Poetry in motion — literally. This collaborative videopoem project was inspired by the work of Edmonton artist Darci Mallon, whose installation Engrams features a triptych of three huge works representing American Sign Language signs related to memory and identity. Each mark on wall-sized panels of transluscent mylar is created by the artist`s inked finger and handprints, among the most essential signifiers of identity.
Inspired by Mallon`s work, poet Jannie Edwards wrote a triptych of poems in English, which were translated into American Sign Language by Deaf translator and actor Linda Cunningham.
The project was filmed by videographer Rick Gustavsen whose handheld videography captures the fluidity and intensity of Cundy`s performance. The work was edited by David Cunningham.
Funded by two “Living Local“ grants (2012 & 2013) from the Edmonton Heritage Council , the Edmonton Arts Council and the Mill Woods Presidents` Council of Community Leagues, this project aims to engage community artists with the stories of the people who created the unique Mill Woods community in Edmonton. Edmonton Heritage Council Living Local http://edmontonheritage.ca/grants/living-local/
Historian Catherine C. Cole and videographer Don Bouzek (Ground Zero Productions) collected the oral histories of some of the original planners and settlers of Mill Woods, a planned community created in the early 1970s in response to a housing shortage created by the second phase of the Alberta energy boom. The City and the province secretly acquired nine square miles of land and hired young, idealistic urban planners to plan the community.
Artists connected with Mill Woods (Jannie Edwards, Rod Loyola, Mark Edwards, Ashley Kumar) were brought into the project to use these oral histories to create original art.
In the first stage of the project, I wrote “The Ballad of Mill Woods,“ recounting the early history of the community: the story of the Papaschase band who were promised a reserve on the land that is now Mill Woods – a promise that was not delivered; the land bank assembly; the offering of lots for sale below market value, for which citizens camped out overnight to acquire; the “arrival city“ nature of the community, where affordable housing attracted young families and newcomers to Canada, many of whom were leaving turmoil in their countries of origin. The ballad was incorporated into an six panel display, which was featured widely in the community.
In the project`s second phase, Don Bouzek and Jannie Edwards created a “braided poem“ of phrases culled from the oral histories. Inspired by artists such as Steve Reich`s “Different Trains,“ we aimed to create a dramatic, polyphonic, communal spoken word interpretation of the lived history of the community in the voices of those who planned the community and who settled here.
Flutist Mark Edwards worked with classical Indian Kathak dancer Ashley Kumar to create an original flute and dance composition inspired by the words of Mrs. Gita Das, a community activist for many years.
These works, along with laptops with selections from the videotaped oral histories and a presentation by historian Catherine C. Cole were presented at a performance at Ashley Kumar`s SAAM Studio on November 30, 2013.
Words Unzipped | March 7 @ 7:00 – 9:00pm | Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts (9225 – 118 Ave)
Words Unzipped showcases new collaborations between female spoken word poets and a range of talented performance artists. The evening features the spoken word poetry of Mary Pinkoski (Edmonton’s Poet Laureate), Jannie Edwards, Gisèle Lemire, Medgine Mathurin, Naomi McIlwraith, Carolyn Gingrich, and Erika Luckert, paired with the incredible movements of the Good Women Dance Collective, the music of Vicky Berg, as well as the delicate performance pottery of Carolyn Gingrich. This evening offers another perspective to the words unzipped from poetic women, inspired in thought and performance by the theme of shadows.
A collaboration of visual artist Agnieszka Matejko, videographer Bob Lysay and poet Jannie Edwards, adrift addresses the growing social problem of homelessness through an interdisciplinary artwork. The metaphor of wind and the weather it creates symbolically links to the powerful but often invisible socioeconomic systems that result in “shadow people” – the homeless, who are often afflicted with mental health or addictions issues, and who drift through the edges and alleys of the city – marginalized, largely unsupported and virtually invisible.
Featured at InSight 2, Spring 2013, FAB Gallery, University of Alberta, “an international exhibition at the nexus of design, the health humanities and community.“
Twenty-eight poems were selected by jury for this public art project and sandblasted into the pathways around the Collingwood Park Pavilion. In collaboration with Lead Artist Agnieszka Matejko, I facilitated poetry workshops to generate short poems at Braemar School, Oscar Romero High School, Jasper Place High School and the Lois Hole Library. Thanks to teachers Nicole Galellis, Rhonda Day, Jodi Burak, Katee Robichaud and Steven Goss for inviting us to work with their wonderful students. I call these poems “little love letters to the world.“