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SummerWorks: To Live in the Age of Melting: The Idea of North 2.0


So I’m hard at work finishing the film “To Live in the Age of Melting, part I: Northwest Passage” (thanks to the generous donations to the Indigogo crowd funding campaign!)  Meanwhile, coming up this August at the SummerWorks festival, I begin part II…  here’s what it’s all about:

The Idea of North 2.0

Something really does happen to most people who go into the north—they become at least aware of the creative opportunity which the physical fact of the country represents and—quite often, I think—come to measure their own work and life against that rather staggering creative possibility: they become, in effect, philosophers.” Glenn Gould, “The Idea of North”, 1967

In the heat of August at the annual SummerWorks Festival, I invite Torontonians to consider the Arctic: to enter an evocative sonic and visual installation / conversation, and share stories and images about the (Canadian) North.  In Iqaluit, Inuit artist Laakkaluk Bathory Williams will be collecting stories and ideas from a Northern perspective: about the (Canadian) South.

Working in collaboration with projection /visual artist Elysha Poirier, as well as other musical friends, we’ll use what is gathered over the duration of the festival to create a longitudinal / contrapuntal theatrical concert performed live on the final festival weekend: an immersive, audio and visual mediation upon what North and South mean to each other in Canada, in this new Age of Melting.

Inspiration for this project

In the summer of 2012, I took part in a two-week sea voyage with the organization Students on Ice, sailing from Iqaluit to Greenland aboard a research vessel with 80 high school students and 40 environmental scientists, Inuit leaders and Arctic specialists.  Profound and eye-opening, the trip left me with more questions than answers, curious about the many intersecting questions that guide the Age of Melting project.

A few months after the trip, I began an artistic collaboration with artist Elysha  Poirier, creating a live performance and film to accompany my  20 minute song / poem “To Live in the Age of Melting Part i:  Northwest Passage”.   Inspired by iconic Canadian folk song ‘Northwest Passage’ by Stan Rogers, and the 19th century folk song “Lady Franklin’s Lament”, the film travels from Franklin’s doomed Arctic expedition to contemporary Arctic Sovereignty; from climate change to the human nervous system, along the way probing the nature of colonial legacy, tradition, and what happens when old, frozen parts of the world we know – and parts of ourselves – begin to melt.

Now, taking a cue from Glenn Gould’s 1967 CBC Radio documentary “The Idea of North”, I’m re-opening Gould’s poetic (yet dated) contemplation of the North in Canadian conscience / identity, proposing that we can no longer consider North without also considering South and how these geographic/cultural counterpoints inform, contradict and define us in this new Age of Melting.

Festival-goers are invited into an evolving installation / conversation taking place in our iceberg-inspired environment made of paper, light and projections.    During the first week of the festival, we’ll be conducting (and recording) short interviews with any visitor who would like to share stories, images and ideas about what the North means to them; visitors are also invited to bring visual momentos or images of the North to leave with us for the duration of the installation.  The materials collected will inspire / be woven into the final presentation, taking place on the final festival weekend.