Student Arts-based Competition on the theme of water

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Water nourishes the body and the mind. Yet an estimated 80 percent of the world’s population face a high-level water security or water-related biodiversity risk. Water security is also a serious issue in Canada, with more than 2000 'boil water' advisories across the country, notably in First Nations communities.

During September 2013’s University-Based Institutes for Advanced Study (UBIAS) conference, the Peter Wall Institute was honoured to celebrate the winners of its UBC student competition on “Arts-Based Conceptions of Water.”

The competition was part of a UBIAS public panel discussion on the need for cross-disciplinary strategies to deal with the global, financial, ecological and societal issues relating to water. At an evening performance, awardees shared paintings, a documentary, audio-visual pieces and poetry– all inspired by the theme of water.

The interactive sculpture Kizuna, which in Japanese means "bonding," on display at the Institute during the UBIAS Conference. The piece took top prize at the Institute's Student Arts-Based Competition on the theme of water.

Yoriko Gillard, MA student in Art Education at the UBC Faculty of Education, won top honours for her interactive sculpture and accompanying poem, inspired by the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. Gillard's poem follows:

My Liminal Place

Standing quietly at the shore of Kesennuma, my mind floats above the Pacific Ocean reflecting my thoughts; sadness, hopes and obligations. The water keeps changing its appearance without my intention as does my mind in my head. The silence of cold water makes me feel my cold fingers holding the camera steadily to capture my thoughts.

A string of thoughts goes in every direction.

Living on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver, takes me back to where I came from in my mind. Now, I am handed a blank note to fill in at the shore of Kesennuma. What I should write on the note is still unknown yet my words move in every direction to catch my thoughts behind my eyelids.  

Staring at the water of the Pacific Ocean makes my head numb. Cold. Very cold…. One after the other, a wave comes and goes without my intention as does my anxiety in my heart. Blood streams rushing to my heart, eyelids closed tightly as I feel my hands, closed. I say in silence ‘Please, not again...’.

I cry on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.

Pacific Ocean shoreline in Steveston, BC, where Gillard completed part of her work.

View more photos of work by first prize winner Gillard online, and read her recent thesis, Trust through art and its practice: a/r/tography studyhere.

During the evening performance, several other UBC art students received honourable mentions, including School of Music PhD candidate Kevin Mason for his work on the short video, PA GEN DLO

PA GEN DLO was created by Mason after spending five weeks in Haiti in the summer of 2013, working alongside traditional musicians on a new video archive for the National Bureau of Ethnology in Port-au-Prince.

By utilizing scenes of both scarcity and abundance, the video depicts the deep spiritual connection Haitians have with water. The piece captures how instances of insecurity inform daily discourses of lament, which manifest in the phrase "pa gen dlo," meaning "there's no water".