During my recent Shadbolt Fellowship, I participated in an 8-month residency in situ on the unceded territories of the Tsawwassen, Union Bar, Xaxli’p and Yale Nations in the Fraser Delta salt marshes and tidal flats from Sturgeon Bank, Roberts Bank, Boundary Bay, on the west coast of British Columbia. I produced a series of polymorphous, immersive video and sound compositions that foreground a minutia of auditory engagements and express the rhythmic shifts and cyclical patterns of bodies and masses moving across distance.1 The following draws attention to some of these interactions and the space and breath between bodies, organisms, plants, and other species moving in their habitats.
From January 16th – August 13th, 2021, I collected a series of binaural audio samples, photos, and moving images from walks along lightly forested, rocky, and meadowed terrains, adjacent to water passages, trains, ports, shipyards, bird estuaries and contested zones of migration.2
“Marshland grass provides sustenance or shelter for other species to live and thrive in the wetlands. In this way, reeds do essential care work, and in doing so cultivate a liveliness of diversity around them.”
As a nod to Bracha Ettinger’s notion of Carriance (carrying, lifting), the samples trace symbiotic moments between my body, the landscape and its multitude of inhabitants; attuning to each location in slow and meditative ways – with open ears, eyes and limbs.3 4 This practice of attuning attends to carework and responsibilities of care, in particular, the roles of responsibility that are invisible. For instance, marshland grass provides sustenance or shelter for other species to live and thrive in the wetlands. In this way, reeds do essential care work, and in doing so cultivate a liveliness of diversity around them.
Three specific locations were chosen: Roberts Bank, McNeely’s Trail, and the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary, because they spoke to the climate crisis, which includes a mix of wetland, marsh, and commercially industrial vetted points of crossing and migration.
Each area had a different soundscape and set of material challenges that inspire different responses. For example, the first place, Roberts Bank, is near the GCT Deltaport, which is on the outer harbour of Roberts Bank on the Pacific Ocean. The port itself is 85 hectares long (210 acres) and has a 1,100 meters (3,609 foot) contiguous berth (GCT, web). The port is long, juts out into the water, and is full of continuous ship-to-rail activity. The first location is the area where the port meets the land. Trains move shipping containers in and out, and trucks carry goods along the roads and overpasses. The beach stretches out perpendicular from the roadway; a sign indicates the area is a hunting area for the Tsawwassen First Nation. A short walk along the gravel road running next to the shoreline leads to a new housing development.
The second place of interest, McNeely’s Trail, is a marshland walk, which is near Westham Island, alongside the Fraser River inlet. The general topography is diverse with walking trails, bird habitats, bridges, and rural, and urban buildings. I was drawn to the walking trails and marsh ecologies because they offered quieter opportunities to observe and listen to the landscape and surrounding ecosystems.5
The third spot, the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary, is situated on Westham Island’s farmland, and consists of a plethora of wetlands, ponds, intertidal marshes, walkways, and low dykes next to the Fraser River. There are approximately 200 + species of birds such as snow geese, sandhill cranes, mallards, bald eagles, spotted towhee, yellowlegs, long-billed dowitchers, and western sandpipers that frequent the estuary at different times of the year.
George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Photo courtesy of Reese Muntean.
“I see these tapestries as having the power to permeate the very fabric of our lives. Being all around us, in us, moving through us, they carry a legacy of past stories and connections.”
What emerges from these investigations is a mix of visual and sonic forms that highlight the vitality of elements that live inside and outside prescribed time frames such as sonic frequencies and motion.6 I see these tapestries as having the power to permeate the very fabric of our lives. Being all around us, in us, moving through us, they carry a legacy of past stories and connections.
prOphecy sun, Intertidal, 2021. Compositions courtesy of the artist.
Other Video Links:
George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary:
Sound compositions, editing, mixing by prOphecy sun
Video editing and mixing by prOphecy sun
Photographs, drone, video stills by Reese Muntean and prOphecy sun
1 The title of this piece is inspired by a phrase used in Emelie Chhangur’s curatorial essay for Jess Dobkin’s Wetrospective (2021). See Chhangur, Emelie. Curatorial essay for Jess Dobkin’s Wetrospecitve, AGYU 2021.
2 Walking is associated with rhythmic flow and process and is intrinsically part of our everyday life. As Stephanie Springgay and Sarah E. Truman poetically articulate, walking helps us understand the “pulse of the city, such as traffic, crowds, music, and other environmental phenomena” (2017, 5). See Springgay, Stephanie, and Sarah E. Truman. Walking methodologies in a more-than-human world: WalkingLab. Routledge, 2017.
3 Bracha L. Ettinger writes about Carriance as something we all experience, whether we are consciously aware of it or not; and, how, through acts of carrying, we acquire knowledge through bodily memories. Ettinger, Bracha L. ‘Carriance, Copoiesis and the Subreal’, in 14th Istanbul Biennial Catalogue SALTWATER: A Theory of Thought Forms, ed. Süreyyya Evren (Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts, 2015), 92–101 (93).
4 See Ettinger’s lecture “Subject, Trust, Carriance” Lecture at OPAK Centre: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3hbixTlncU.
5 Michel De Certeau links walking to concepts of the flâneur – a roaming bystander (De Certeau, 1998). In my research, I expand on this notion and suggest that female flâneuse forms engage with the landscape with the intent of transformation. For example, by traversing through landscapes in slow and meditative ways, I can foreground acoustic and visual traces of care, carrying, lifting, and shifting.
6 Using sensory engagement as a grounding concept, this research embraces different temporalities and frequencies. In doing so, I try to tread lightly, inhabiting, interacting, and generating new narratives with ecological systems. As Eve Tuck and Marcia McKenzie articulate, place is a concept, rooted in colonial viewpoints that take land and its many inhabitants for granted. Tuck, E., & McKenzie, M. (2015). Relational validity and the “where” of inquiry: Place and land in qualitative research. Qualitative Inquiry, 21(7), 633-638.
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