Several months ago I noticed a marketing slogan plastered across hoarding that is encasing some of the many development projects in Ottawa. It read ‘Culture Lives Here’. I understood it to imply that culture was within redevelopment; that the galleries or the light rail or the Rideau mall or the ByWard Market were physical homes for culture. Although this does make sense within the definition of culture I had an adverse reaction to the implication that culture is built around people as opposed to through people. For Issue 09 I decided to ask the public ‘What is Culture?’ and ‘Where does Culture live?’
HD video, 4:30, sound
Performance by Lilly Koltun
Video by Meredith Snider
Hard to let go: I put my blindfold back on features a performance by Lilly Koltun in and throughout the Arts Court building. The performance embraces happenstance relationships with sound and space occurring within the site.
I chose to focus on what is known as the courtyard at Arts Court for this video; a public space that fronts the entrance to SAW Gallery and SAW Video. Many of us have attended events in this outdoor venue, however I was particularly interested in sharing some of the personal contributions to this space that add to the welcoming atmosphere. Further to these stories the topic of homeless people in the downtown core is broached and SAW Gallery’s curator, Jason St-Laurent confronts the issue head on with an inclusive vision for the courtyard (past, present and future) to be an oasis for the homeless, to welcome not only privileged members of our community but all members of our community, including those who are most vulnerable.
Issue 06 presents feedback from people who work in the Arts Court building. I asked individual employees from the resident arts organizations if they had any unanswered or lingering questions about the redevelopment project. Despite the detailed floor plans and intensive planning that goes into a layered development such as this, there are, inevitably, questions and ponderings about the future. Be it related to programming, audience, amenities, or access, this video provides a glimpse into the thoughts of some of those people who work within the building and who are anticipating changes to come.
In the fall of 2016 Carla Sullivan received her MA in geography from the University of Ottawa. The central question of her thesis, which is titled “Round Dancing the Rotunda: Decolonizing the University of Ottawa”, was whether the uOttawa campus can be decolonized and if so, how? The impetus for her research came from her attendance at a Round Dance held in Tabaret Hall on campus that was organized as part of the Idle No More movement. In her experience this action was a momentary transgression that temporarily opened up the space to make other people and other histories visible. She engaged with Indigenous students on campus and she asked them to share with her how space makes them feel and what their experience of campus is like. In these four short interview segments Sullivan discusses the motivation of her research, her methodology and her conclusions. I have included this material in an issue of Cultural Engineering because I think it is crucial to account for the land that new and old developments are built on and to consider how to address decolonization. Sullivan’s research provides an Indigenous perspective on settler spaces.