Author Archives: Tara

McCormack, Michael | Text

Finding A Pace, Sensing A Place

Josh Winkler (Mahkato/Mankato, Minnesota); and Lindsay Dobbin (Kanien’kehá:ka /Acadian/Irish based in K’jipuktuk/Halifax) in collaboration with Elder Angie Joseph-Rear, Michelle Olson and Matthew Morgan (Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in citizens) and Sharon Maureen Vittrekwa (Tetlit Gwich’in citizen).


Presented by: The Klondike Institute of Art & Culture

At The ODD Gallery, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in traditional territory (Dawson City, YT)

August 16th – September 22nd, 2018.

At Hermes Gallery, K’jiputuk (Halifax, NS)
March 2nd – 31st, 2019.


The Great Yukon River Path, colour woodcut print, 16”x20”, Josh Winkler, 2018.

“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.”

– Lindsay Dobbin, Artist statement, Bay of Fundy, 2017


“Each time I walk a footpath, whether stamped-down snow between parking lots, a deer trail in tall grass, or an extended hike for months in the woods, I find magic and metaphor in the collective path. Started by one, then maintained through collective use, the walking path is a living history between past and present and a thriving link between species.

The pace of foot travel & river travel foster intimate connections to the land. Our species evolved to travel this way, to carry the supplies of survival, and to develop extensive knowledge of plants and animals.”

– Josh Winkler from his BLOG entry Pace, September 30th, 2018


INFO/FLOE explores multiple perspectives of interacting with the land as an active keeper of memory, archivist, and teacher, through the work of two artists whose work involves deep listening, participatory workshops, considering found materials in installation, and using print media as a documentation and communication tool. Hosted by KIAC’s annual The Natural & the Manufactured residency and exhibition, INFO/FLOE considers the information that we leave behind and accumulate through our interactions with the environment.

As curator for the 2018 edition of The Natural & the Manufactured, I invited Josh Winkler and Lindsay Dobbin to create and present new work for the program. Having met both artists personally, in the Yukon and in Nova Scotia respectively, I was drawn to their methodology and work ethic, which they foster through experiential learning. Each artist nurtures an openness to and deep interest in listening to, respecting, and protecting the land. Working with them throughout KIAC’s The Natural & the Manufactured (N&M) program, we were able to respond to the complex relationships between production and resources, colonial and corporate motives, and the increasingly relevant conversation around human impact on the environment that are so inherent in contemporary life in the Klondike region.

For The N&M, Dobbin and Winkler each developed new work emerging from an experiential approach to art making, interacting with the land and fostering collaboration. They also approached their projects with a willingness to learn from the the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in people and residents of Dawson City.

Each artist’s works were created within the six weeks leading up to the N&M exhibition. The artists created with fresh eyes and ears, responding to recent experiences with a sense of immediacy and improvisation. Winkler’s work emerged from a two-week hike through the Chilkoot Trail and further shorter hikes in and around Dawson City. Dobbin collaborated remotely from their home on the Bay of Fundy in Mi’kma’ki (the ancestral and unceded territory of Lnu’k or Mi’kmaq), with three Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in citizens – Elder Angie Joseph-Rear, Michelle Olson and Matthew Morgan – and one Tetlit Gwich’in citizen – Sharon Maureen Vittrekwa.


Receive Transmit Receive Transmit: Yukon River, 2018. Photo: Matthew Morgan

The confluence of the Tr’ondëk River1 and the Yukon River 2 continues to be home to the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in people, who have lived alongside of, and maintained a harmonious and sustainable relationship with, the river for thousands of years. As we continue to depend on the river today, we owe tremendous thanks to the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in people who, while facing extreme difficulties, continue to consider the protection of water of paramount importance to the continuation of life.

Water is not only a central element in Lindsay Dobbin’s practice, but a deeply important part of their outlook and everyday experiences. Dobbin is a Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) – Acadian – Irish water protector, artist, musician, curator and educator who lives and works on the Bay of Fundy in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of Lnu’k. Born in and belonging to the Kennebecasis River Valley, the traditional territory of the Wəlastəkwiyik, Mi’kmaq and Passamaquoddy, Dobbin has lived throughout Wabanaki as well as the Yukon in Kwanlin Dün territory, and maintains a practice that includes a thorough process that acutely responds to direct experiences with ecology and places and is often equally, if not more, prominent than the final outcome of their work. For The N&M, they worked intently with a smaller group of people from a distance in Wapu’ek, which means the white waters in Mi’kmaq, on the Minas Basin, Bay of Fundy. Receive Transmit Receive Transmit uses FM radio frequencies to communicate through the air, while allowing remote participation between five individuals alongside two bodies of water — the Yukon River and the Bay of Fundy (Dobbin’s home body of water)3.  Dobbin prioritized working with Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in people, who continuously have been integral to maintaining respectful relationships between the ecology and people living and visiting the area.


Receive Transmit Receive Transmit: Bay of Fundy Intertidal Walk Lindsay Dobbin, 2018. Photo: Lindsay Dobbin.

Dobbin is acutely aware of the impact we make on our surroundings, whether as a mark in the sand, a splash in the water, or a sound in the air. The artist also explores how the notion of a “completed signal” overlooks the long-term impact that the communicative gesture has on the receiver. This impact, however subtle, almost always remains in some form of memory – in this case a documented natural recording. The impact may go unnoticed in our limited human sensorium, yet physically changes the shape of our surroundings, and in turn our understanding of the environment. Through effective communication,deep listening and participatory actions, Dobbin connected with each collaborator individually. They asked questions and responded to each other through conversation, syncing the pace of their surroundings by sharing descriptions and stories from each location.


Receive Transmit Receive Transmit, Lindsay Dobbin, 2018. Photo: Michael McCormack

Radio static itself is rich with texture. As an instrument, it helps us hear frequencies we can’t hear with the human ear alone. While at first it sounds like simply noise, when listened closely to or when slowed down, one can even find rhythm in the high frequency waves. Receive Transmit Receive Transmit invited visitors to become participants, to listen to the environment and dialogue between two places over FM radio receivers while walking the land. As the participants moved throughout the town of Dawson City, or along the Yukon River, they encountered three conversations bleeding into each other through overlapping radio signals. The intimate conversations reflect perspectives shared with the land and water over extended periods of time in Dobbin’s home on the Bay of Fundy in Mi’kma’ki, and Morgan, Olson, Joseph-Rear and Vittrekwa’s experiences with the Yukon River.

Receive Transmit Receive Transmit, Lindsay Dobbin, Michelle Olson, Angie Joseph-Rear and Matthew Morgan, 2018. Photo: Tara Rudnickas

Receive Transmit Receive Transmit is both a new and an ongoing project. Informed by recent experiences, while shaping future perspectives, it invites participants to “tune-in” to each other on multiple levels simultaneously, always allowing for the time and space necessary to find each others frequencies, to move forward, together. This is reflective of much of Dobbin’s practice. For example, in 2017 they worked with Nova Scotia artist Andrew Maize to create a work titled Kite and Rodas part of the Floating Warren Pavilion and Projects (curated by Zachary Gough, in Charlottetown, PE). Dobbin and Maize connected a mic to the end of a kite, and waterproofed and connected another mic to the end of a fishing line. The resulting listening experience allowed one to hear the sound of the wind and the sound of the underwater at the same time on a single headset.


Kite and Rod Lindsay Dobbin and Andrew Maize as part of The Floating Warren project with White Rabbit Arts Society at Flotilla Atlantic, 2017. Image Zachary Gough (project curator).

You can listen to an audio recording of this collaboration on Dobbin’s Soundcloud.

With radio, we rely on the resistance of the land or water to transmit signals over long distances. Receive Transmit Receive Transmit embraces those physical facts. Depending on the listener’s location, the audio comes across with varying degrees of clarity; occasionally there may be interference from another radio station. This offers a sense of playfulness, bringing recorded conversations to life through interaction with radio, a medium more often than not associated with real-time “live” broadcasts. Through the site-responsive audio installations in and around the Yukon River, Dobbin’s work allowed listeners to move at a pace in tune with the flow of water in both geographies.


Receive Transmit Receive Transmit: Yukon River Waterline, Matthew Morgan, 2018. Photo: Matthew Morgan

In her essay Remote Sensing, critical theorist Caroline Bassett suggests, “Perhaps we should think about these interactions not in terms of the messages they carry, but in terms of the emotional punch they pack.”4 Through highlighting the emotive qualities of media distribution, Bassett draws importance around our sensorial experiences when experiencing media through television, radio, or other media distribution sources. She breaks down the term “remote sensing” as a process involving a collaboration of senses that when communicating over distance are often overlooked or misread through a hierarchy of information over feeling. 

Yukon River Shoreline, Matthew Morgan, Dawson City. August 15th, 2018
Video: Matthew Morgan.

Dobbin was unable to visit Dawson City in person, and embraced distance as an opportunity to work simultaneously in multiple locations. They used remote sensing to cultivate connections with participants. This allowed for promotion of sensitivity and compassion through understanding the emotive and cultural sensitivities that are so vital to building long-term, mutually beneficial, meaningful relationships and collective resilience between people and between nations over such vast distances.

The participants of this project described their surroundings to each other, shared stories, and walked alongside their respective home bodies of water. They conversed about personal experiences, family stories, observations of wildlife, with a focus on sensorial feeling of being in each place. Through this fine-tuned communication, Dobbin, Morgan, Olsen, and Joseph-Rear were able to zero in on each other’s surroundings from a distance. Dobbin playfully requested different activities with each of the three Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in collaborators; one was to walk with them at the pace of the Fundy tides while they walked the pace of the Yukon River, another was to take pictures, to make a sound of a Raven, or sing a song.

These conversations were recorded, but only available to experience in real time as an FM radio broadcast throughout Dawson City, offering visitors an opportunity to “listen-in” on these intimate exchanges while travelling through town experiencing their own personal journey. Dobbin uses radio to bring the experience of listening to something that is not recorded, archived and kept for later, but insists on the urgency of listening in real-time through tuning in to 88.8 FM. Dobbin creates this work through a multi-tiered experience, not out of hierarchy, but out of a current need to respectfully connect first and foremost with the people of the river, the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, followed then by those who experience the project as listeners.


FM transmitters were placed in three locations throughout town transmitting conversations between Dobbin, Morgan, Olson and Joseph-Rear. They could be heard on 88.8 FM throughout the entire town and along the banks of the Yukon River and were transmitted from KIAC, The Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre, and the Old Post Office. Photo: Matthew Morgan.

Minnesotan artist Josh Winkler created several new works for The N&M during back-to-back residencies: a 6-week Natural & Manufactured residency in Dawson, preceded by a two-week Chilkoot Trail Residency with the Yukon Arts Centre, Parks Canada, and the US National Parks Service.

Hiker Handout Cards – Chilkoot Trail Residency, Josh Winkler, 2018

Winkler’s work involves in-depth research and consideration of materials that are found in the area of the Klondike, recorded and reproduced as manufactured objects. Bringing these objects into the gallery setting, Winkler intersects studio and installation work, enveloping materials gathered from his walks and hikes in critical contemplation. This act problematizes, and opens a conversation with, reconsidering objects of “historic significance.”


Klondike Tailings, woodcut on found wood, found objects, Josh Winkler, 2018. Photo: Janice Cliff

There is an incredible amount of material evidence in nearly every corner of Dawson City today. Abandoned print presses in buildings owned by Parks Canada, dredges left in tailing ponds, paddle wheelers shipwrecked on the riverside, and even a locked safe that was excavated from a construction site this past summer. The area is full of material that is preserved in climate controlled spaces by government archives or museums.5 The remains of these discarded gold rush items are considered significant enough to document, heavily research for authenticity, and sometimes marketed to tourists and reality TV shows.  

Winkler is aware of these contradictions. His installations in the ODD Gallery consider our relationship with materials that at times end up in museums, but ironically are often found on the side of the road, buried underneath buildings, along hiking trails, and in garages, storage areas and dumps. The largest piece in the gallery consists of dozens of found car tires meticulously cleaned, glazed, and stacked in columns floor to ceiling in the gallery space. This piece holds together a gravity within the conversation between all of the works in the room, bringing forth a material that is immediately recognizable, while reminding us that we are active contributors to the accumulation of materials that continue to make significant environmental impact in the north and globally. The tires as columns offer a throwback to both functional and cultural aspects of western architecture, a glimpse to both a future and past apocalypse.  

Column, Josh Winkler, 2018. Photo: Janice Cliff

Only very recently–starting with the 1897 Gold Rush–settlers have arrived in large numbers,6 bringing with them mining equipment, woodstoves, paddlewheelers, cars, newspapers, and many other tools and materials that have seriously altered our relationships with nature. Large scale developments have ensued, such as the construction of the White Pass Railroad, the Alaska Highway, logging roads, and recent mining and commercial fishing operations. Many of these projects have altered landscapes through large-scale erosion, contaminated water and soil, and air pollution. They have caused health issues for many rural and Indigenous communities. They have blocked off access to hunting and fishing and changed migration patterns for fish, caribou, and other animals.

Winkler’s exhibition Climb Cut Conquer was shown in the Yukon Arts Centre in Whitehorse in 2016. It is a body of prints and drawings that tell the story of the Calaveras Grove of Big Trees in Northern California. The work zeroes in on the destruction of the Discovery Tree through creating a graphite rubbing of the Discovery Stump as it exists today.

Josh Winkler,  Discovery Stump (process shot) Josh Winkler, 2014. Photo: Josh Winkler.

During the 6-week residency in Dawson City, Winkler created one of a kind rubbings of saw blades in his two works titled collection and horizon, illustrating how fragile and potentially impermanent memory can be. The saw blades were shown to Winkler by the Dawson City Fire Chief Jim Regimbal, who took Winkler to the Denhardt Cabin in North Dawson, one of the oldest gold rush era cabins that has not been moved. Winkler finds connections between the saw blades as images and the landscape. “I was thinking about the spruce tips defining the horizon (similar to the saw blades), the positivity of the rainbow, and the sort of ironic or playful gold rush reference,” states Winkler. With tourism placing so much emphasis on the gold rush as an iconic symbol of cultural significance in the Klondike, it is often hard to identify the many other significant attributes of the community. Winkler’s awareness and sensitivity toward this is evident in his work, acknowledging the irony around much of the gold rush era material that has been so meticulously preserved, engrained in everyday life becoming “less artifact, and more kitsch.”7

Collection (above) and Horizon (below), Josh Winkler, 2018. Photo: Janice Cliff.

A one of a kind print is unique, fragile, and relates to our place as stewards of our natural environment, and how environmental neglect can permanently affect future generations. The impact that the huge volume of material produced in and brought to the Yukon during the gold rush continues to be present, yet amidst the debris are numerous stories that are often overlooked. Much of the manufactured material that filled landfills and houses in Dawson during the gold rush still lives with us through time and is accompanied by shifting storylines told around them.

During the first half of the twentieth century, not long after the gold rush, the bond between radio and print media was still very much alive, often involving collaboration with newspapers, magazines, or sign makers. We see this throughout Dawson City, with painted signs, the Dawson Daily News building, the Old Post Office and other Parks Canada sites. Over time, our relationship with radio has changed from something that we ‘tune in’ to, calling for our undivided attention to  a peripheral experience within our industrial, commercial, and domestic environments. It has turned from something we intently listen to into an accompaniment to our daily activities. As print media becomes digitized, it continues to cooperate with live broadcast media, but has now become easily manipulated and updatable.

Uncertainty around who controls the media has been continuous throughout time, and questioning authenticity of our media sources is certainly necessary to attempt to maintain power balances. Within Dobbin’s work and within the N&M Exhibition as a whole, print and radio worked as collaborators. Visitors to the exhibition could wander through town, along a footpath, or alongside the river while listening to conversations from Dobbin’s work, perhaps coming across artifacts akin to what Winkler has uncovered and brought into his installation in the ODD Gallery. Immediate surroundings, readymade artifacts, interpretive prints, and recorded audio broadcasts are woven together to make an experience that feels deeply personal and unique to your own interpretation.

Through this project, Winkler and Dobbin created work that opens new conversations between their own personal experiences with nature.  They are both well aware of their relationships with material and the environment as temporary, and part of an ongoing, interconnected system that have had, and will continue to have influencers. Winkler created work reflecting on keen observations from found artifacts on previously worn footpaths of the Chilkoot trail and around Dawson City, and Dobbin created work through remote sensing and collaboration, listening to the landscape and stories of those who have lived in the area for thousands of years.

Whether walking through the town listening in on conversations about the river broadcast over radio, or experiencing work made up of collected material and interpretations of the landscapes through printed material, visitors experienced the effects of “real-time” radio, and recorded media on paper and through readymade sculptural works in the gallery.

When we consider a river, or a footpath as a means of distributing recorded information from one place to another (or from the past to present), we can begin to draw relations between Winkler’s and Dobbin’s means of communicating through recorded images or remote sensing. Dobbin considers the emotive impact of their work strongly throughout their creative processes. They become active contributors, picking up content found through artifacts, or through storytelling or deep listening that speak to the vastly different experiences that people have had when living in, and traveling through the land or water. Each of their creative processes offer us perspective that turn a distributed media of existing stories into a conversation; through freezing time by creating thought provoking imagery, or through highlighting the emotive qualities of a place, or story.


The Light of the Green Tunnel, Colour woodcut print, 20”x16”, Josh Winkler, 2018.


Michael McCormack
Curator for The Natural & The Manufactured, 2018.

Edited by Meg Walker

We would like to extend our gratitude to the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation for their continuous stewardship of this land, and for welcoming this project, and to the staff and volunteers of the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre, Parks Canada, and CFYT 106.9 FM for their support.

INFO/FLOE is part of KIAC’s the Natural & the Manufactured residency and exhibition.

Further information:

KIAC N&M Program:
Josh Winkler:
Lindsay Dobbin:
Michael McCormack:



Barber, Bruce. Radio: Audio Arts Frightful Parent Dan Lander and Micah Lexier (eds.), Sound by Artists (Toronto and Banff: Art Metropole and Walter Phillips Gallery, 1990), pp. 109-137.

Bassett, Caroline. Remote Sensing in Caroline A. Jones (ed.), Sensorium: Embodied Experience. Technology and Contemporary Art (Cambridge and London: The MIT Press, 2006) pp.200-201.

Peters, John Durham. Speaking into the Air: A History of the Idea of Communication. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2000.

Turck, Thomas J. and.Lehman Turck, Diane L. Trading Posts along the Yukon River: Noochuloghoyet Trading Post in Historical Context. Arctic, Vol. 45, No.1, March 1992, pp. 51-61.

Vipond, Mary. Listening In: The First Decade of Canadian Broadcasting, 1922 – 1932. McGill University Press, Montréal, 1992.

Winkler, Josh. The Chilkoot Trail Artist Residency. September 30, 2018. BLOG entry for WInkler’s website



The Natural & The Manufactured 2018

Klondike Institute of Art & Culture
Dawson City, Yukon, Canada

August 16 – September 22, 2018


(ODD Gallery)

LINDSAY DOBBIN in collaboration with ANGIE JOSEPH-REAR, MICHELLE OLSON, MATTHEW MORGAN (Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in citizens) & SHARON MAUREEN VITTREKWA (Tetlit Gwich’in citizen)
(Offsite: 88.8FM at ODD Gallery,Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre and the Old Post Office)



Exhibition Reception & Opening Remarks: 
Thurs. Aug 16th, 7:30pm
part of the Yukon Riverside Arts Festival

Location: ODD Gallery

Artist Talk with Josh Winkler: Friday. Aug  18, 7:30pm
Location: KIAC Ballroom
The talk will present a brief trajectory of the artist’s work, their recent Chilkoot Trail Residency experience, and finish, by discussing a new collection of works created in Dawson for KIAC’s ODD Gallery exhibition.

Curator’s Talk: Sat. Aug 19, 7pm
Location: KIAC Ballroom
Curator Michael McCormack discusses the approaches of both participating artists in this year’s exhibition INFO/FLOE. Through discussing this project he hopes to further understand our complicated and problematic relationships with the environment and promote media literacy, cultural production, and public access to an extensive variety of media. In what ways do we remain connected with each each other throughout generations, across vast distances, through remote sensing, skill-sharing, mark making, collective human memory, and experiential learning? How have all forms of media been utilized or exploited to communicate through time and distance?

Off-site audio installation: 88.8FM
Locations: ODD Gallery, Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre, the Old Post Office (3rd & King)
Receive Transmit Receive Transmit involves artist Lindsay Dobbin working remotely from the Bay of Fundy, connecting with three Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in citizens – Elder Angie Joseph-Rear, Michelle Olson and Matthew Morgan – over a vast distance in order to share land-based knowledge and experience together, finding resonance between two places — the Yukon River and the intertidal zone of the Bay of Fundy. Improvised actions emerged out of collaborative listening, some of which leave temporal traces in the landscape. The project explores how
kinship with land can be deepened through sharing and how the space between places can disappear through the combined use of modern technologies and the original form of communication: speaking to the land.

Three lo-fi transmitters are installed throughout town: at the ODD Gallery, Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre and the Old Post Office. Each transmitter is broadcasting to 88.8 FM, and features conversations Dobbin had with the three local collaborators.
Borrow a radio receiver, tune to 88.8 FM, and walk the land — listening to the environment and the dialogue between two places. Also be aware of residue in the landscape from these exchanges. The route is up to you.

We’re grateful to Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation for being continuous stewards of this land, and for welcoming this project.

CFYT 106.9FM: CONVERSATIONS with the artists and curator
Throughout the Yukon Riverside Arts Festival tune in to CFYT 106.9 FM to listen to conversations between The Natural & The Manufactured Curator Michael McCormack and artists Lindsay Dobbin and Josh Winkler.

Commissioned Text: by Exhibition Curator Michael McCormack
Fall 2018


is a project that brings together work from two methodologies of communicating with the land as archive; through listening and performance, and through synthetic reproduction of found objects. It considers the impermanence and malleability of information, language, experience and storytelling, through time-based, and print-based media. Josh Winkler, and Lindsay Dobbin have developed practices that deeply consider our relationships as stewards, protectors, active communicators and archivists of the natural environment.

During the Natural & the Manufactured residency in the summer of 2018, Dobbin and Winkler will create and present new works that continue their practice of deep listening, research, and correlation with the land, considering the natural environment as an active storyteller, performer, archivist, and foundation to our survival as a species. The final presentation will cumulate during the Yukon Riverside Arts Festival with an installation of Winkler’s work in the ODD Gallery and a temporary performance and a site-specific radio installation of Dobbin’s work with local collaborators.

Involving participatory performance, sound, and installation, Dobbin’s work is ecocentric, using listening as wayfinding. Their work intends to deepen our relationship with the natural world, and bridge our relationships with the natural environment that have been fragmented and scattered through colonization and industrialization.

Josh Winkler’s work involves in-depth research and consideration of materials that are found in the area of the Klondike, recorded and reproduced as manufactured objects. Through bringing these objects into the gallery setting, Winkler intersects his studio work with installation work, bringing materials gathered from his walks and hikes into a place of critical contemplation, thus problematizing, and opening a conversation that reconsiders objects of “historic significance”.

Throughout this project, both artists have been carefully considering the flow of information and how it is experienced, and eventually absorbed by our physical surroundings. It is an opportunity to reflect on how all forms of information intake influences our memories that are passed on through artifact, recorded information, environmental evidence, storytelling, or art making.

– Michael McCormack 2018




JOSH K. WINKLER is a Minnesota artist working primarily with traditional and contemporary print media. Since receiving his MFA from the University of Minnesota in 2010, Josh has been creating works on paper, running a small gallery, building a stone cabin, and exhibiting work nationally and internationally. He is currently an Associate Professor of Printmaking at Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minnesota. Winkler’s work stems from an interest in how humans manipulate and label the land. How time, politics, and social change alter the context of both natural and inhabited locations. By combining personal experience with historical investigation, Winkler builds layered landscape narratives to reflect on an uncomfortable disconnect between contemporary Americans and the history of the land. He utilizes a range of drawing, printmaking, and sculptural processes to facilitate these ideas.

is a Mohawk – Acadian – Irish artist, musician, curator and educator who lives and works on the Bay of Fundy in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the L’nu. Born in and belonging to the Kennebecasis River Valley in New Brunswick, Dobbin has lived throughout the Maritimes as well as the Yukon Territory. Dobbin’s place-responsive practice includes music, media art, performance, sculpture, installation, social practices and writing, and is invested in and influenced by Indigenous epistemologies and cultural practices, such as drumming. Through placing listening, collaboration and improvisation at the centre of the creative process, Dobbin’s practice explores the connection between the environment and the body, and engages in a sensorial intimacy with the living land.


MICHAEL MCCORMACK is an intermedia artist, curator, and educator of settler ancestry living in unceded territory of the Mi’Kmaq people in K’jiputuk (Halifax). He has worked extensively within the artist-run centre community as Director of Eyelevel Gallery from 2009-2013 and president and representative of the Association of Artist-Run Centres from the Atlantic from 2011-2013. He continues to work as an independent curator for exhibitions, festivals and events, most recently for Nocturne: Art at Night (2016), Flotilla Atlantic (2017), INTERPL/\Y (2017), and KIAC’s the Natural & the Manufactured exhibition (2018). Michael completed his MFA at NSCAD University in 2015 and has been steadily exhibiting in solo and group exhibitions in public galleries, festivals, and artist-run centres  since 2003 and is currently a member of Last Chants Studio, At The Reception and Hermes Gallery in Halifax, NS.


Images: Lindsay Dobbin, Intertidal Cymbal Works – Receive Transmit, Performance, 2018
Josh Winkler,  Klondike Tailings (detail) Color woodcut in 6 parts, 68”x120”, 2018


Buch, Marlaina | Text

Post exhibition text 2017

Tall Tales for Short Nights and Warm Planets
By Exhibition Curator Marlaina Buch


Narrative accounts of human/animal interactions are complex records. Encounter tales starring animals trend tall. Recollections of brief meetings between species are frequently spectacular, and carry in them ideas about humanity and our place in the world. In these tellings, animals are often symbols, omens, scapegoats, or guides to our wilder selves. Our inability to fully understand creatures that don’t use the same systems as us (language chiefly, but also gesture and expression) creates a gap easily filled with conjecture. To meet another creature’s eyes feels significant, meaningful – “It looked right at me.” Storytelling transforms sightings with the desires, fears, and imaginings of the narrator, frequently revealing more about the reporter than the subject.

Wild animals are mysterious and charismatic, they arrest our attention in the moments we share with them. Animals are indicators of seasonality, abundance (or scarcity), migration patterns, and changes in the biological condition of an ecosystem. Animal sightings connect us to the wider environmental web, acting as a gateway to noticing other subtler natural communities of plants, insects, fungi, rocks, and elements. Falling in love with a magnificent owl could make you curious about its home, what it eats, where it sleeps. You might spend more time trying to see one, looking for signs of its presence, listening for its call, wandering around at dusk. You might see other secretive, magical things happen when you walk in the woods. This attention can broaden the knowledge base of how creatures behave and what new pressures act upon them. If people don’t spend time on the land, ears pricked, eyes scanning, the environmental memories of previous generations are foreshortened. If comparative changes in the natural world aren’t recorded and transmitted to a population that sticks around, there is less cause for alarm when things shift. The baseline of what’s normal in the natural world shrinks to a few seasons, a few stories. Animal encounter reports are a way of communicating what is being observed in the natural world. Comparative reports can preserve the biological history of a place and mark when changes occur.

Artists Leila Armstrong and Lisa Hirmer spent 6 weeks in Dawson City collecting stories of animal encounters from locals, tourists, and transients. These tales informed the creation of new artworks based on community research and collaboration. As with any sample, certain themes recurred. The recent appearance of species uncommon to northerly climes was noted, as was the necessity of bartering with the town’s resident sassy ravens. Stories tended to break down into three rough categories: tourist stories told by visitors, local stories centered around feelings of wonder or awe, local stories that involved considerable negotiation between humans and animals. Collectively, these stories acted as an informal case history of human/animal interactions in the Dawson area.

Tourist stories followed an arc without a rising action, crisis or climax, and tended to be flat accounts of seeing an animal at the roadside, usually at a distance in a vehicle. Photographing the animal would conclude the story and leave the photographer with an image that captured the thrill of the encounter, represented an authentic moment with place, and could be shared with others as an emblematic travel experience. These accounts left the artists without much to interpret, but helped to identify the kinds of animals one might see in the Yukon. Stories were characterized by spatial and emotional distance, and reinforced the idea that animals occupy a space that is different from humans – somewhere “out there in the wild.”

Stories from local residents that focused on feelings of fascination with seeing wild animals described animals as being in “their” appropriate environment/habitat/space, a space slightly different than those normally occupied by humans. These stories were observational and lasted longer, where humans and animals shared a brief moment as their paths crossed, with a very perceptible sense of their bodies being adjacent. Proximity played an important role. The landscape was pulled much closer into the encounter, feeling more like a room than a vast forest or vista. Storytellers remarked that they felt awe in the presence of animals and the gaze between them was reported to have felt significant or personal.

Hirmer’s photograph A Glassiness to the Eyes came from a curiosity in the human-animal gaze, the common moment in a story when eyes meet and something is exchanged between two species. It was created using Google’s Artificial Neural Networks, programming designed to simulate the human brain’s ability to recognize images. Hirmer applied a version of this code to an image of the forest around Crocus Bluff, a popular place to look out at Dawson and the surrounding landscape. Surprisingly, the neural network “saw” an astonishing number of eyes in a scene a human brain would instantly know was just forest, reminding us of the incredibly complex capacity, fine-tuned by evolution, of the human/animal mind to instantly recognize eyes looking at us. Hirmer then overlaid the original forest image with this “eye image”, creating a composite wallpaper with mysterious, fairytale qualities that draws us into an uncanny gaze.

Far and away the most common and most interesting stories told by locals involved a great deal of negotiation between humans and animals, where the interaction required sustained attention, confusion about communication, and resulted in an unpredictable resolution. These stories described the uncertainty of animals coming into human space – mostly yards, sheds, dog pens, greenhouses, outhouses, etc. When animals entered into places where humans live, work, and survive, very practical issues came into play, and often involved considerable complexity. A typical story arc would describe surprise at encountering an animal in an atypical space, a struggle to understand the animal’s non-verbal communication cues, occasional misinterpretation of an animal’s intentions or feelings, and a desire to come to a mutually copacetic outcome, which was not always achieved. These stories made for more satisfying source material because they followed the structure of dialogue – information being passed back and forth in a continuously recalibrated exchange, rather than one way interpretation. Animals felt much more like co-creators of the story and active participants instead of subjects or mysterious, speechless, unknowable entities. Interestingly, in negotiation stories, an animal’s status fluctuated considerably depending on its perceived willfulness. Bears in particular were singled out as being potentially problematic visitors, not only dangerous, but likely to return. Bears that could not be convinced to leave after a few attempts to shoo them away (with gunshots, pepper spray, or banging pots and pans, among other techniques) were often shot. Fear and unpredictability escalated interactions quickly and recategorized bears into pests, with rapid action necessary to avoid a situation worsening or safety being significantly impacted. Often the decision to deal with bears more harshly was made after determining they were “not afraid of humans.” Not all bear stories finished this way. Several described moments of sometimes uncomfortable or unsure bargaining combined with curiosity, wonder, and feelings of successfully communicating with a bear.

Lisa Hirmer’s photographic series Certainties to which we’ve become accustomed, was inspired by differences in stories told by tourists (seeing an animal at a remove, on the side of the road, as separate from the viewer) and locals (animals in shared space, animals crossing into human space, where there is more of a negotiation). Hirmer wanted to “capture the sense of a startling encounter with a large animal in the spaces we think of as ours.” These images of animals in domestic spaces mimic the way we often see animals in nature – as a quick glimpse in forest – but instead are in the spaces in which we feel most at ease, where everything is scaled to our bodies and an animal encounter is truly unsettling.

Leila Armstrong’s drawings capture the climax point of the most compelling negotiation stories collected. Their cartoon style implies a narrative where outcomes and morals can only be guessed at and human and animal characters often swap places. Armstrong targets the ways stories can shift with a simple change of protagonist, context, or location. These drawings are a partial reveal of a more complex account, but highlight the uncertainties of storytelling and our deep desire to fill in information where it’s missing.

The exhibition’s decoy animals act as narrative prompts, encouraging viewers to think about their own encounter stories. Animal representations, whether as miniatures, reproductions, or decorations create an immediate jumping off point for narrative. The animals chosen are present in the local area, but occupy a more minor presence or are newcomers filling new niches created by climate change. Their presence in the gallery points to greater shifts happening out on the land.

Humans make up all kinds of narratives about animals, some more instructive than others. This too is a matter of positioning, of perspective. The degree of assumed difference between humans and animals is cultural. A person whose culture believes animals are ancestors and whose relationship with nature is one of kinship and belonging will tell a story different from one whose culture believes animals are separate, unknowable beings or pests to be “dealt with.” Embodied, emotional, sensory encounters with animals can challenge abstract ideas about nature and who we think we are relative to “nature.” Encountered animals aren’t passive characters onto which all meaning is projected, but rather are active, unstable, uncontrollable non-human actors–they make the story along with the person, though their experience remains beyond our absolute understanding. This has particular implications for how we interact with each other as humans whose codes, expectations and customs don’t always align, in a changing world where uncertainty, negotiation, and competition for resources are encountered every day. When we anthropomorphize or tell tall tales, those narratives say more about us than the animal we’ve encountered. By simply being present and watchful, we can begin to think about animals in terms of their own experiences, in their own environment.

Marlaina Buch makes art, writes, organizes exhibitions, facilitates community projects and falls somewhere on the arts spectrum between maker and doer. She has a background in art education and public engagement and her practice uses creative education, experiential and collaborative workshops, typography, printmaking, critical writing and performance to investigate social and environmental challenges, absurdity, and the potential of public space. She lives in Nanaimo BC.


The Natural & The Manufactured 2017

Klondike Institute of Art & Culture
Dawson City, Yukon, Canada


August 17 – September 23, 2017


Opening Reception: Thurs. Aug 17, 7:00pm (part of Yukon Riverside Arts Festival’s Gallery Hop!)
Location: ODD Gallery

A collaborative, theatrical research project using tall tales of animal encounters collected from the community. Tall Tales for Short Nights and Warm Planets consists of drawings, photographs and performance created by Lisa Hirmer and Leila Armstrong over the course of a 6-week residency in Dawson City.

Performance: Tall Tales for Campfires: Thurs. Aug  17, 10:00pm
Location: Front Street Fire Pit

The Natural & the Manufactured residency artists Lisa Hirmer and Leila Armstrong will be telling tall tales around the campfire at the First Avenue fire pit (at the foot of Princess Street). Get ready to hear some stories loosely based on local animal encounters and perhaps share some of your own yarns. (Weather permitting. Please feel free to bring your own lawn chairs or blankets for seating)

Artist Talk: Sat. Aug 19, 7pm
Lisa Hirmer
Leila Armstrong
Panel Discussion with Marlaina Buch to follow
Location: KIAC Ballroom

The Natural & the Manufactured residency artists Lisa Hirmer and Leila Armstrong will present artist talks followed by a panel discussion with exhibition curator Marlaina Buch. Each artist will give a brief overview of their practice leading up to Tales for Short Nights and Warm Planets, and their work in the exhibition, on display in the ODD Gallery until September 23, 2017.

Curator’s Talk August 17th, 6:30pm
Location: KIAC Ballroom

Can we ever know *the secret internal stirrings of animals?* or are they inherently unknowable? What does it mean to meet a creature’s eyes? With differences in communication ability, perception, eyesight, biological priorities, and appropriate responses, how can we be sure of what’s really going on when we chance upon a wild citizen? Curator Marlaina Buch’s talk invites participants to toss around ideas about animal encounters and what they can tell us about ourselves.

Commissioned Text by Exhibition Curator Marlaina Buch

Narrative accounts of human/animal interactions are complex records. Encounter tales starring animals trend tall. Recollections of brief meetings between species are frequently spectacular, and carry in them ideas about humanity and our place in the world. In these tellings, animals are often symbols, omens, scapegoats, or guides to our wilder selves. Our inability to fully understand creatures that don’t use the same systems as us (language chiefly, but also gesture and expression) creates a gap easily filled with conjecture. To meet another creature’s eyes feels significant, meaningful – “It looked right at me.” Storytelling transforms sightings with the desires, fears, and imaginings of the narrator, frequently revealing more about the reporter than the subject.

Wild animals are mysterious and charismatic, they arrest our attention in the moments we share with them. Animals are indicators of seasonality, abundance (or scarcity), migration patterns, and changes in the biological condition of an ecosystem. Animal sightings connect us to the wider environmental web, acting as a gateway to noticing other subtler natural communities of plants, insects, fungi, rocks, and elements. Falling in love with a magnificent owl could make you curious about its home, what it eats, where it sleeps. You might spend more time trying to see one, looking for signs of its presence, listening for its call, wandering around at dusk. You might see other secretive, magical things happen when you walk in the woods. This attention can broaden the knowledge base of how creatures behave and what new pressures act upon them. If people don’t spend time on the land, ears pricked, eyes scanning, the environmental memories of previous generations are foreshortened. If comparative changes in the natural world aren’t recorded and transmitted to a population that sticks around, there is less cause for alarm when things shift. The baseline of what’s normal in the natural world shrinks to a few seasons, a few stories.

Artists Leila Armstrong and Lisa Hirmer are spending 6 weeks in Dawson City collecting stories of animal encounters from locals, tourists, and transients. These tales will inform the creation of new artworks based on community research and collaboration. As with any sample, certain themes have already recurred. The recent appearance of species uncommon to northerly climes has been noted, as has the necessity of bartering with sassy ravens. In Dawson, bears fall from trees and plastic deer walk down the main drag. It’s a unique town. These are unique stories. By teasing out ideas about who we are relative to “nature”, these artists ask if new rituals can be created to orient ourselves within the natural world.  (click for full text)


Lisa Hirmer an interdisciplinary artist whose work spans social practice, visual media, performance, community collaboration and experimental forms of publishing. Working under the pseudonym DodoLab, she explores the complicated nature of public opinion and the public life of ideas. In her photo- based work she studies the forces that transform ecological systems and human relationships with the more-than-human world. She has shown her work across Canada and internationally including at Confederation Centre of the Arts, Harbourfront Centre, Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, Doris McCarthy Gallery, Peninsula Arts (U.K.), Blackwood Gallery (Mississauga), Nuit Blanche (Toronto), CAFKA (Kitchener-Waterloo) and Flux Factory (USA). She was recently commissioned by the Art Gallery of Ontario to create a new work in response to the sesquicentennial as part of Every.Now.Then. Recent residencies include Time_Place_Space by Arts House (Australia), the Santa Fe Art Institute and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. Hirmer is a graduate of the University of Waterloo School of Architecture and is currently based in Guelph, Canada.


Leila Armstrong has an M.A. in Media Studies from Concordia University. She works both independently and in collaboration with other artists such as Chai Duncan (in 12 Point Buck) and Darcy Logan, Maria Madacky, and Rick Gillis (in M.E.D.I.U.M.).  Her most recent solo exhibition was “Coyote,” a body of work addressing the intersection of wildlife with rural, suburban, and urban spaces. Her interest in traditional natural history methodologies and their intersection with drawing and printmaking has led her to her current focus on those methods. Armstrong also organizes bi-annual community-based exhibitions titled“Cabinet of Queeriosities” that celebrate LGBTQ history, identity, culture and pride through a diverse range of subject matters and approaches.


Marlaina Buch makes art, writes, organizes exhibitions, facilitates community projects and falls somewhere on the arts spectrum between maker and doer. She has a background in art education and public engagement and her practice uses creative education, experiential and collaborative workshops, typography, printmaking, critical writing and performance to investigate social and environmental challenges, absurdity, and the potential of public space. She lives in Nanaimo BC.

Leila Armstrong  | Ravens, ink on paper, 30 “x 22”, 2017

Lisa Hirmer  |  A Glassiness to the Eyes, archival inkjet print, 80″ x 20″, 2017

Leila Armstrong  | Bear Falling Out Of Tree, ink on paper, 30 “x 22”, 2017

Lisa Hirmer |  Certainties to Which We’ve Become Accustomed, detail, archival inkjet print 30″ x 24″, 2017

Yates, Kevin + Yates, Robert


migratory (patterns)
off-site installation at Ruby’s Place

For their off-site project migratory (patterns), Robert Yates and Kevin Yates worked in Ruby’s Place, a Parks Canada heritage building that is part of the Klondike National Historic Sites in Dawson City. Their two-channel video installation begins with the brothers’ observation that birds migrate across cultural boundaries as if all spaces are home, while humans treat distant geographies as separate.

Initial stages of the work emerged when Robert and Kevin traveled to New Orleans and Grand Isle, Louisiana. Struck by the overlap between the bird species found there and those found in southeastern Canada, the brothers became interested in the way various regions are intimately connected through bird migration. The recent habitat loss and devastation in New Orleans, for example, can easily influence what birds could be seen in abundance or decline in Ontario, Quebec, or the Yukon. While the birds find shared habitats in different regions, the cultures themselves have become isolated and view themselves as distinct and disjointed, despite having intertwined histories.

While the birds find shared habitats in different regions, the cultures themselves, though perhaps having intertwined histories, have become isolated and view themselves as distinct and disjointed.

Human migration to Dawson City was massive during the Klondike Gold Rush. While many individuals’ identities remain unknown, some of them certainly stayed at Ruby’s Place, as it was once a brothel and later a boarding house. Yates and Yates chose the building because the layers of wallpaper still clinging to the structure offer visitors a palpable sense of time.
The artists created backgrounds based on some of those fragmented vintage wallpapers. They then videoed migratory birds (mostly redpolls and pine siskins) near the Yukon River and edited the footage so the birds come and go from the patterns.

migratory (patterns) – upstairs wallpaper (photo: Robert Yates)

The installation of migratory (patterns) involves a projection in Ruby’s ground floor and a second projection on the floor above, which is viewed through a hole in the ceiling. The wallpaper-traveling birds are mirrored and multiplied, producing a pleasurable and mesmerizing effect that is heightened when the flock disappears from one projection and appears seconds later in the other.

Birds have the potential to embody the possibilities of dissolved cultural boundaries, yet they often fail to do so except to those who care to learn about or remember the birds’ instinctual and ancient routes and habits.

migratory (patterns) presents a human-generated “landscape” for the digitized birds to rest in, a gesture that invites us to consider their interactions with the natural landscape, and by extension, our own.

migratory (patterns) seen on the way into Ruby’s Place (photo: Noémie Fortin)

Kevin Yates and Robert Yates began collaborating in 2011. The brothers blend video, photography, and mixed media to construct sculptural/video installations and site-specific projects. They create unnatural dream-like viewing experiences, with uncanny open-ended narratives. The works depict subtle intersections between natural and cultural worlds, leading the viewer to question perspectives and germinate new understandings.

ROBERT YATES (Ste Julienne, PQ) Robert Yates employs his film production experience to create video works that first conjure stillness, then morph into multiplying and/or mirrored images. The slippage between interior and exterior seems constant yet is impossible, since the images reflect layers but will not break open to further ones below.

Robert Yates received his Honours BA in Cultural Studies from Trent University with an emphasis on critical and postmodern thought as well as art, cinema, theatre and media studies. He followed this with a BFA in film making at Simon Fraser University, where he began to explore the notion of film as artefact and its relationship to the difficulty in accessing the past despite its apparent fidelity to reality by manufacturing experimental narrative works that took on the guise of pieces recovered from previous eras but whose content would not cooperate with its expected genre or era-reference.

Current creative projects include an experimental film inspired by and using material gathered during the 2016 KIAC artist residency. It seems it may continue in that same vein begun during his studies and which has continued to inform his work. Kevin and Robert are attempting to undertake a larger work similar to the one at Ruby’s Place but spanning a larger geography possibly from Louisiana to southeastern Ontario or Quebec and hopefully back to Dawson. The project is currently in the planning/financing phase.

KEVIN YATES (Toronto, ON) Kevin Yates is known for his sculptural works, often highly realized miniatures, doubled to resemble a reflection in water. He likens his work to film stills: objects that hold a “pause” in space, offering the viewer time to examine and inspect.

He creates installation experiences which confound the expectation of knowing-through-seeing, setting the stage for a perpetual mystery. He is particularly interested in crime scenes, in the cold relationship that exists between the tragedy on screen and the scrutiny of the viewer. To echo this gaze, his work often takes the form of highly realistic miniatures. These miniature objects are experienced both as real physical objects but because of their inaccessible scale, they also read as an image.

Professor Yates holds a BFA from NSCAD and an MFA from the University of Victoria, and is currently an Associate Professor in the Visual Art & Art History Department at York University.

Kevin Yates has exhibited broadly throughout Canada and the U.S., including a solo show at the ODD Gallery in 2009. Solo exhibitions of note include shows at the Susan Hobbs Gallery (Toronto), Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa), Tom Thomson Art Gallery (Owen Sound), Artspeak (Vancouver), and YYZ Artists’ Outlet (Toronto). His work has appeared in group exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (Halifax), The University Galleries at Illinois State University (Chicago),) and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and is in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, Ontario Art Gallery and the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montreal. Kevin Yates is represented by the Susan Hobbs Gallery in Toronto.

Volcano Collective

Volcano Collective (Karen Kazmer & Deborah Koenker, Vancouver, BC) |
Northern Howl


Approaching the Yukon with fascination and awe, Volcano Collective researched
Yukon life and attitudes through conversations and interviews. They met people at
restaurants, at the Dawson City Music Festival, during the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First
Nation’s Moosehide Gathering, in grocery stores, and on the streets.

Learning that dogs hold a distinctive role in Yukon lore – and are even popularly
thought to outnumber people in Dawson City – led Kazmer and Koenker to focus
their story-gathering on tales about dogs. Whether they are pets, working sled
dogs, or hunting companions, dogs are a link to wolves. Stories about our
relationships with canines can reveal some of our desires to connect both with
another species and with wilderness.

The resulting mixed-media installation Northern Howl immerses viewers in
a choreography of audio recordings, projections and sculptures, including a
pneumatically-driven “breathing” sculpture that boasts images from the local
landfill – one location where our professed love of wilderness is challenged by our
daily habits.

Volcano Collective presented more than 40 portraits of dogs owned by Dawsonites who also shared their canine tales. (Photo credit: Volcano Collective)

In the centre of the room, rotating lights inside a glowing paper sculpture cast
shadows of dogs and bears against the paper’s surface, echoing the way firelight
changes a shadow’s shape when the flames move. This central installation is
bracketed by recreations of the constellations Ursa Major (the bear), Canis Major
(the dog) and Lupus (the wolf).

The invocation of star-gazing and fire-watching – both longstanding human
activities – reminds us that it is an ancient human habit to respond to the natural
world by inventing mythologies. Two hybrid wolf-dog sculptures in vitrines embody,
through their monstrous uncanny mutations, the possibility of mythological
creatures still waiting to evolve.

Northern Howl reflects Volcano Collective’s community-shaped perceptions back to
Yukoners and tourists alike for enjoyment, discussion, and dispute.

Northern Howl – centre of room (detail) (photo credit: Noémie Fortin)


KAREN KAZMER (Vancouver, BC) uses installations and public artworks as ongoing investigations of architectural space, and human and animal interaction, originating from an interest in the body as messenger. She has worked with light, mixed media and pneumatics in producing exhibitions for galleries in Canada and the U.S.

Kazmer received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of British Columbia and her Master of Fine Arts from York University. She currently teaches part time at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and previously has taught at York University. Her community-based public art projects seek imagery from community workshops, collaborations, and on-site activities of people and animals.

DEBORAH KOENKER (Vancouver, BC) is an artist with interests in writing and curatorial projects. Her years of teaching as Associate Professor at Emily Carr University of Art and Design have been an integral component of her art practice. She received a B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara, did post graduate work at Central St. Martins in London, England, and earned an M.F.A. from Claremont Graduate University in Southern California.
Koenker works in a variety of materials and media, making prints, drawings, sculptural objects and installations. Her installations explore sociopolitical themes using a range of media (photography, collage, sculpture, audio, text, drawing, embroidery) to produce a strong visual and sensory experience. Her work has been exhibited in Canada, Mexico and the USA over the past 30 years.

As an immigrant to Canada, Koenker is interested in borders, globalization, migration/immigration, and the difficulties of cultural integration, building community, and social justice. Personal narratives are increasingly important to her practice; her 2016 Kelowna Art Gallery exhibition Grapes and Tortillas, for example, includes texts written by temporary seasonal agricultural workers from Mexico who come to work in the Okanagan Valley, BC and across Canada.

Ritter, Kathleen | The Sound of North

Saturday, August 13th, 7:30PM in the KIAC Ballroom

As a starting point for a first trip north, Ritter will use the words of Glenn Gould,
spoken 50 years ago, and imagine what they would sound like if spoken today:

“I’ve long been intrigued by that incredible tapestry of tundra and taiga which
constitutes the Arctic and sub-Arctic of our country. I’ve read about it, written
about it, and even pulled up my parka once and gone there. Yet like all but a very
few Canadians I’ve had no real experience of the North. I’ve remained, of necessity,
an outsider. And the North has remained for me, a convenient place to dream
about, spin tall tales about, and, in the end, avoid.” — Glenn Gould, Introduction
to The Idea of North, 1967

Kathleen Ritter logging the outtakes for Glenn Gould’s Idea of North


Ritter is an artist and a curator. She was an artist in residence at La Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris, as a recipient of the Canada Council for the Arts International Residencies Program in Visual Arts, in 2013. Working with sound, photography, video, and text, often in collaboration, Ritter has exhibited her work across Canada. She was recently commissioned, along with composer James B. Maxwell, to develop a soundtrack for the international conference Institutions By Artists based on the minutes from the organizers’ board meetings.

Ritter was the Associate Curator at the Vancouver Art Gallery until 2012, where she curated the exhibitions How Soon Is Now; Beat Nation: Art, Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture (with Tania Willard); WE: Vancouver (with Bruce Grenville); Rebecca Belmore: Rising to the Occasion (with Daina Augaitis); and commissioned public artworks for Offsite by Damian Moppett, Kota Ezawa, Elspeth Pratt, and Heather and Ivan Morison.
Kathleen Ritter and her brother, composer David Ritter, will be KIAC artists-in-residence December 2016.

Ritter, Kathleen | The Tour

Post-exhibition text for The Natural & The Manufactured 2016

The two artist duos creating work for The Natural & The Manufactured 2016 explored the overlaps between the perceivable and the imaginable. Despite knowing, for example, that pine siskins migrate between Northern Mexico and the Yukon, it is difficult to imagine flying those distances, at such windy heights. And hearing a story about finding and raising ten puppies might be just as hard to imagine in detail.

It’s a pleasure to try and imagine those kinds of journeys from the non-human participants’ point of view. Arguably, the act of attempting to see the world from another being’s perspective is one of the many personal, subjective interactions necessary to maintain empathy for other species. That empathy in turn can lead to discussions about how to balance the impacts of the manufactured on the natural.

We perceive many facts and realities about the natural world’s rhythms, but there is still so much more to imagine, to understand.

Kathleen Ritter employs an immersive, creative approach with her written response to Northern Howl and migratory (patterns). Part speculative fiction, part description of the two installations as time capsules, The Tour addresses how fragile is our knowledge of the natural world— and how robust.

The Tour
by Kathleen Ritter (bio available here)

My guide meets me at the edge of the town. I’ve been here a day and a half already, waiting, nursing feet worn with blisters. I stand up to greet her. She lifts her head and throws her arms around me in an unexpected embrace. “It’s been many months since we’ve had an outsider. Welcome.”

I wrestle my swollen feet into boots and stamp out the fire. We are standing on low ground, in the middle of the riverbed where I pitched camp. This place was once called the confluence: the place where the two rivers met. The riverbed, now completely dry, glistens in the sunlight. It is littered with bones, bleached white in the long days of summer, when the sun barely sets.

The riverbed is flat, and today it is the only passable route north. The ground elsewhere is dug up and turned over into heaving masses of gravel tailings from the dredges, and are not practical to cross on foot. Nothing grows here anymore. People rarely make the trip, not only because it is onerous, but because they are superstitious of the riverbed. My guide takes my hand and we start walking towards the old town. It’s only then that I realize she is blind. “How did you find me?” I ask.

“It was easy,” she replies, laughing. “There’s not much living around here these days.”

“Right. Of course.”

We walk together. The air is silent. Today birds don’t even fly overhead. They’ve changed their migration routes to avoid this area, just like the airplanes.

We hear the sound of our footsteps. I’ve gotten used to stepping on bones. At first, out of respect, I tried to avoid them, but there are too many. I hear them grinding under my boots with each step. During the long journey to come here I tempered my unease by trying to identify them, scientifically, matching them to animals I studied, animals now long gone. This skeleton is surely a salmon, I said to myself. This one must be the hind leg of a dog. There are human bones as well. I wondered about the people who lived here, the ones who didn’t make it to higher ground.

migratory (patterns) view upon entry (photo: Noémie Fortin)

“You are studying the animals that were once here?”

I nod. “Yes.” I add, remembering that she can’t see.

“They never returned. The few animals that survived moved to higher ground. There were warning signs. My ancestors listened to the land rumbling and followed the animals.”

“They were lucky.”

“They were smart,” she stops, correcting me. “And resourceful—they learned how to cultivate enough food from what remained. The rest of the land is barren; some believe it’s haunted. The roads were too broken to fix, planes refused to land. They dropped food in for a while, but after time they stopped flying overhead. We became disconnected and isolated.” She speaks as if she lived through it herself. I know the story well, but her retelling makes it real.

The town sank four generations ago, when the Tintina and Denali fault lines ruptured within a few weeks of each other. The immediate impact was devastating. The earth shook, water rose up from the ground and covered the lowlands in a series of flash floods that were so unexpectedly toxic, they left the soil infertile. Only a few people at the epicentre remained—namely my guide’s relatives—but little is known about how they managed to survive.

Despite all this, a handful of buildings in the town were left standing. As the temperatures climbed in the years that followed the quakes, the permafrost thawed, and the land dried up. The ground became so uneven that the few remaining structures leaned and fell into each other, eventually collapsing into heaps of wooden slats. “I want to know about the dogs. Can you tell me about them?” I ask my guide. “There was a time when dogs outnumbered people in this town. They were everywhere. They were different colours and different breeds. Some were as large as wolves. You could hear them howling at night. One would start and others followed, until the night air was filled with a chorus of howls so loud, it shook the moon.” I close my eyes and try to imagine the sound of dogs howling.

“My great-great-grandmother had a dog. He followed her to high ground and never left her side. She would talk to him as if he were human. She would tell him everything: her thoughts, her feelings, even her secrets. They grew old together. When he passed away, she was devastated. He was the last dog ever seen.”

Northern Howl (detail) (photo credit: Volcano Collective)

We are both silent for a moment.

“We are not sure when the animals will return. It might take a few more generations. Until then, my family will keep the exhibits open. We want to remember.”

We arrive in front of a building leaning so precariously to one side that half of the roof has slid off and lies in a heap in the adjacent lot. Flecks of pale green paint decorate the exterior slats of the facade, a hint of the colour it once was. The door has fallen off its hinges and remains permanently propped open. She invites me inside. It is dark and I can barely see.

She takes a battery out of her pocket. “You’ll need this,” she says wryly as she uses it to power up the room. The lights flicker and several images appear on the walls. I hear voices speaking. To the left on the ground, a mound of ice rises and falls, as if it is breathing. I jump.

“Don’t worry,” she giggles. “It’s not real.”

I kneel down and reach out a hand to touch it. It’s not cold—probably made of styrofoam. Its movement is mesmerizing. Above it are images of dogs projected on the wall. I’ve never seen a dog. I’ve only read descriptions of them. I stare at the changing images. Dogs are more varied than I expected.

My eyes begin to adjust as I stand up and look around the room. There are mirrors on the wall, connected with blue lines in the shape of a dog and a bear. She points up in their general direction. “These are called constellations. People used to believe that the stars in the night sky were connected in ways that resembled animals.”

“Yes, I know.” I say. Then, with curiosity, “When did your people stop believing there were animals in the sky?”

She shrugs. “When the animals left the land and the birds abandoned the sky, I suppose.”

Two vitrines contain sculptures of dogs. I take a closer look at one. It is made of plaster, a swath of fur on its back, and a rubber mask for the head. I walk over to the other and examine it. It’s also made of plaster and its head is raised, as if howling. There is a small patch of fur around its neck. It looks cold, and fake. “Is this really what they looked like?” I ask, skeptically.

Northern Howl hybrid futuristic creature (detail) (photo credit: Volcano Collective)

“Of course,” she says with a dismissive wave, irritated. I feel embarrassed. Her family was the last to know dogs while I’ve only studied them in books. Still, I can’t help but think that some things have been lost in translation.

There is a fur coat splayed on the wall, a plaster animal head in the centre that could be a dog or a bear, I’m not sure which. Images of fur are projected overtop. In the centre of the room there is paper draped from the ceiling to the floor in a long oval. It is illuminated from inside, with shadows projected on the walls. Outlines of dogs dance across the paper as the shadows rotate. The voices I hear seem to come from inside the illuminated room. I stand closer, leaning in.

“Over the years my family recorded stories from everyone we knew who had a dog. Those are the voices you hear now.”

I listen to the stories. There was a dog who stole a turkey. A dog with a glass eye. A blind dog named Katie who was kind. There were stories of missing dogs and distraught owners. There was a dog pulled out of water by its owner. People spoke of their dogs with tenderness. They spoke of dogs curled up in bed with them. They all had names. I had read that people kept dogs as companions, but only now could I imagine it.

I take out my book to make some notes. “Would you mind if I stayed here for a while?” “Please. Stay as long as you like.”

Northern Howl (detail) (photo credit: Volcano Collective)

My guide leaves and returns a few hours later with an armful of bones. She lays them in the corner. “I’m going to add these to the exhibit,” she tells me. “If you come next year, there will be more.” I doubt that I will make the journey again, but I agree nonetheless, not wanting to disappoint her.

“I want to show you another exhibit we made.” She takes my hand in hers, and leads me to the next building. It is equally dilapidated. “This one is dedicated to the birds.” We turn sideways to pass through the narrow entrance, and step inside. There are several rooms I can just make out by the light streaming through cracks in the wooden slatted exterior. The inside walls still have scraps of wallpaper on them, decorated with repeating motifs of flowers and plants, remnants of an extravagant past. They seem familiar, perhaps because I’ve come across diagrams of ornate flowers like these in my studies.

“What is this building?” I ask.

“It was once a brothel,” she tells me. “It was run by a woman from Paris who went by the name ‘Ruby’. Her clientele was mostly workers from the dredge camps, back in the day when there was still gold in the ground and the town was full of people mining it. We call this building ‘Ruby’s Place’.”

I look around and try to imagine what it would have been like. Fancy, no doubt. I hear birds chirping and follow the sound to the next room. Suddenly I see several birds, six or seven. They fly in. Each one perches on a different motif in the wallpaper. They are small and animated and loud. I check behind me to see if my guide is paying attention, and lean in furtively to touch one. Instead my fingers graze paper.

My guide hears me recoil and laughs. Nothing escapes her apparently. “Don’t get your hopes up—they are not real either. It’s a projection. We found a recording years ago.” They are convincing nonetheless. “What kind of birds are these?”

“Pine siskins and redpolls. They were a migratory species that used to pass through the Yukon in late summer.”

I watch the projection, captivated. The birds fly in and land on their perches, rest for a while, then fly away. I look up through a hole in the ceiling to the floor above. There is another projection, superimposed over another wallpaper pattern. When the birds leave one room, they arrive moments later in the other. I have the sense that they are flying all around the house, resting for moments in out-of-sight in rooms I can’t see.

My eyes are fixed on the moving image before me. When the birds leave, I wait anxiously for them to return, worried that their fleeting presence won’t allow enough time to commit their image to memory. The chirping that fills the room seems too loud for such small creatures, but my guide reassures me that this is accurate. These birds have powerful voices.

I look to my guide. “How long do you think these buildings will remain standing?” “We are not sure. Nothing here is stable. The ground continues to move, and land still slides from the hills into the valley. But we will keep these exhibits going for as long as it is possible. We were the last to see the animals, so it is our job to keep them alive in our memory.”

“I understand,” I tell her. “Thank you.”

migratory (patterns) – top floor viewed from bottom floor (photo: James Lewis-Healey)

My guide leaves me and I stay with the exhibits until the batteries run out. I place them under the floorboard at the entrance, as instructed. As I step back into the midnight sun and walk back towards the riverbed, I take stock of what I have seen. My mind is overwhelmed with images and sounds and textures. I prepare for the long journey back, bracing myself for the sound of my boots grinding over bones of the animals who once populated this land, those that may never return.

Holmes, Courtney

Post-exhibition essay for The Natural & The Manufactured 2015


The small hamlet of Dawson City in central Yukon is best known as the home of Canada’s first great gold rush — an event which brought with it massive geographical changes upon which the modern community is built. The legacy of the decades-long search for gold in the hills and valleys of the Klondike remains imprinted on the land and psyche of the small wilderness town.

The Klondike Institute of Art and Culture’s artist in residence program plays host to The Natural & The Manufactured — an annual arts project that invites artists to compose site specific works in response to the economic and cultural values of the region.

Colin Lyons and Kevin Murphy participated in the 2015 edition of The N & M. Both artists recently spoke of their experience with Courtney Holmes, current Executive Director of the Yukon Art Society. These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.


Courtney Holmes: There has been some discussion lately at a local level about whether the dredge tailings are worth preserving. Some have suggested removing them all; others want them to stay. A third suggestion is to remove all but one, preserving it as a full-fledged artifact. Which course should Dawson City pursue?

Colin Lyons: As an outsider, I don’t think it’s my place to decide.  My preservationist instinct would compel me to leave things as they are, as a haunting reminder to the unchecked speculation and environmental devastation that was brought on by the gold rush.  Seen from the Midnight Dome, the tailings offer an unmistakable glimpse into the lasting effects of industrial development and extraction-based economies.

Given the environmental impact of these industrial projects and the harm they create, how does nostalgia fit in?

In industrial ruins, we are confronted with past notions of progress and utopia, which have since proven to be failures but leave visible traces of their unfulfilled promises. I think post-industrial ruins serve a vital purpose, as a kind of counter-narrative.

We now live in a world where the struggle to keep up often leaves us frozen in the present, unable to fully imagine a future. The reaction, we see time and again, is nostalgia for the past.

What are examples of nostalgic industrial utopia that exist in Dawson City or elsewhere?

Part of my hesitation about restoring the tailing piles is exactly this issue.  Without them, Dawson risks becoming a place which rests on the nostalgic tropes of the Klondike gold rush era, while glossing over the human and environmental costs of this history.  This was part of my fascination with the tailing piles — that they can be read as a lasting authentic ruin of the Klondike gold rush.

How does your upbringing in Petrolia inform your interest in Dawson City?

Growing up in Petrolia, I was constantly surrounded by evidence of industrial obsolescence: Victorian mansions, a massive playhouse, and slowly-bobbing pumpjacks. All pointed to a place which had fallen on tough times after a period of great promise. Petrolia’s very reason for existence was founded on oil. As the country’s first oil boomtown, the men flocking there never thought about whether this was a renewable or non-renewable resource.  Of course, as is the inevitable fate of any boomtown, the oil slowed to a trickle by 1908, and my sleepy hometown has spent over a hundred years fading into irrelevance.

Petrolia and Dawson City followed similar trajectories until relatively recently, when Dawson took on renewed significance as a centre for the arts and tourism. In many ways, Dawson City is an ideal place to consider the ideas that came out of my Petrolia experience: it’s a place where industry has irreparably shaped the landscape; where the residents have had to do some soul-searching about its very reason for continued existence; and where there are ongoing questions of what to make of the material remnants of its golden era.

Time Machine For Abandoned Futures. Detail: Gold rush artifact in etching acid undergoing electrolytic cleaning process. Installed on the Midnight Dome, August 2015. (Photo credit: Colin Lyons)

Time Machine For Abandoned Futures. Detail: Gold rush artifact in etching acid undergoing electrolytic cleaning process. Installed on the Midnight Dome, August 2015. (Photo credit: Colin Lyons)

Does gentrification relate to these landscapes?

Gentrification is a term specifically used when discussing the relationship between a location and class dynamics (the displacement of a lower class for a higher one), which I feel is not exactly what is happening here.  However, there is a kind of glossing over that can come along with the historicizing of a place.

With the reconstruction and tourism of Dredge No. 4 for instance, the tailing piles become background or setting for understanding the grandeur of the post gold-rush projects.  In that context, I found myself thinking “wow, that’s brilliant,” instead of “that’s horrifying.”


Do you have a specific thought or statement that Dawson City residents should take away from your art?

No, nothing that precise. The reality is, those who have spent decades immersed in this environment are going to see my work much differently than I do.  Also, since this installation was perched on the side of the Midnight Dome, the audience was equal parts tourist and resident.

There seemed to be a kind of compartmentalizing of the landscape, where visitors hoped to witness either the vast northern wilderness, or a mecca for mining and industrial history. I hoped to reorient the gaze from the Dome to acknowledge this complicated legacy, and force a collision between these two notions of the landscape.

With my Time Machine, I attempted to highlight that binary approach to the landscape by subverting the utopian architectural form of the Earthship, creating instead an inefficient and wasteful system. I hope to bring to light the ways in which so many of our modern industrial projects are using antiquated and wasteful technology, yet attempt to project an air of progressivism.

Finally, I hope this project helps further the discussion about what to do with the legacy and ruins of the gold rush. I think the tailing piles can be read as a kind of accidental monument.


Courtney Holmes: Can you explain your research process for this installation? 

Kevin Murphy: The research for this project was extensive. It took place online, in books, through visits to the Dawson Archive and local historic sites, and through correspondence with Yukon Land Titles, Natural Resources Canada, and Quaker Oats, among others. Much of it relied on technology, from easy communication with various parties, to sourcing the deeds on EBay, and locating the sites through GPS.

The most difficult step was determining the individual one-inch locations. Each deed is stamped with a unique alphanumeric code. Ostensibly these are locatable through a site plan, but the precise reference pattern has long been lost. Quaker doesn’t have the records anymore, and doesn’t want to talk about the promotion at all. David McDonald, who directed the film Cereal Thriller, has done a mountain of research on this, and was very generous with suggestions. In the end, I pieced it together through reference to books and articles; David’s resources; and certain mathematical parameters, including the lot dimensions and the range of deeds that were printed.

Once the site plan formula was reconstructed, it had to be overlaid onto larger land survey plans to determine each set of GPS coordinates. Whitehorse-based surveyor Glen Lamerton generously helped with these calculations and then lent me his GPS unit to locate the sites.

One Square Inch More or Less (detail). ODD Gallery exhibition, 2015. (Photo credit: Kevin Murphy)

One Square Inch More or Less (detail). ODD Gallery exhibition, 2015. (Photo credit: Kevin Murphy)

Was this Quaker Oats promotion a form of colonialism?

Well, it certainly mimicked and utilized colonial systems insofar as it involved the division and widespread distribution of Crown land. But more than this, as a fantasy representation of land, I see Quaker’s project as a fascinating cultural example of “landscape.” Cultural critic W.J.T. Mitchell refers to landscape as a form of soft power, a permeable social construction that is “something like the ‘dreamwork’ of imperialism.1″ For Mitchell and others, Western landscape traditions appear natural, but hinge on imperial and colonial fantasies embedded in territorial consumption and expansion. In North America, these fantasies have especially been tied to the romanticized West and North. One line by Quaker’s own legal team provides a particularly perceptive analysis: “the real value of the deeds was based on the romantic appeal of being a property owner in the Great Yukon Territory rather than on any intrinsic value of a one-inch square of property.2” I think what’s wonderful about the Big Inch promotion is this visible connection between the romantic and the economic. When the deed holders linked the representation of land to its physical occupation and ownership, the promotion collapsed under its own weight, beautifully exposing the underlying tensions.

The promotion was essentially an invasion of the imagination. It valued the land not for what it was but for its imagined romantic nature in the minds of southerners who had never actually been there. Do you see parallels between this habit of mind and modern relationships between North and South?

Sure, and I think Dawson has built a lot of infrastructure around these processes of romantic projection and their crystallization in tourism economies.

For me, as a southern/Vancouver artist trying to propose a site-specific project for a place that I had never been, this idea of imaginative projection also felt like an appropriate reflection or refraction of my own position. Entering the artist residency period with only a distance-based and thus surface understanding of Dawson implicated me in a way that felt honest, and created, I think, a kind of parallel to the imaginative responses of these children, decades earlier.

One Square Inch More Or Less (detail), 1958 survey of land referred to in Quaker Oats'  Klondike Big Inch Land Co. promotion. ODD Gallery exhibition, 2015

One Square Inch More Or Less (detail), 1958 survey of land referred to in Quaker Oats’
Klondike Big Inch Land Co. promotion. ODD Gallery exhibition, 2015

Because so much of the legal precedent surrounding land and property is based on possession, occupation and use, do you feel like you settled or have some ownership of these tiny parcels of land? 

No, I felt very conscious that I was working in a space that didn’t belong to me, and possessing the deeds heightened that awareness. But the ownership of land, and particularly its abstraction and representation as title, is certainly one idea I’m investigating.

Something to note about the deeds is that in Western Canada, we are on the Torrens system, which means land ownership is transferred through registration of title instead of using deeds. So a “land deed” is not a legally recognized document in Yukon at all. The Klondike Big Inch Land Co. was created primarily for the U.S. cereal market, so Quaker used broadly U.S. terminology. It’s just another fiction among many.

The land itself was repossessed by the Canadian government in the 1960s for non-payment of taxes, and it’s been bought and sold since then. So although I purchased them, the deeds have been divorced from this land for more than fifty years, and really, I would argue, since their creation. In some ways, this project is about re-establishing a link between the deeds and the land they signify, and also about the impossibility of doing so.

What do you think of the fact that this land is now a golf course? Is there any narrative worth exploring there? 

The land isn’t actually the golf course, but is directly adjacent to it. That turned out to be an often-repeated misconception that sprang up around later discussions of the promotion.

The land with the deeds is privately owned and most of the sites I visited were in the forest, some areas thinned, and some quite dense with new growth. One site was in a tire rut on a dirt lane, another was in a horse corral, and a third was beside the rotting and overgrown remains of a burned out building….

Were consumers tricked? How much did a notion of injustice play in this installation?

I’m less interested in injustice to consumers than I am in these implicit and historical injustices that come with the whole framework of deed as representation.

I’m not convinced that Quaker ever expected anyone to want to physically claim the land. For me, the most surprising thing about the whole enterprise was that its developers made the journey in person to see the property.

I suppose that consumers may have been tricked insofar as the land was not legally attainable, but I actually agree with Quaker’s lawyers that the land was not what they were really selling. I think where Quaker misstepped was in allowing the fantasy to unravel, which in turn revealed that the fantasy was merely a fantasy.

One Square Inch More or Less, detail, ODD Gallery installation 2015

One Square Inch More or Less, detail, ODD Gallery installation 2015


1W.J.T. Mitchell, “Imperial Landscape,” Landscape and Power, 2nd ed. (Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 2002), 10.

2 Arthur F. Marquette, Brands, Trademarks and Good Will: The Story of the Quaker Oats Company (New York: McGraw Hill, 1967), 121.

Courtney Holmes is the Executive Director and Curator with the Yukon Arts Society in Whitehorse, Yukon. A graduate of the Yukon School of Visual Arts in Dawson City, Holmes has previously worked for non-profits and youth organizations in Yellowknife, NWT and Iqaliut, NU. Holmes is also a past member of the ODD Gallery and KIAC Artist-in-Residence Committee.

Collins, Curtis



This discussion will examine KIAC’s The Natural & The Manufactured projects over the past three years, with a focus on how participating artists have delimited the environment according to places that are rarely indicative of nature and almost always affected via artificial means.

Friday, August 14th, 7 PM in the KIAC Ballroom

DR. CURTIS COLLINS  graduated with a PhD from McGill University’s Department of Art History and Communications Studies in 2002. Over the past twenty years, Collins has served as a curator and director for public art galleries across Canada, including the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in New Brunswick, the Art Gallery of Algoma in Ontario, and the Dunlop Art Gallery in Saskatchewan. Among those universities that Dr. Collins has been engaged as a sessional lecturer are: the University of Lethbridge, Trent University and the First Nations University of Canada.

In January of 2013, Curtis was appointed as the new Chair and Program Director of the Yukon School of Visual Arts in Dawson City.