The works I create are environmental studies, and recognize the natural world as witness and teacher. Through placing myself and my practice in relation to the invisible histories and physical processes of the body and environment, I've found that one can communicate with and be in relation to all things, tapping into deep sources of wisdom. In my creative process, which is centred in the practice of listening, I engage in a sensorial intimacy with the living land in order to truly be collaborative, rather than imposing a vision. For me, collaborating with nature is not about using it as a medium for my individual expression, but in finding that place where true communication and relationship exists, and improvising there.
Cultural ecologist and author David Abrams speaks of a boundary between the human and the more-than-human world in his book, Spell of the Sensuous. He says, "Tend the boundary between the human world and the more-than-human world, and make sure that boundary stays porous, that it stays a membrane, that it never hardens into a barrier, shutting out."
My life has always felt called toward this boundary, and my art practice aims to make sure it's as porous as possible. The work I create is simultaneously a way to move more deeply into this space of deep relationship with the natural world, and to also share it with others.
The natural world is a living archive. Landscape has memory, water carries story.
I know when my body is touched by water, immersed in water, a resonance and
transfer of information occurs. The water flows through landscapes and my body.
It makes me of the landscape – my body, a song for the earth.
Listening has always been at the centre my creative process. With listening, I don't just mean the physiological act of hearing sound. Listening is a state of embodied resonance. Listening is about getting beyond projection, to a sensory experience of energy, including sound. In the space of resonance, information can be exchanged through attunement. But if we're caught up in attempting to decipher meaning in an experience, we lose the potential of communication and relationship, and just sit on top of the actual resonance. To really listen beyond the surface is a surrender and an allowance to receive and be received. It's a choice of awareness.*
In this way, listening may be the simplest yet most essential of creative acts. A place to begin from, before responsive action. Listening is also political — in a world that is suffering due to intense fragmentation, listening is a path of embodiment, relationship, decolonization and re-membering what has been scattered.
I often ask myself, How can we be instruments of the land? Can we hear the natural world speak, and come to know its language? How can the land guide us? Our listening? Our actions? How are we to be, with each other, on the land? What is the land dreaming?
Through my place-responsive work in sound, performance, sculpture and writing, it is my intention to dissolve surface associations and reveal what is underneath and felt by embracing nature's language and listening as wayfinding.
Bay of Fundy, January 2017
*Thanks to the pioneering work of composer and deep listener Pauline Oliveros. Photo by Shannon Webb-Campbell.