The first Shifting Ground convening will centre upon geographies and communities of the Yukon, and has been organized in conjunction with the Yukon School of Visual Art (SOVA), Yukon Arts Centre (YAC), Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre, and other community partners. Though the convening was due to take place June 1 -14, 2020, in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic the convening will be postponed to a later date. Further information on the revised date will be circulated in due course.
This prompt is intended to serve as a general introduction to the upcoming convening, which will primarily be composed of events and collaborative encounters in Dawson City and Whitehorse, with additional engagements in the communities of Carcross, Haines Junction, and Teslin. It is not necessary to prepare any sort of response ahead of time, though we do invite participants to familiarize themselves with the ‘Resources’ page (and any other related readings you may wish to include) and to formulate and share ideas for proposed work to ensure that we are able to use our limited time together in the best way possible.
In shaping this convening, our approach has been one which privileges contingency (or what literary theorist Maurice Blanchot refers to as the ‘sovereignty of the accidental’). By this, we mean that the convening will unfold in such a way that it allows for spontaneous encounter and semi-structured collaboration in lieu of more proscriptive time-blocked itineraries. Walking, talking, making, moving, mapping; together, these comprise the primary means by which we hope to investigate the many terrains and subterrains, histories and futures, abundances and scarcities of the region. Nevertheless, and in an effort to establish a common set of referents, we ask participants to treat the notion of ‘presencing’ as the overarching thematic.
Presencing begins by making visible the structures of power and social imaginaries that elide the complexities of the region’s representational and cultural history, so that their truth claims – territorial and normative – might be reconfigured. Fundamentally, then, presencing is the practice of creating rupture within codified aesthetic orderings through an attunement to the material conditions of the present.
One way of achieving this is to speak through absence. Land carries memory; In this way, the stubbornness of a weathered birch might serve as a mnemonic stand-in for the accelerated motility of glaciers (and estuaries, and landmasses), while the subtle traces of a hand-hewn cabin (a prior social occupation) may register as a haunting, calling forth the multiple histories inscribed across and layered beneath the surface. Alternatively, presencing may be achieved through an attention to that which is (for whatever reason). From this perspective, presencing – taking stock – might point us in the direction of accumulations: of research stations, oil rigs, pipelines, plastics, and other markers of settlement and industry, but also of people, intimacies, creative commons, networks of hope, and other markers of the lived and felt. By refocusing the field of view from a scale of planetary abstraction to one of peopled actionhood, presencing can call out the simultaneities between the geophysical and corporeal tectonics of climate change while reasserting the agency of hyperlocal future-making.
With the caveat that there is a limit to the amount of speculative detail that can be written in ahead of time, the Yukon convening will feature a range of workshops, walking tours, studio visits, film screenings, and artist talks, as well as access to dedicated spaces for artistic collaboration and production. While certain events may be livestreamed, the emphasis throughout will be on in-person collaboration; in sharing knowledge, insights, meals, methods, critiques, techniques (and maybe even living quarters), the primary intended outcomes are to lay the groundwork for the production of new work and to forge new interdisciplinary, cross-regional collaborations. In turn, we intend that these emergent works will be showcased in a ‘work in progress’ exhibition to mark the close of the convening, and will ultimately inform a series of publications and exhibitions in other locations. In the months following the convening, the Shifting Ground team will also produce and make publicly available a summary report composed of fieldnotes, artist profiles, photographs, and other key outcomes.