A collaboration across kilometres
April 13, 2012

NSCAD students Lu Zheng and Barbara Scheed got to meet their classmates, Jenna Roy and Candra Staffen from the Visual Arts Department at Western University in London, Ont. for the first time in person. The students have been communicating via Skype and Facebook all term.

The class is called “Inter-Institutional Installation” – or as the students came to refer to it fondly, “the Three Eyes class.”

It’s a fitting title given that the students involved—12 students from Western University in London, Ont., and six students from NSCAD University—came to look at their surroundings with fresh eyes. Working in groups of three—two students from Western, one from NSCAD—the students talked, got to know each other and exchanged ideas via Skype and Facebook throughout the term. Sharing teaching duties for the class were Kim Morgan at NSCAD and Kelly Jazvac at Western.

It sounds unwieldy, but it reflects the reality for many contemporary artists, who often work collaboratively even when separated by half a continent.

“Collaborations are happening all of the time,” says Barbara Scheed, a NSCAD student originally from Montreal. “It’s really a learning process to work together. How do you change your ideas so they fit? When do you put your foot down? When do you not put your foot down? But I really feel the art is stronger when people come together.”

After communicating over the Internet all term, the students finally got to meet each other in person at the opening of their show, Cities of Opportunity, at the Anna Leonowens Gallery. The show is a presentation through photography and video of their individual site-specific projects, from the undulating trail of balloons that Julide Cakiroglu created to celebrate a fleeting vestige of farmland in the heart of the city to the ornate mosaic floor patterns that Jenna Roy fashioned with corn kernels and grain in a farm outbuilding. In both cases, the art is just a memory now; Jenna, who grew up on a farm outside of London, literally swept her work away.

But traces of Lu Zhang’s project still remain along the sidewalk on South Park Street. Finding herself constantly out of the breath after walking up and down Halifax’s hills during the recent Metro Transit strike, Lu wanted to visualize the process of breathing while climbing hills. With a box of red sand strapped to her back like an oxygen tank, she sent out a puff of red sand with every breath she took.

“The deeper I had to breathe, the more sand came out,” says Lu, a fourth-year student originally from Beijing, China.

Cities of Opportunities is on display until Saturday, April 14 at the Anna Leonowens Gallery, 1891 Granville St., Halifax.