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