At The Edge of Wildnerness
September 4 – October 4, 2020
Doris Crowston Gallery at the Sechelt Arts Centre
Soundwalk with Hildegard Westerkamp: Friday, September 4 at 2pm
Skills for Solitude with Giorgio Magnanensi: Sunday, September 27 at 11am
At the Edge of Wilderness is a Sound-Slide Installation about Ghosttowns in British Columbia. The installation explores a strange moment of excitement and magic, discovery and adventure, the moment when the contemporary visitor encounters an abandoned industrial site. This moment also contains questions and stories about human industrial activities of the past and present; or a sense of the spirits and ghosts still hovering among the skeletal remains while nature is gradually reclaiming its place. It is as if visitor and place are taking a deep breath together during this encounter, convalescing from injury, contemplating the edge where junk and artifact, destruction and new growth, noise and quiet meet; where perceptions of a shameful past in need of cleaned-up collide with feelings of pride towards a heritage worth preserving.
When resource industry moves into British Columbia’s landscapes, industrial sites and company towns are cut into the wilderness. The edge between wilderness and such a new place is traditionally knife sharp like the edge between life and a stabbing death. Poison is released into the environment by the violent penetration of industry. Once resources are drained the company moves away leaving its huge, filthy footprints behind, leaving open gaps in mountains and relying on natural processes to absorb the junkheaps, trailings, the waste. Natural rhythms and movements eventually soften the edges, transforming an abandoned industrial site into mysterious rusty shapes and collapsed wooden structures overgrown by moss, weeds, shrubs, and trees. A once noisy, bustling place becomes a quiet ghosttown full of memories. An old industry becomes artifact and lies there like a toothless monster of the past.
Hildegard Westerkamp is a composer, radio artist and sound ecologist. She presents soundscape workshops and lectures internationally, performs and writes. After completing her music studies in the early seventies her ears were drawn beyond music to the acoustic environment as a broader cultural context or place for intense listening. Whether as a composer, educator, or radio artist most of her work since the mid-seventies has centred around environmental sound and acoustic ecology. Hildegard’s compositions have been performed and broadcast in many parts of the world. The majority of her compositional output deals with aspects of the acoustic environment: with urban, rural or wilderness soundscapes, with the voices of children, men and women, with noise or silence, music and media sounds, or with the sounds of different cultures, and so on. She has composed film soundtracks, sound documents for radio and has produced and hosted radio programs such as Soundwalking, and Musica Nova on Vancouver Co-operative Radio.
More recently she involved her two grandsons in the creation of her work Once Upon a Time and collaborated with composer and recorder player Terri Hron on Beads of Time Sounding and with pianist Rachel Iwaasa on Klavierklang. The latter had its world premiere at ISCM’s World Music Days in Vancouver, November 2017. Her compositional work has been discussed in various articles, but most extensively in Andra McCartney’s dissertation Sounding Places: Situated Conversations through the Soundscape Work of Hildegard Westerkamp, York University, Toronto, 1999. Her compositions draw attention to the act of listening itself, to the inner, hidden spaces of the environments we inhabit and to details both familiar and foreign in the acoustic environment. Some of Westerkamp’s compositional work appears in US filmmaker Gus van Sant’s Elephant and Last Days.
Finally you may enjoy listening to the 2017 CBC IDEAS program with host Paul Kennedy here.
More info: hildegardwesterkamp.ca