The Polygon Gallery is inviting visitors to “pause in their space” and take in a new presentation of video works that explore our connection to the land and inspire viewers to look at the world a little differently.
The presentation, Response: Our Land Narrative, inspired by a partnership project between the gallery and Capilano University, showcases a series of short videos created as a result of workshops between Indigenous Knowledge Keepers and artists.
Nicole Brabant, the gallery's assistant curator, Indigenous programming, said the presentation is an extension to the Response Program, an education and outreach initiative for artists which was revived last fall thanks to a funding injection, after first being introduced in 2014-'15.
She said eight videos resulted from the multi-week program where 15 participants – selected from 45 applicants – were invited to explore the theme "Land as Teacher and Knowledge Keeper" by creating visual art under the leadership of Indigenous teachers in fall 2020.
The works created were split into a two-part exhibition, which aims to activate stories and conversations about connection, resistance, and migration. The first presentation, showcased in March, featured installation-based works, while the latest presentation, running from April 8 to 17, explores the theme through film.
Brabant said the short videos, which range from two minutes to six minutes long, each offer unique perspectives of the world and highlight an urgency and consideration for the environment, with a focus on the state of B.C.’s waterways, global anxiety around water, and human impact on the earth.
“These artists are presenting world views and stories that may not always have a spotlight such as this placed on them,” Brabant said. “Art can introduce us to stories we may not otherwise be exposed to and also, it lets us imagine what's possible.”
Slowing down the camera and connecting to the land
Gregory Coyes, co-ordinator of Indigenous digital filmmaking at CapU, was one of five Knowledge Keepers who worked with artists in the program.
“I brought a specific approach to video called Slow Media, which is a decolonized form of media. It's an Indigenous sense of time and space.”
Coyes said the concept which he describes as “yoga for filmmakers” was “actually very simple.”
“It's still framed video, and it's long form,” he said, adding that it allowed the world to be captured in real time.
“The camera actually becomes the tool to be present, because we're slowing down so much in our practice, and choosing a frame and pressing record. We're giving ourselves time to think ‘is there a second frame here?’ And in that time that the camera’s rolling, which can be between two minutes and 40 minutes, literally, you have a lot of time to think about our relationship to what you’re shooting.
“It’s a new form that we can explore and nurture our communities with … and at the same time, we nurture ourselves as filmmakers.”
Through the process of Slow Media, he hoped participating artists learnt to “be present.”
“To be present to this land, to be present to the beauty and in our in the knowledge that the land holds.”
About half of the videos included in the presentation incorporate Coyes’ concept.
'Experience things in a different light'
Colton Cardinal, a first-year student in the Indigenous Independent Filmmaking diploma program at CapU, was one of the students inspired by Coyes’ teachings, creating a five-minute long Slow Media piece, called Depths, which showcases the urban environment and ecosystems in East Vancouver and the North Shore.
For Cardinal, Slow Media is “like escapism.” “It's like a digital version of going to a park and sitting down," he said. "It almost brings the outside real world indoors.”
He said exploring the theme of land with Knowledge Keepers and creating his piece on the urban environment, changed his view of the land. While first thinking the urban environment was devoid of life, through the process of slowing down and creating his film, he realized there was a lot to see.
“I realized that it's just like another ecosystem,” he said. “It's no different than a swamp or a marsh or a sea or a lake. It's just another type of ecosystem that exists now. There are great things, and there's terrible things that go on, but it all kind of works itself out.”
He said he hoped viewers would take a moment to soak in the details of his piece which greatly focuses on the shipping yards, cranes, and birds.
The 19-year-old also encouraged people to go and check out the presentation to “experience things in a different light.”
“You're going to look at something that maybe you see every day, but the artworks are going to draw attention to the things that you miss,” he said.
“It's going to be really interesting going to the gallery and seeing the differences in everybody's work just because … everybody comes from such different backgrounds and different walks of life.”
The short films create a 34-minute reel, which is being shown at the gallery’s Seaspan Pavillion on a new retractable screen via a projector.
“I think that it is a great experience to pause in our space and watch the reel which is beautifully projected,” Brabant said.
“I hope our curious audience encounters something new, and that whatever they may learn that they'll bring it forward and share.”
The April presentation of Response features short videos by artists from a diverse mix of backgrounds, including Colton Cardinal, Saddle Lake Creek Nation, Nathan Chizen-Velasco, Canadian, Lia Rosemary Skiljaadee Hart, Haida-Canadian, Liam McAlduff, Secwépemc Nation, Natasha Nystrom, Metis Nation of B.C., Ash Simpson, Secwépemc Nation, Splatsín, Veronica Trujillo, Mexican, and Sarah Danruo Wang 王丹若, Chinese-Canadian.