Artist: Ed Pien
Curator: Josephine Mills
Part of the “You Are Here” series
uLethbridge Art Gallery is pleased to present 2 projects by internationally renowned artist Ed Pien: playing with light and shadow to explore our relationship to water, Liquid Being is an immersive installation featuring hundreds of monstrous fish; and the Helen Christou Gallery exhibition Up in the Air features drawings and images for kites produced in Pien’s workshops in Lethbridge and on the Kainai reserve.
uLethbridge Art Gallery is pleased to present 2 exhibitions by renowned artist Ed Pien: Liquid Being, in the Main Gallery; and Up in the Air, in the Helen Christou Gallery until October 20. Pien began his research and community connections for these projects a year ago and has had 3 visits to Lethbridge during which he met with Ryan Heavy Head, a naturalist and Elder of the Kainai Blackfoot people, and with Stefan Kienzle, a hydrologist in the Geography Department, to discuss local water and its inextricable link to the shaping of everything within and around us. For Liquid Being, Pien has produced an immersive environment that combines hundreds of transparent Mylar structures suspended from the ceiling with two videos projected through them so that the work takes form as the viewer looks at the mixing of the shadows and the actual objects.
Pien’s goal with this project was to foreground water’s sentience and voice, that water would be his collaborator. To do so, he devised a system of channels through which water taken from the St. Mary River can circulate. The amount of water collected comprises the amount of liquid an average person would need to sustain their life over the length of the exhibition. As well, Pien shot a video of black ink drying on white Tyvek to create what appears to be a topographical map of water ways, then altered the speed, and mirrored the image, to project through the transparent structure. Thus, the shadow of the stream of water is cast on the floor along with the video image. During the exhibition, the water will evaporate and leave traces on the Mylar support, thereby adding to the shadows and making visible the material suspended in our drinking water. As well, James Graham, from the New Media Department, has produced a mesmerizing CGI video displaying an endless cycle of water rising and subsiding which is projected onto a poetic text by environmental lawyer and First Nations ally Merrell-Ann S. Phare. Instead of the standard gallery text rendered with vinyl on the wall, Pien presents Phare’s words via some fifteen hundred crystal gems embedded in the wall to shift the viewer’s perception of it being text and instead convey more of a sensation, like perhaps that the water itself is speaking.
In the smaller part of the main gallery, Pien presents the third component of this exhibition. He etched drawings of the 14 species of fish common in Southern Alberta lakes and rivers onto 100 Mylar forms and then added some deformities arising from contamination of fresh water. A video of a small child playing and interacting with some of these Mylar fish is projected through a web of the fish suspended from the ceiling and it is in the shadows cast from the structures that one sees the astonishing detail of Pien’s drawings. Within this space, and the entire installation, there are layers upon layers of imagery and illusion. On first entering the small space, it is hard to distinguish one’s own shadow from the imagery of the child or to sort out the shadows actually being cast by the video from the images of shadows projected from the video. In this way, Pien has conveyed our own relationship to water. We live with a blur between reality and assumption about the water on which all life depends – thinking of it as endlessly bountiful and exploitable, admiring its beauty, harnessing its power, but ignoring our impact on it and in turn, on ourselves. Pien hopes that Liquid Being will give visitors a sense of water’s agency and how water collaborates with us all.
– Josephine Mills, Director/Curator
Ed Pien and uLethbridge Art Gallery would like to acknowledge:
Victoria Karmali, Chinook High School
Nicole Riedmueller, Chinook High School
Andrea Fox, Tatsikiisaapo’p Middle School
Electrician: Jed Mosher
Grounds Crew: Phil Dyck
Grounds Crew: Vern Leckie
Grounds Crew: Richard Feenstra
Bud Taylor, The KiteGuys, Bentley AB
Ken Conrad, Great Winds Kites, Seattle WA
Kite Flying Expert & Volunteer:
Michelle & Adam Haines
Mary Fox – OMIA’NISTITSIIKSIINAAKII
“Many Different Snake Woman”
Galt Museum & Archives