In this open conversation, carpenter, architect, and PhD candidate at the University of Toronto, James Bird addresses ways in which Indigenous languages like Dene rest on and support their speakers’ relationships to land.
Curated by 2019 and 2022 Biennial contributors Jane Wolff and Susan Schwartzenberg, Toronto Landscape Observatory is a collection of tools, walks, workshops, and conversations designed to help Biennial visitors recognize, acknowledge, and understand their relationships to this place—and to other people who care about it. From May 2–June 5, 2022, the Observatory will host weekly programs to investigate the surroundings of the Biennial site at 72 Perth Avenue and draw attention to processes, phenomena, and connections that often go unnoticed. In examining the land and its relationships as they are today, the Observatory looks toward a future made uncertain by local and global change, from development pressures to the climate emergency. It invites visitors to contribute their own observations to an open vocabulary for imagining possibilities that are kinder, more just, and more resilient than the status quo.
If registration for the program is at capacity, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the waitlist.
Toronto Landscape Observatory is supported by funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and Office of the Vice-President, International, University of Toronto.
Image credit: Aaron Hernandez
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Jane Wolff (born in Boston, MA, USA; lives in Toronto, ON, Canada) studies, draws, and writes about the complicated landscapes that emerge from interactions between natural processes and cultural interventions; her goal is to make these difficult (and often contested) places legible to the wide range of audiences with a stake in the future. She is an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design.
Susan Schwartzenberg (born in Chicago, IL, USA; lives in San Francisco, CA, USA) is a visual artist, photographer, and curator whose work engages the public dialogue through themes of memory, history, and the psychology of place. She works in the public realm investigating the ways stories of people and place find form within the surrounding landscape and environmental conditions. She is the director of the Fisher Bay Observatory, Exploratorium, San Francisco and a Loeb Fellow in Advanced Environmental Studies, Harvard University, Cambridge, US.
Aaron Hernandez (born in Kitchener, Canada, lives and works in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Toronto, Canada) is a landscape designer trained in landscape architecture and English rhetoric and has practiced in New Orleans and Boston. His research aims to illuminate the complex relationship between language and landscape. Hernandez has worked with the Ecological Design Lab where his research was focused on the visualization of policy related to wildlife crossing infrastructure and landscape connectivity. His work has been awarded by the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture and the Landscape Architecture Canada Foundation.
Alexander Moyle (lives and works in Toronto, Canada) is a sculptor who sculpts, designs, creates and fabricates meaningful and expressive permanent public art and temporary installations with expertise in a broad range of materials, techniques and forms, for diverse settings and environments. He collaborates with architects, engineers, landscape architects, planners, fabricators, communities and other artists. His recent permanent public art installation To The River located at Kingsway and Bloor West, reflects in the urban stream the varied states of the Humber River in abstracted bronze figurative forms – Repose, Navigator and Turbulence. Moyle is a deeply committed environmental artist.
Emily MacCallum (born in Vancouver, Canada, lives and works in Toronto, Canada) is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Musicology at the University of Toronto (UofT), MacCallum completed an MA in Musicology from the U of T and was previously awarded a Bachelor of Music (2017) from the University of Victoria. Her doctoral research broadly explores the relationships between nineteenth-century orchestral music, sound studies, landscape, and resource extraction.
Gokoomis (Grandmother) Jacque/line Lavallée is from Shawanaga First Nation on the Eastern Shore of Georgian Bay. In 2022, she will be turning 79 years old and receiving her Doctorate of Social Justice Education. Lavallée has held the position of ‘Elder on Campus’ at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education since 2012. Lavallée is an Ojibwe Traditional Practitioner/Ceremonialist and she holds her 2nd Degree in the Three Fires Midewigaan Society. She is well known in the Toronto Indigenous community and throughout Ontario.
James Bird (Dënesųłiné, born in Fort Smith/Thebacha, Canada, lives and works in Toronto, Canada) is a carpenter, architect and PhD student in Architecture at the Daniels Faculty of Architecture Landscape and Design at the University of Toronto, where his current work examines the intersection between Indigenous languages and shape forming. He is also an active member of the RAIC’s Indigenous Task force on Architecture in Canada. Bird is a member of the Dënesųłiné Nation and affiliated with the Northwest Territories Métis Nation. He was proud to be part of the Canadian team at the 2018 Venice Architectural Biennale, headed by world-renowned Indigenous Architect Douglas Cardinal and 18 other Indigenous architects.
Dr. Jennifer Wemigwans (Anishnaabekwe, born in Toronto, Canada) takes pride in working to invert the conventional use of media by revealing the potential for Indigenous cultural expression through new technologies, education and the arts. Her book, A Digital Bundle: Protecting and Promoting Indigenous Knowledge Online speaks to the convergence between education and Indigenous Knowledge in a networked world. She is an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. She is a member of the Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island, Ontario
Lorraine Johnson (lives and works in Toronto, Canada) is a writer whose work engages with community issues and projects related to habitat creation/protection, urban food growing and land access. Her books on native plant gardening include 100 Easy-to-Grow Native Plants for Canadian Gardens, Grow Wild! and the forthcoming (spring 2022) A Garden for the Rusty-Patched Bumblebee: Creating Habitat for Native Pollinators, co-authored with Sheila Colla. Lorraine is currently advocating for the reform of Toronto municipal grass and weeds bylaws in support of biodiversity.
Luke Garwood (lives and works in Toronto, Canada) is a hybrid media designer, developer, dancer, and choreographer with a practice that merges performance with technology. With over a decade of experience as a collaborator with many of Canada’s foremost dance makers, he has been the recipient of several awards and honours, including the Dora Mavor Moore dance award (with Michael Caldwell and Naishi Wang) for best ensemble in Heidi Strauss’ what it’s like (2017), a national Faust award in Germany (2015), and the Soulpepper Multidisciplinary Dance Award (2013). Garwood attained a BDes in Digital Futures from OCAD U, where he received the Dr. Eugene A. Poggetto, and Dorothy Hoover awards.
Sherry Lee (lives in Toronto, Canada) is an Associate Professor of Musicology and a fellow of Victoria College and Trinity College at the University of Toronto. Her research and teaching interests are focused in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries and include music and modernist cultures, music and philosophy, sound and media studies, and discourses of music, sound, and environment. She is presently leading the development of an international research cluster in the environmental humanities, in partnership with Oxford University and the University of Pennsylvania.
Emily Switzer-Martell (lives and works in Toronto, Canada) is a Master’s student studying Landscape Architecture at the University of Toronto. With her education, she aspires to design landscapes that engage communities with the intricacies of nature that can be hard to find in highly urbanized landscapes, like Toronto. This desire comes from many summer days spent canoeing along traditional routes of rivers in relatively untouched provincial and national parks. Today, she resides in downtown Toronto near the lake, but comes from a small rural town near Wasaga beach and the northern greater city of Sudbury.
Karolina Lefebvre (born in Ottawa, Canada, lives and works in Toronto, Canada) has been fascinated by architecture since she was a child, following her parents from city to city to explore art, design, and cultures in Brussels, Belgium; Moscow, Russia; and other European metropolises. Traveling and living all around the world allowed her to learn about different cultures and how they may impact construction and define people’s perspectives. Lefebvre is a third-year undergraduate student studying architecture at the University of Toronto and also puts her newly gained academic skills to use when working with architects at Global Affairs Canada.
Rebecca Arshawasky (born in Toronto, Canada) is a multidisciplinary designer raised in Florida, USA. She is currently based in Toronto, where she is pursuing a postgraduate degree in Interdisciplinary Design Strategy at the Institute without Boundaries. Previously, she graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Architecture and Human Geography from the University of Toronto. Her current collaborative research project investigates the impacts of climate-induced migration on urban landscapes and explores how cities will adapt to population growth and increased human activity. Most recently, this work was featured in the DesignTO 2022 virtual exhibition: Imagining Climate Ready Communities.
Alexander Moyle (See under “Contributors”)
Joel Robson (born in Toronto, Canada) spent formative years in British Columbia where he learned carpentry from master woodworkers of Swedish, Danish and English descent. Further experiences on a more intimate scale developed after Sheridan College in 1983 with the establishment of the Design Cooperative, with which he pursued making and exhibiting together and explored the studio furniture and textile limits. These intense years gave Robson a grounding in focussed making, superlative design and the benefits of community dynamics . He has gone on to maintain a commission-based furniture studio and teach and curate, and head installations at the Gardiner Museum and the Textile Museum of Canada. He considers it an honour to work with artists and celebrate the role artists must play in culture locally and globally.