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Invasive Species

Invasive Species is a midterm exhibition of pieces that have been in progress since the semester began, in VISA 3M90: Advanced Art Practices. This is a new course [that] largely consists of project oriented, independent production focused on developing the students’ artistic practices. Species is largely a student-driven initiative that encourages collaborative application of their skills and goals, with the support and guidance of their instructor. 3M90 students have organized various teams (publicity, fundraising, organization, tech team, etc.) to bring Invasive Species to life. Throughout this semester-long initiative, students have learned, through valuable, hands-on experiences, what it takes to plan an art show and to work collaboratively and supportingly with peers, all while producing independent bodies of work.

An important conversation amongst students centred around the location of this exhibition and the placement of work. A unique, meaningful place in the St. Catharines community where the public could engage with art and ideas was required. After considering diverse spaces in downtown St. Catharines, the MIWSFPA seemed an obviously perfect spot for Invasive Species to take place.

In this one-night event, artists will be “invading” campus and revealing their presence to the Brock and St. Catharines communities. Some early ideas for this one-night event centred around publicity and fundraising, and technology and tools necessary for the offsite installation. A large, ongoing conversation that occurred throughout the semester focused on how to bring diverse work together in a unified show (sculpture, mixed media, technology, painting, and even performance art are all components). It was important for the emerging artists involved to work together to find ways to make artworks relate to the spaces they’d be displayed within but also serving the diversity of forms, happening during the one-night event.

The theme of invasive and symbiotic species is prevalent within Invasive Species. The works are intended to be invasive to the building, dispersed in unexpected spaces (tight closets, ceilings, behind large pillars, etc.). The art in this one-night show will not be explicitly displayed in visible locations around the building, but rather, in hidden, unexpected places that encourages viewers to be active and investigative. An example of this subtle intervention is Victoria Reid’s Watching Eyes (sculptured eyes that are placed on objects around the MIWSFPA building. The eyes work to personify the architecture and space, ultimately bringing awareness to human relationship and contribution to the industrial landscape around us. The display of her work will encourage viewers to intricately search the building and its architecture to find the pieces that are blended into the space.

Specific artists to watch for in Invasive Spaces; Desiree Veinolt, whose sculptural practice encapsulate the “invasive” premise of the show and Teresa Badgely’s sculptural/performative work, that centres around the theme of death. Visitors will be toured around the building by the artists, perhaps evoking eerie sensation that will hopefully lead viewers to feel like an invasive species to the building.

The MIWSFPA building visibly integrates the historical and contemporary through its architecture. Burn marks in the drawing studio’s beautiful wooden floors are remnants of the original historical building; modern ceiling beams and vibrantly painted staircases interact with aged brickwork. Invasive Species also works to integrate the historical with the contemporary. Many participants employ traditional methods (painting, drawing), but are using contemporary means of display. Donna Akrey (the instructor, who also facilitated this past summer’s #concretecloud interventions / performance in downtown STC) urged students to step away from the historical / traditional “white cube” display of art, to explore and challenge how to install Invasive Species. This initiative (the course, the exhibition, the dialogues and interactions with visitors that will happen) all relates to the MIWSFPA space that students are working in, everyday, in the STC downtown. The St. Catharines community is very important, and integral, to the students at MIWSFPA and that’s evident through many of the themes and visual content of the interventions / installations. Invasive Spaces is also about MIWSFPA being in the downtown, and about the wider community exploring the spaces embodied in the students who use it as a touchstone for engaging with the city spaces.

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Written by Bart Gazzola

Bart Gazzola is an arts writer/critic who has published with Magenta, Canadian Art, FUSE, Galleries West, PrairieSeen, Long Exposure and BlackFlash (where he was Editorial Chair for 3 years). He is Assistant Editor at thesound.rocks and a frequent contributor to various cultural spaces in Niagara.