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MÉDIANE
Feminine adjective and noun. Etymology: borrowing from imperial Latin medianus, “from the middle” ; from classical Latin medium, “middle” (source: Antidote).

The MÉDIANE Canada Research Chair in Art , Ecotechnologies of Practice and Climate Change (2020-2025, mediane.uqam.ca), led by Dr. Gisèle Trudel, is a research-creation which develops “relational zones” for artists, scientists and publics to experience and discuss phenomena about changing climates. This approach aims to combine the interests and abilities of each actant by offering space and time for creation and dialogue , to promote the circulation of ideas and actions between collectivities .

To do this, the Chair explores, artistically and in public space, data from the Smartforests Canada research program led at the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM) by forest ecologist and professor Daniel Kneeshaw, a pan-Canadian scientific network documenting climate variations on the waters, soils and forests of Canada. The Chair also collaborates with DOT-lab led by scientist and professor Nicolas Bélanger, the Data Science Laboratory of Université TÉLUQ in Montreal, where research activities are centered around the development and use of tools specific to data science.

Concretely, we have produced four in situ artistic outdoor large-scale installations and a micro- installation on bike trailer. These projects convene data, media art, immersive sound and scaffolding structures. These structurations are built-with the sharing of practices between the techniques of trees as well as of those of peoples, who are invited to share their experience of the art installations and the actions they can inspire.

Additionnally, various presentations, events and publications have been produced over the years, enriching dialogues about creative climate changes.


The three articles trace how the research program evolved over time.

Acknowledgements

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)
The Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI)
Fonds de recherche du Québec - Société et culture (FRQSC)
École des arts visuels et médiatiques, Faculté des arts (Université du Québec à Montréal - UQAM)
Hexagram-UQAM
Smartforests Canada
DOT-Lab Université TÉLUQ
Espace pour la vie | Jardin botanique de Montréal 2021
Jardin du Coeur des sciences, UQAM 2022
Fondation Grantham pour l’art et l’environnement 2023
Quai5160 - Maison de la culture de Verdun 2024

A. How to work artistically with forest data ?

To work artistically with forest data, we connected three research streams : Ælab with MÉDIANE, Smartforests Canada along with DOT-Lab, and tree technologies.

The experimental documentary art practice by Ælab is active since 1996 (aelab.com), joining the work of visual artist Gisèle Trudel and sound artist Stéphane Claude. One of their previous research programs was produced during a ten-year period of art projects concerned with residual matter and pollution (2006-2016), which led them to address climate change.

This forms the basis for MÉDIANE, Canada Research Chair in Arts, Ecotechnologies of Practice and Climate Change (2020-2025) (mediane.uqam.ca), led by Trudel at the School of Visual and Media Arts at the University of Québec in Montréal (UQAM), where she is a professor since 2003 and a research member of Hexagram, the research-creation network for art, culture et technology since 2004.

MÉDIANE collaborates with Smartforests Canada is a pan-Canadian network of monitoring plots for forest management under environmental change, led at UQAM by professor and forest ecologist Daniel Kneeshaw, and also with DOT-Lab, a research group concerned with environmental data science, led by professor and forest ecologist Nicolas Bélanger at Université TÉLUQ in Montréal.

Documenting Smartforests Canada practices in the field

Zoé Fauvel, Ælab at Smartsforests site, Station de biologie des Laurentides (SBL), Saint-Hippolyte, Québec, May 2021.

Ælab doing sound documentation

Zoé Fauvel, Ælab at Smartsforests site, Station de biologie des Laurentides (SBL), Saint-Hippolyte, Québec, May 2021.

During our fieldwork, in 2020, 2021 and 2023, Ælab accompanied scientists to their research sites, conducted on-site audio and visual recordings, and also received sensor data sheets from them.

We worked collaboratively and developed relationships with scientists Daniel Kneeshaw, Nicolas Bélanger, Christoforos Pappas and Blandine Courcot who validated our artistic approach in the production of the visualizations of data with movement, presented in four major outdoor art installations in public spaces, from 2021 to 2024.

tree with dendrometer

Gisèle Trudel, dendrometer, Sainte-Émilie-de-l'Énergie, Québec, July 2020.

Data with sensor data about tree, soil and weather

Christoforos Pappas, Screen capture of data of sap flow (sap_raw), air temperature (Tair) et stem circumference (den_raw) data compiled from the sensors. Courtesy of Smartforests Canada, June 2021.

placing timelapse camera on a tree

Joannie Beaulne, Installation of time-lapse cameras on trees, Station de biologie des Laurentides (SBL), May 2022. Courtesy of Smartforests Canada.

Timelapse image of a Yellow Birch Tree

Photo of the Yellow Birch from time-lapse camera at the Station de biologie des Laurentides (SBL), May 2021. Courtesy of Smartforests Canada.

The third stream is concerned with tree technologies. This ongoing research-creation proposes "ecotechnologies of practice" whereby eco and technè are a dynamic crafting of responses, that of peoples, machines and trees, from the middling of their encounter.

"The tree crafts problem-solving operations with the surroundings: tackling water preservation or evapotranspiration as needed, regulating sap flow, making clouds, coordinating burgeoning and senescence timings, going dormant in northern winters, turning sapflow into antifreeze to prevent embolisms. Furthermore, trees produce photosynthesis in a cosmic relation of sun and soil, they yield oxygen and even grow stronger and bigger with the extraction of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. They communicate through VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and mycelium networks . These are but a few of the tree's wondrous techniques, parts of a larger continuum to coevolve their technologies over 350 million years."

[Trudel, 2024, Ecotechnologies of practice: in-forming changing climates, Proceedings of ISEA 2023 ].

Transducer microphone recording

Gisèle Trudel, micro-recording with wood bark by Stéphane Claude , Sainte-Émilie-de-l'Énergie, Québec, November 2020.

B. What emerged during research-creation process ?

During the research-creation process, several emergent themes included how to create public experiences bridging arts and sciences, and ways of working in situ and in public spaces amidst varying weather conditions. We brought previously collected forest data into new spatial and temporal ensembles, enabling new relationalities between locations.

boisEauMetal_frontview

Photo by Richard-Max Tremblay. Outdoor art installation bois eau métal by Ælab and MÉDIANE, Espace pour la vie | Montreal Botanical Garden, July 2021.

BoisEauMetal_backView

Photo by Richard-Max Tremblay. Outdoor art installation bois eau métal by Ælab and MÉDIANE, Espace pour la vie | Montreal Botanical Garden, July 2021.

BoisEauMetal_Visualization

Marie-Eve Morissette, Screen capture of the visual programming of the measurements with TouchDesigner software, for the artwork bois eau métal (2021).

Additionally, collaborating with a local scaffolding company permitted to address aspects of temporary architectural art installations produced with aluminum tubes). It's interesting to note that scientists also create temporary structures with scaffolding out in the field, to reach high locations and to place sensors on trees.

OreeDesBois_Top

Photo by Alexis Bellavance. Outdoor art installation orée des bois by Ælab and MÉDIANE, Jardin du Cœur des sciences, Université du Québec à Montréal, June 2022.

OreeDesBois_front

Photo by Alexis Bellavance. Outdoor art installation orée des bois by Ælab and MÉDIANE, Jardin du Cœur des sciences, Université du Québec à Montréal, June 2022.

OreeDesBois_DataViz

Marie-Eve Morissette, Screen capture of the visual programming of the measurements with TouchDesigner software, for the artwork orée des bois (2022).

In the context of these outdoor art installations, scaffolding permitted to enhance existing elements generally employed in sites of construction, renovation or even emergencies. IN the context of MÉDIANE, scaffolding participate in the building of a temporary site for climate change art and discussions. The electrical needs of the installations was also explored, as well as making art in public spaces, without creating waste.

DevenirHetre_LongShot

Photo by Richard-Max Tremblay. Outdoor art installation devenir-hêtre by Ælab and MÉDIANE, Fondation Grantham pour l'art et l'environnement, May 2023.

DevenirHetre_1screen

Photo by Richard-Max Tremblay. Outdoor art installation devenir-hêtre by Ælab and MÉDIANE, Fondation Grantham pour l'art et l'environnement, May 2023.

DevenirHetre_HydricPotentialDataViz

Marc-André Cossette, Screen capture of the visual programming of the hydrid potential measurements with TouchDesigner software, for the artwork devenir-hêtre (2023) by Ælab and MÉDIANE.

The research delved into the role of movement with data, within artistic and scientific practice.

We integrated diverse students, artists, and professionals annually during special events, performances and workshops to highlight other research practices, despite the pandemic challenges in the early years of the research program.

Furthermore, this collaborative effort contributed to the development of the concept of "ecotechnologies of practice", where trees, arts, sciences and public practices converge to craft problem-solving techniques through creativity .

Amidst this endeavour, the desire was to continually deepen understandings and sensings with trees, living beings, and their ecological processes.

AElab_C-six_frontView

Photo by Richard-Max Tremblay. Outdoor art installation c-six by Ælab and MÉDIANE, Quai5160 - Maison de la culture de Verdun, May 2024.

The ultimate installation was presented in May-June 2024, near a family of poplars and the Saint-Lawrence River (Kaniatarowanénhne in Mohawk language and Magtogoek in Ojibwe). This location extended the link between water and trees for life-living.

C-six_SideView

Photo by Richard-Max Tremblay. Outdoor art installation c-six by Ælab and MÉDIANE, Quai5160 - Maison de la culture de Verdun, May 2024.

C. How to do art differently with publics ?

Our approach to outdoor art engages publics differently by incorporating the immersive conditions of the site itself as well as tactile sound explorations, aiming to forge deeper connections to the immediate location and its unique topography and soundscapes, as well as engaging the sensory receptors of touch and hearing. All artworks are situated in open scaffolding structures, fully exposed to weather conditions, rather than being confined to galleries or museums. This setup allows any publics to experience scientific research on climate change and trees through an artistic lens, rather than through scientific explanations or cultural mediation.

The annual installations act as "relational zones" where other artists, scientists, and researchers present and discuss various topics freely. The installations provide a physical platform for reading circles, involvement of Indigenous artists, exploration of medicinal plants, sensory ethnography, performative cartography, performance art, poetry, sound performances, and drawing.

We also produced the Mobile (climate) Station, micro-installations of the larger outdoor installations, which circulate on a bike trailer, with AV equipment, an energy system, solar panels and a biking team. We explored issues about trees, climate change, mobility , energy, and accessibility, in different locations.

StationMobile2022

Photo by Gisèle Trudel. The Mobile Station by Ælab and MÉDIANE with bicycle team Stéphane Claude, Mélodie Claire Jetté, Laurence Dauphinais, Montréal, October 2022.

StationMobile2023

Photo by Caroline Pierret. The Mobile Station by Ælab and MÉDIANE at the Fondation Grantham for Art and Environment, May 2023.

entretien_JardinBotanique

Photo by Caroline Pierret, semi-directed interviews at Ælab and MÉDIANE's installation bois eau métal, May 2021.

entretienOree

Photo by Caroline Pierret, semi-directed interviews at Ælab and MÉDIANE's installation orée des bois, June 2022.

As part of the larger process, anonymous semi-directed interviews were conducted, with the seventh question proving particularly inspirational: "Does the experience of this artwork inspire you to do something creative about climate change?"

entretien_FGAE

Photo by Caroline Pierret, semi-directed interviews at Ælab and MÉDIANE's installation devenir-hêtre, May 2023.

Below is a sampling of answers to Question 7:

Improvise on piano

Hang poems on tree branches

Make a priority in my life

Buy sensors, listen to trees

Do something with my granddaughter

Education for All

Perceive the reality of trees

Paint trees, already paints birds

Do activities with children

Work with art and science

Work with elders

Link art-science-psycho-spirituality

Bring trees in the centre of life

Walk breathe creatively

Make room for other life forms

Science is imagination

Work with low tech

Put a camera in the garden

Observe and document trees

Record environmental sounds

Live in a tree

Take care

Take photos

Transform the world

Increase the intensity of trees

Cultivate the land

Explore sound materiality through contact, touch

More sensuality

Think of a partnership arts-sciences-publics

Listen

Create instruments

Create a hydrogen vehicle

Plant a tree

Cultivate forests, gardens

Create comics with natural decors

Help others to be creative

Try not to use paper

Consider biodiversity

Do volunteer work about food

Be an agent of change

As Indian writer Amitav Ghosh has argued in his book The Great Derangement (2017), "the climate crisis is a cultural crisis that results from a dearth of the imagination." The comments collected from peoples participating in the semi-directed interviews brings poignant variety while pointing the role of creativity when experienced with and in change.

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