by cheyanne turions

I am cheyanne. Today I write from the land of the Mississaugas of New Credit, though this land has been called home for more than 10 000 years by many people including the Wyandot and Haudenosaunee. Today I write in Toronto, a placed named with an Haudenosaunee word, a place where trees are in the water. I am not from here though; I am a visitor like many others. To begin, I am found here by way of the farmlands of Treaty 8. The place where I was born, colloquially referred to as “Northern Alberta,” is actually closer to the geographic centre of the province, but our population is bottom heavy in this country; it is not so northern at all. I was born in the municipal district of Big Lakes, and on my way to these shores of the Great Lakes where I find myself now, I lived in the West, near the ocean. As a regular practice, I swim for the physical movement and the mental stillness of it. Turns out there’s something about water in the threads of my living.

In school, I was always fascinated by the ideas of science but never any good at math. So, instead of becoming a physicist, I studied philosophy. I paid particular attention to the philosophy of science, considering the implications of whether science is actually indicative of reality (realism) or merely a useful tool we use to navigate a reality that remains fundamentally unknowable (anti-realism). Somehow this has culminated in a writing and curatorial practice where I use the structures of philosophy in the contextualization of artistic practices.

While philosophy and art are mutually supportive disciplines, they depart in the impetus of their inquiry. Where philosophy seeks to understand what is, art is oftentimes concerned with what could be. Approaching resilience theory through art will allow for imagination to shape understanding because the making of art is not just of things, but the making of relationships between desire and the real. What makes a city “for people”? How can we get there?

There are probably countless proposals for the first question, and a correspondingly infinite set of possibilities for the latter. Here’s just one specific example: I believe that a city is “for people” to the extent that the practices of industry and the habits of the populace compliment each other in ensuring access to drinkable, fishable, swimmable water.[1] In contemplating ways to make these responsibilities manifest, one could sit with the recently published artists’  book The Lake  (2014).[2] Collected, commissioned and arranged by Maggie Groat, an artist based in St. Catherines, Ontario, the works therein offer disparate encounters with an environmental being. The lake, as any and all lakes, is approached as a sacred site, a living connection to our collective history, a place of environmental change and concern, a place of transportation and industry, a place of recreation, a natural resource, and a site of possibility. This publication is an exhibition of these findings, not always scientific but drawn explicitly from the feel and the touch of contact with natural phenomena older, larger and wiser than us. As an alternative body of research, it provokes us, its readers, to take stock of our own relationship to water—I suspect there are threads of water running through your living too—and from there much is possible.

[1] I recently encountered this tripartite proposal of what is possible for freshwater bodies by way of Mark Mattson’s presentation at The Walrus Talks: Water, held in Toronto on 28 May 2014.

[2] Full disclosure: I was part of this project, contributing copy (some of which is re-published here) and performing copy-editing duties.
We want a country in which:

  • public, private and social sectors are engaged in active efforts to close the gap between the socioeconomic wellbeing of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people
  • the public sector, private investors and philanthropists separately and collaboratively deploy financial capital to create positive social and environmental impact
  • social innovation is an integral part of Canada’s innovation ecosystem, enabling civic institutions to co-create policies, initiatives and programs that enable citizens to contribute a diversity of skills and perspectives to Canadian society
  • public, private and civil society sectors act collaboratively and courageously to advance human thriving and address shared challenges
  • humans’ social and economic footprint is in balance with the natural ecosystems that sustain life.