Spill: fluidity over boundaries

From the exhibition Spill, the Arrow – Reservoir. | Photo courtesy of Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery

The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery will be flooded with the inspiring and educational environmental work of the artists contributing to the Spill exhibit.

Guadalupe Martinez curated the Spill: Response portion of the exhibit, which can be seen from Sept. 3 to Dec. 1.

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Martinez moved to Vancouver in 2008 at the age of 28. As an immigrant herself, Martinez often engages whole heartedly with the concepts of colonization and immigration, as well as the local histories of her new and old homes. Martinez is drawn to strong female artists like Ana Mendieta and Lygia Clark, both of whom staged their own performance pieces in the 70s and 80s. With these influences surrounding her, Martinez began her own version of performance art with her involvement in Spill.

This large collaborative work began over a year ago with Martinez and fellow curator, Lorna Brown, and has picked up several artists along the way since its inception.

“The exhibition focuses on video research projects that look at the exploitative practices of bodies of water,” says Martinez. “All the projects presented in Spill: Response, whether it is a film or an episode of the radio, have a performative component to them either through the research process, the radio conversations or the social or political engagement process of making the works.”

Talking about Spill

Guadalupe Martinez. | Photo by Luciana Freire D’Anunciação

Spill is a multi-media work that has several parts including Martinez’s Spill: Response as well as Spill: Radio. The latter of which is put on by Tatiana Mellema in collaboration with CiTR 101.9FM and extends the themes of land exploitation, providing the listener with podcasts, book readings and more so that the conversation can go on with the viewer wherever they are.

Martinez describes her exhibition Spill: Response as a combination of research, performative artists and educators with the intent of strengthening one’s connection to the land on which people live, the water they use to survive, as well as the changes needed to enact in order to keep these things sacred.

“It also extends the projects into multiple realms of activism, beyond the specific issues of mining and land extraction into the everyday life through social practices, community development and education all seen under the umbrella of healing and decolonization,” says Martinez. “The artists that I have invited are committed to social change, love and care in their own communities and they perform their research and artistic practice in ways where they blend with their own life.”

The gallery goes on an outing

During the tenure of her exhibit, Martinez will also work with 15 students and lead them on various retreats related to environmental problems in the surrounding Vancouver area. Instead of an enclosed traditional gallery exhibit setting, Martinez and other local artists will lead the students to specific sites to show them how close to home some of these problems are. For instance, a dialogical walk and talk to the Pipeline Watch House on Burnaby Mountain is one event.

Education and awareness is paramount to Martinez. If one cannot grasp their own environmental footprint, then she feels understanding the messier and harder to remedy footprints of industry is impossible. This exhibit strives to make the viewer want to make personal changes and take action of their own. Martinez’s use of several different artistic mediums is testament to the importance of the work: artists, educators, and researchers all have the ability to come together to create a positive change. So, to Martinez, the gallery has no boundaries and will extend wherever these ideas of activism and action want to permeate.

“It was important for me to expand the space of the gallery into public space and sites where local communities habitually work…,” says Martinez. “I am interested in the interdisciplinary potential to bridge these spaces and use the synergy of these practices and artists to heal rather than keeping things in fixed and static compartments… fluidity is an amazing thing.”

For more information, visit www.belkin.ubc.ca