Visual art student-curated exhibit focuses on H2O issues in Canada

When given a theme of water for an assignment, seven University of Ottawa visual arts students wanted to work with a subject that was both relevant and influential. The result of their project is Turning Tides, an upcoming exhibit at the U of O’s Gallery 115 that uses contemporary art to discuss water conservation in Canada.

The project’s press release describes the show as “an exhibition of contemporary art that explores the phenomenon of water as a fundamental ecological and cultural resource.”

The eight artists showcased in the exhibit, either visual arts students at the university or alumni, use a variety of mediums to express this message.

The curators and organizers of the exhibit were grouped together while taking the fourth-year course Curating for Contemporary Art at the U of O. The students—Sherena Razek, Chanelle Lalonde, Megan MacLaurin, Montserrat Carrion Garcia, Emilie Gignac, Phoebe Sampey, and Jenn Fournier—divided responsibilities such as research, communications, and management.

When assigned with the theme of water, Razek says the group wanted to approach the subject in a more psychological context, studying controversial water conservation issues in Canada, “and how contemporary art can play a role in that.”

“There’s a lot of debate about it right now,” says Carrion Garcia. “We wanted to start a conversation, to see another aspect of it.”

The artworks presented vary from film, to photography, to performance. “The works seem to engage with the material aspect of water, and as a psychological resource as well, and as a ritualistic resource and how we use it in our everyday lives,” says MacLaurin.

Common objects such as dryer sheets and recycled industrial materials are used in order to highlight human interactions with water.

A performance art piece by U of O alumna Cara Tierney showcases different sources of water and the varying ways humans use—and sometimes abuse—the vital resource.

Razek explains that the performance “draws a parallel between the consumption of water, and the consumption of culture.”

By using evocative artistic methods such as performance work, the exhibit takes the issue of water conservation from distant and unknown to a closer, more personal level. Local artists have used their distinctive artistic styles to communicate the message, creating a dynamic and inclusive exhibit.

Turning Tides runs from Nov. 30 to Dec. 8 at Gallery 115.

The vernissage will take place Thursday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. with a special performance by Cara Tierney. Admission is free.