A collaborative project of both research and art about climate change on the lower Fraser River watershed has resulted in an exhibit titled Upstream/Downriver: Walking the stɑl̓əw̓ Watershed at the Langley Centennial Museum.
The new display takes audiences on a journey of walking, listening, and learning.
Artists Alysha Creighton, Erica Grimm, and Joshua Hale have combined video, sound, installation, and drawing to connect viewers to the realities of climate impacts in the region.
Their works also give voice to the river, pointing the way to how society may reimagine its relationship with the land and learn to walk in a good way on this territory “we call home,” the trio shared.
Commonly referred to as the Fraser River, stɑl̓əw̓ is the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ word for “big river.”
The artists and project Siyá:m Patricia Victor walked and listened to experts about the stɑl̓əw̓ and how climate change is affecting the region, including the thoughts of Sesmelot (Fern Gabriel), Kwantlen Language Keeper, Andrew Victor, Chief of Xwchíyò:m Nation, and Annelyn Victor, Xwchíyò:m Youth.
Their voices joined with other experts in the areas of geology, biology, math, poetry, urban geography, and philosophy, including Heesoon Bai, Katharine Bubel, David Clements, Tim Cooper, David Jordan, Maxwell Ofosuhene, Sam Pimentel, and Bruce Shelvey to create a soundscape for the exhibition experience.
The sounds of the river are carefully blended with their words.
“The importance of holding these voices as equal was our aim,” artist Erica Grimm reflected.
“But all of these voices agreed that climate change is serious, human caused, and the time to act is now.”
Grimm’s work maps the bloodline of the stɑl̓əw̓, tracing lost tributaries and the coming flood lines of the lower Fraser River watershed.
Another piece by Grimm and Tracie Stewart suspends bandaged cedar roots and willow branches from the museum’s ceiling, drawing a river through the gallery space.
Creighton’s video work immerses viewers in the river, seeking to dissolve boundaries between human and environment.
Hale’s work explores the potential effects of climate change on the region, imagining multiple possible futures; red string connects his pieces like an evidence board, frantically trying to find solutions, while the way forward for humanity remains unclear.
Upstream/Downriver: Walking the stɑl̓əw̓ Watershed is supported in part by funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. The exhibit is open at Langley Centennial Museum until Feb. 6.
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