people try to get rid of. Peeling and tossing away Rahnee’s skin are actions of relieving her from pain and itch, but are they also metaphors of getting rid of her disability? What does it mean to remove traces of her disabled body? If her skin flakes were evidence of her existence, what does it say about the gesture of throwing piece of her away?

While I contemplated on the questions above, I decided to turn to sewing and made pods to hold pieces of Rahnee’s skin. Disability shapes the way we interact with one another, it reformulates the way people relate and access to another human being which otherwise is absent in the non-disabled world. As a Crip artist of color, having disability and providing care to and making art about another disabled sister is about creating intimacy and Crip sisterhood. Most importantly, it is about preserving and sustaining the existence of my own kind.

Title: “Skinny”
Artist: Chun-Shan (Sandie) Yi
Material: Human skin flakes, silk organza, sewing thread, embroidery thread and lotion.
Date: 2014 ~ On-going

Photos by Cheng-Chang Kuo


Chun-Shan (Sandie) Yi makes small-scale body adornments
exploring the meanings of disabled women’s bodies by remapping the narratives of skin, scars, and medical and surgical interventions on the disabled bodies. Her work examines the potential of art to address the relationship between the body and social standards pertaining to beauty and disability. Her latest project focuses on body reconfiguration through delineating memories of medical and surgical Unexpected Anatomies intervention. Yi received a BFA, and MA in art therapy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA from the University of California Berkeley. Currently, she is a PhD candidate in Disability Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her research interests include, Disability Art and Culture, social justice based art therapy, museum studies and disability fashion.

Q18 DESCRIBED: Being Animal

Lead Editor’s note: We will be publishing excerpts from Q18: dis/sustain/ability, guest edited by Bronwyn Preece, in order to make the content accessible to blind readers with audio screen readers. We’ll also be including audio descriptions of the Quarterly’s original layout designed by Stephanie Plenner. Please stay tuned for future posts and share widely. In this chapter, Susanna Uchatius discusses an “othered” performance by Theatre Terrific.

Audio Description of “Being Animal,” by Katie Murphy, designed by Stephanie Plenner, Photos by Chantele Fry

BEING ANIMAL:
Produced and performed by Theatre Terrific September 2015
By Susanna Uchatius

During the longest West Coast drought in recorded history, Theatre Terrific gathered an inclusive cast and crew to explore our place in the natural world. Inspired by philosopher and cultural ecologist David Abram, we journeyed into a conversation with nature. Abram observes, “Humans are tuned for relationship. The eyes, the skin, the tongue, ears and nostril – all are gates where our body receives the nourishment of otherness.” (1)

We asked ourselves the question:

What would happen if we fully embraced otherness in ourselves, in our communities, and in nature?

The result was Theatre Terrific’s production of BEING ANIMAL (2) , performed in Sculpture Park on Granville Island as part of the 2015 Vancouver Fringe Festival.

A cast of 12 actors, often labeled as “other” due to cognitive, physical, mental health, gender and/or cultural differences from the normative, took up the challenge and collaborated in a bold exploration that tested the truth of our relationship with our natural surroundings.

Do we speak the language of water, of wind, of tree, of bird?

The collaborative ensemble consisted of the physicality, language and perceptions of artists, some of whose life experience includes autism, cerebral palsy, brain damage, schizophrenia, Down syndrome, gender uniqueness, and the cultural experience of the Indigenous, Chinese, Filipino, Irish to name a few.

BEING ANIMAL became a musical moving conversation. The work incorporated the park environment such as the trees, grass, confined water, large stone, sky, air — as partners in performance. Using song, dance, music, mask and puppetry, BEING ANIMAL, explored how to truthfully “live” in our world, share thoughts with the environment around us and ultimately find commonality and companionship with the natural world.

How did we do this?

By embracing the gifts of diversity offered up by cast and place.

How to speak with a tree. An actor chooses an audience member to pick a tree and then guides them through a speed date…. The awareness of the tiniest detail as one attempted to impress a tree made for astute and profound conversation.

The life cycle of nature. An actor crawls out of his wheelchair and furiously claws at the earth to get closer to the beloved family members he has lost. Behind him three actors gesture the dance of love, death and ultimate rebirth…an enactment of the continuum that is the natural life cycle.


Value all things. The simple gesture of a cast member gently picking up a stone or a leaf, examining it and then with great respect, giving it as a valuable gift to an audience member endowed the simple object with reverence ….

again and again and again….

BEING ANIMAL closes with a large Mother Earth puppet who slowly appears, and with outspread arms, embraces the cast: guiding them to walk to the water’s edge to raise their arms in praise to the open sky, ocean, trees and wonder of it all.

Theatre Terrific:

MISSION: Theatre Terrific pioneers inclusive opportunities for artists of all abilities to develop performance skills and collaborate in the production of theatrical works.


MANDATE: Through its work, Theatre Terrific challenges audiences to be open to the impact of thought-provoking art.


Susanna Uchatius has been the Artistic Director of Theatre Terrific, Western Canada’s longest running inclusive theatre company for artists of all abilities in Vancouver, since 2005. She has written, directed and collaboratively developed over 30 professional, community and site-specific productions. She has pioneered a rigorous and respected accessible ensemble process, that includes Equity and emerging actors of all abilities in the creation of high quality productions tackling universal issues relevant to the human condition.

Photos by Chantele Fry

FOOTNOTES

1. Abram, David. The Spell of the Sensuous : Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World. New York : Pantheon Books, 1996. Page ix.
2. A direct reference to Abram’s 2010 book of the same name.

Q27: Legibility

An opening up of and gathering of discourse around the concept of legibility. Who and what can be read and defined? And how easily? What should be made visible and accessible, determinate, and what should remain in the registers of ambiguity and contingent understanding? 

Reaching for Jack Halberstam’s use of the term legibility in “The Queer Art of Failure,” and placing it next to technology and the rendering of the climate as legible to better predict and understand its behavior, bodies and genders resist the legibility of being easily defined and determinate to governing bodies and power, while we are scrambling for more clear legibility of our environments, positioning the body in contention with the atmosphere it’s amidst. Contributions to the journal will be suspended between these two ideas, questioning the foundations on which we perceive the legible, and who it benefits. ISSUE TAKEOVER by Calvin Rocchio.