Kathleen Vaughan – SSHRC Research-Creation Portfolio

As support for my research-creation Insight Grant Application, Learning With the Saint Lawrence, this site offers documentation of three bodies of work that demonstrate the depth of engagement of my sustained practice: Walk in the Water | Marcher sur les eaux, 2018 (3 images and 2 audio excerpts); Nel mezzo del cammin,2012-16 (3 images); Finding Home, 2007 (images).

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Additional work may be found at my professional website, akaredhanded.com, and the site for my Concordia University Research Chair in Socially Engaged Art and Public Pedagogies, re-imagine.ca.

1. Walk in the Water | Marcher sur les eaux (2018): Electronic textile installation with embedded audio, 9 feet high x 12 feet wide in eight layers; linen, silk, organza and textile piecing, embroidery; conductive thread and velcro, mini-speakers, digital amplifiers, WAV trigger; wood rigging.

3 images; 2 audio excerpts.

Walk in the Water, work in progress, September 2018. Photo: Kathleen Vaughan

Context/Description: Walk in the Water | Marcher sur les eaux uses visual art and oral history to explore the St. Lawrence River’s shoreline at the de-industrialized Montreal neighbourhood of Pointe-St-Charles, from environmental and social perspectives. Layers of textile mapping display six shoreline changes through 200 years of human infilling, often with contaminated soil; touch sensitive switches play back audio comments from locals and experts about the River and their hopes for it.

The project draws on urban planning, history, political ecology, botany, literature, environmental studies, water ecologies, and more. Bilingual (English-French), Walk in the Water is the first major research-creation outcome of my Concordia University Research Chair in Socially Engaged Art and Public Pedagogies, in exhibition at Concordia’s Webster Library, Oct.-Nov. 2018.

Relationship to proposed project: A foundation for the proposed Learning With the St. Lawrence, Walk in the Water is my first research-creation project to raise awareness of complex River issues and histories, of some of the many ways that people can and do connect with its waters and creatures, and to encourage affection and advocacy for this remarkable feature of central/eastern Canada.

(Above) perimeter stitching with digital embroidery of top layer of the map, marking the early — pre-infilling — shoreline of Pointe-St-Charles. (Below) Work in progress with conductive thread on one of the five textile switches that when touched will play back excerpts of audio interviews.

Audio component 1: Comment by Natacha Alexandroff, member of the Société d’histoire de Pointe-St-Charles and advocate for restoring local access to the St. Lawrence River.

Audio component 2: Comment by Philippe Gachon, Professor of Climatology at the Université du Québec à Montréal and holder of a strategic research chair in Hydrometeorological Risks Under Climate Change.

2. Nel mezzo del cammin (2012-2016): Textile piecing, digital and hand embroidery.

Nel mezzo del cammin: Glendon Forest, representing topographies and access limitations of this urban Toronto green space, adjacent to the Upper Don River and Sunnybrook Hospital. Photo: Michel

Context/Description: My series of five blanket-sized textile walking maps is a project of environmental justice, questioning who has the right to urban green space, with specific reference to woods and parks in Toronto and Montreal. The works use hand piecing, digital and hand embroidery to explore political ecologies and personal experience of these sites. Drawing on cartography, urban planning and geography, these works engage the embedded power dynamics of maps, working into the gap between the authoritative bird’s eye view and lived experience of a place over time: my maps use digital embroidery processes to version ‘official’ portions of a map – surveyed contours, texts, and labels in both French and English – and hand-stitching to record trajectories of walks taken over time.

Kathleen Vaughan, Glendon Forest (detail), textile layering, digital and hand stitching. Photo: Michel

Relationship to proposed project: This body of interdisciplinary research-creation construes the urban forest as a complex system and considers multiple aesthetic and ethical issues of access to urban nature – a version of the approach of the proposed Learning With the St. Lawrence. The success of the series in international exhibition (the only Canadian artwork selected for the International Textile Art Triennale in Riga, 2015) points to the broad resonance of the issues embodied by the work and its quality.

Nel mezzo del cammin: Lachine Canal, depicting gentrification and change alongside the linear park by the urban waterway. Textile piecing, digital and hand embroidery. Photo: Richard-Max Tremblay.


3. Finding Home (2006): Collage installation of large-scale charcoal drawings, textile maps and sculptural objects, archival and contemporary photographs.

Context/Description: This multi-modal ‘collage’ installation is based on a walk through a Toronto neighbourhood and brings together cultural geography, natural history, urban theory, posthumanism, art and art education theory, inviting the viewer to consider questions of place, belonging and home from multiple perspectives. This project was the core of my research-creation PhD.

Relationship to proposed project: Finding Home reflects my innovation and sustained engagement with research-creation and my command of multiple artistic media in collage installation (including the textiles and photography that will be part of Learning With the St. Lawrence). Further, Finding Home is core to my practice-based theorizing of collage as an interdisciplinary method for artistic research, disseminated in multiple articles, book chapters and conference presentations from 2005 forward. As the first research-creation PhD dissertation at York University (Toronto), Finding Home won multiple national and international awards for excellence and innovation and is repeatedly cited and exhibited.