Exploring Inuit Artistic Voice about Arctic Sea Ice Change

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I presented initial insights from 4.5 months engaging with Inuit artists on Baffin Island.

The work would not have been possible without the support of these communities, my translators/interpreters Omalluk Ostiutsiaq, William Kilabuk and Jojo Aningmiuq for the project and of course all project participants. Thank you.

I also acknowledge the support of SSHRC, ArcticNet, West Baffin Eskimo Co-op, Hamlet of Pangnirtung and NSTP making this research possible.

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  • How we make sense of and adapt to Arctic sea ice change. Necessity of combining scientific and Local Inuit knowledge (Gita Laidler) yet settings are limited I propose art and artistic processes. But first start openly learning if Inuit artists are expressing perspectives of climate change and sea ice change in their art.
  • How we make sense of environmental change is central to how we navigate that change. The language, assumptions and narratives describing changes in the Arctic, frame how people understand Arctic change and, in turn, the actions and decisions that are considered legitimate responses to that change (Forsyth 2003; Robbins 2012; Dryzek 2005). Different knowledge systems may have different means to understand a changing environment and different experiences of that environment and change. Some mechanisms offered in the literature for integrating knowledge systems (e.g. local co-management arrangements) are criticized for a limited capacity to engage with the cultural nuance of different knowledge systems, and acting within the dominant hegemony of western institutional practice for sense making, communication and governance (Leduc 2006; Nadasdy 2003). Alternative forms of sense making and expression (e.g. the arts), can articulate the cultural nuance of different perspectives. Art and artistic engagement in the context of understanding and navigating complex environmental change can be one way to respect the cultural nuances of indigenous ecological knowledge (Cruikshank, 2005; Leduc, 2006; 2011), complement adaptive learning processes by bridging knowledge systems and supporting collective visioning (Goldstein 2008), and support emotional and social cohesion during periods of rapid change (Vancouver Art Gallery 2006). Thus, an artistic approach, nurtured by a supportive governance context could offer a fruitful setting to bridge Inuit and scientific knowledge systems, and to understand and navigate Arctic sea ice change. However, this area of scholarship and practice remains largely unexamined.
  • INITIAL INSIGHTS: 1) Direct commentary e.g. Tim, Jaco 2) indirect commentary 3) materials 4) human-environment 5) connection 6) adaptive (perspective, wise, embracing change and uncertainty)
  • Helped by professional artists in Pangnirtung
  • Participatory art workshops –process based. Storytelling, sketching, games prizes
  • Extended process over 4 months different aspects of multi-form mural- here we are @ elders home for help with framing as a seal skin stretch.
  • INITIAL INSIGHTS: 1) Losing expectations (outcome, process) for cross-cultural art making 2) perspectives about human-environment connection and change naturally emerge 3) opportunity for bridging knowledge systems (Inuit, western; elder, youth) 4) lessons in youth engagement 5) community project- mobile mural, many people contributed their capacities up now for community to witness.
  • Respected elder and professional artist. Works in National Art Gallery. Trust and personal connection. Playing music, singing and dancing and sewing together.
  • Sea ice Past- ‘it’s a beautiful day, a wonderful day’ ElisapeeIshulutaq, 2013 pencil, paint on paper- way of life, materials, attitude, connection to nature, type of tent. Autumn camp preparations. Yet, No sea ice!!!! As her stories continued I realized that sea ice did not need to feature in this painting because it was omnipresent, the family is happy because they know the sea ice is forming.
  • Melting from underneith. Not such a bad day (perspective outlook). No future drawing.
  • Embodied knowledge of sea ice change. Watching the sea ice form with ShuvinaiAshoona. Contemporary Inuit artist and friend. Drawing, Transformation, connection, ‘Vapor of the universe’ Woman is fishing and falling into the water
  • Drawing, Transformation, connection, ‘Vapor of the universe’ Woman is fishing and falling into the water. Still in progress. “She has to concentrate more and more” – explanation for why her tongue is out. Shuvinai and I spent a lot of time walking along the water edge watching the ice form. How can art communicate embodied knowledge of experience?
  • How we make sense of environmental change is central to how we navigate that change. The language, assumptions and narratives describing changes in the Arctic, frame how people understand Arctic change and, in turn, the actions and decisions that are considered legitimate responses to that change (Forsyth 2003; Robbins 2012; Dryzek 2005). Different knowledge systems may have different means to understand a changing environment and different experiences of that environment and change. Some mechanisms offered in the literature for integrating knowledge systems (e.g. local co-management arrangements) are criticized for a limited capacity to engage with the cultural nuance of different knowledge systems, and acting within the dominant hegemony of western institutional practice for sense making, communication and governance (Leduc 2006; Nadasdy 2003). Alternative forms of sense making and expression (e.g. the arts), can articulate the cultural nuance of different perspectives. Art and artistic engagement in the context of understanding and navigating complex environmental change can be one way to respect the cultural nuances of indigenous ecological knowledge (Cruikshank, 2005; Leduc, 2006; 2011), complement adaptive learning processes by bridging knowledge systems and supporting collective visioning (Goldstein 2008), and support emotional and social cohesion during periods of rapid change (Vancouver Art Gallery 2006). Thus, an artistic approach, nurtured by a supportive governance context could offer a fruitful setting to bridge Inuit and scientific knowledge systems, and to understand and navigate Arctic sea ice change. However, this area of scholarship and practice remains largely unexamined.
  • Sharing as an artist (revealing emotion and perspective – see blog)Connecting via musicProcessing with the help of music and collaborative compositionPerforming where music is hyper object or boundary object to connect knowledge systems
  • Exploring Inuit Artistic Voice about Arctic Sea Ice Change

    1. 1. Exploring Inuit artistic voice about Arctic sea ice change: How does art and artistic process contribute to bridging knowledge systems? Kaitlyn J Rathwell PhD Candidate University of Waterloo, Canada @kjrathwell December 10, 2013
    2. 2. What is the problem?
    3. 3. Research Objectives 1 To examine the role of Inuit art + artistic processes in understanding and making sense of Arctic environmental and sea ice change 2 To engage with local artists and youth to create an artistic piece on the theme of Arctic sea ice change 3 To assess how art and artistic processes may serve as a method, strategy or approach to bridge knowledge systems about Arctic environmental and sea ice change 4 To explore how art and artistic process have been or could be leveraged to improve management and governance efforts in the context of Arctic change.
    4. 4. Initial Insights… • Sea ice change and climate change is noted and expressed by Inuit artists • Art and artistic process can help with bridging knowledge systems (scientific, Inuit) • Art and artistic processes for processing and sharing embodied knowledge of Arctic environmental change
    5. 5. 1. Interviews with professional artists in Cape Dorset and Pangnirtung (n = 30) Tim Pitsiulak, Climate Change, 2011, Pencil crayon, 64.8 x 49.5 cm, Courtesy of Feheley Fine Arts “That drawing is a picture of an elder on one side the half of the face and the other half of the face is the ice breaking up. Saying that the elders notice the ice breaks up much earlier and the ice does not form as it use too in the past…..If I made the face looking downward that may mean the end is near, but you are always told to keep your head up” Tim Pitsiulak
    6. 6. 2. Painting Change 2013: Collaborative mural about Arctic social- environmental change
    7. 7. Participatory Art Workshops
    8. 8. Bridging Elder and Youth knowledge systems
    9. 9. 3. Sea Ice Project with Elisapee Ishulutaq
    10. 10. 4. Sea Ice Project with Shuvinai Ashoona
    11. 11. Sea Ice Project with Shuvinai Ashoona
    12. 12. Research Objectives 1 To examine the role of (Inuit) art + artistic processes in understanding and making sense of Arctic environmental and sea ice change 2 To engage with local artists and youth to create an artistic piece on the theme of Arctic sea ice change 3 To assess how art and artistic processes may serve as a method, strategy or approach to bridge knowledge systems about Arctic environmental and sea ice change 4 To explore how art and artistic process have been or could be leveraged to improve management and governance efforts in the context of Arctic change.
    13. 13. Next steps… • ArcticNet Interviews – Interested in perspective of governance practitioners (e.g. from Arctic council) and scientists about the role of art – Perspectives on artworks – What if anything could art and artistic processes add to your work and your processes of cross-cultural engagement? • Music Composition and Performance as K La Luna – ROM Toronto Jan 26th – Post-Normal@bandcamp.com • Continued engagement with Inuit Artists – Tanya Tagaq – Shuvinai Ashoona continued… – Communities Kaitlyn J Rathwell Kaitlyn.rathwell@uwaterloo.ca (519) 222-7146 @kjrathwell
    14. 14. Thank You Kaitlyn J Rathwell Environmental Change Governance Group (ECGG), University of Waterloo, Canada Kaitlyn.rathwell@uwaterloo.ca (519) 222-7146 @kjrathwell
    15. 15. Your interview… • Interested in perspective of governance practitioners (e.g. from Arctic council) and scientists about the role of art • Perspectives on artworks • What if anything could art and artistic processes add to your work and your processes of cross-cultural engagement? Kaitlyn J Rathwell Kaitlyn.rathwell@uwaterloo.ca (519) 222-7146 @kjrathwell
    16. 16. Music making is integral to my research process “Our stories and legends, they can be written into songs so that everyone would hear it and understand.” Jaco Ishulutaq

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