Our present/breath year ended in May 2022! Thank you for everybody who was part of our drawing actions, movement explorations, visual arts exhibits and breath experiments! Now if only the COVID pandemic would end, too... stay well, you all!
present/breath: visual arts/symposium days
present/breath: bodymindspirit and visual trace, addressing intergenerational trauma and healing, mental health difference and COVID, reclaiming breath, one charcoal stroke at a time.
Join us Friday and Saturday, May 6th and 7th 2022, for a rich exploration of resilience, being-here, and co-breathing.
present/breath presents two artists, Jennifer Lickers and Chanika Svetvilas, framed by an ongoing community arts project. This event will be the ending of the multi-year EcoSomatics/EcoArts exploration series (2019 and 2020/21)
[Image Description: 3 panels, community participant in present/breath drawing action during summer 2021, black and white charcoal drawing (full size: 7 feet by 20 feet) of lungs and plants, a residential school photo reproduction overlaid with patterns and dancer. Dates of full exhibit: May 6th to May 27. Artist names: Jennifer Lickers and Chanika Svetvilas]
Gallery Opening as part of First Friday Ypsilanti, May 6th
22 North Gallery, 22 North Huron, Ypsilanti, MI
5.00pm onward: present/breath community drawing with Petra Kuppers
Let’s see each other as humans in the three-dimensional wild. Come and join 10-min participatory drawing actions. Community performance artist Petra Kuppers invites people to create surreal contour drawings of one another. All materials provided, zero drawing experience necessary, grounded in disability culture values of access aesthetics and experimentation. Enjoy spending a few minutes to look deeply at or sense and witness another human being.
6.30pm Artists' Talks with Jennifer Lickers and Chanika Svetvilas
Jennifer Lickers (she/her) is a biracial First Nations artist with ties to both Detroit, Michigan and Six Nations, Ontario. She grew up in the Detroit area. As a child she had little contact with her indigenous family and information about her native identity was formed through old photos of the west and one sided history books. Beliefs of the vanishing race theory started to surface early in her childhood. She often lived in two worlds. During the school year, she spent her time between Dearborn and Detroit. During the summer, she was with her grandparents on Six Nations Reserve in Ontario. The space between two cultures is the focus of her work.
Jennifer's present/breath Artist Statement: Growing up outside the indigenous community, a lot of my Indigenous identity was projected onto me through old images like Curtis Edward photos and things like that, and there is this myth that native people are no longer there. I want to show that we are here, and so these drawings are all of my currently living relatives.
Except for my grandparents - they are here (in the last drawing) through a spiritual connection, between with me and my grandmother. When I went to make my piece, and I had everything ready and set up to make it, I couldn’t -- there was this block there. So I stopped. I drew my kids, instead (the one by last drawing). And the next morning, I could hear my grandma say, it’s ok to draw me, just hang me next to your son – because she and my son were very close. I felt I had this permission to go ahead and draw them.
I drew my grandparents separate from the residential school, because I really wanted to free them from the residential school. My grandmother would have definitely not wanted me to put her image alongside the residential school, because she did as much as she could to separate herself from that.
Strawberries have a very spiritual connection with indigenous people, they are the first berries of the season, they represent birth and renewal and the new year, the first celebration. They represent health and life. I think of this whole body of work as a healing process for indigenous people. Residential schools are a very small portion of our history, and there is so much more that defines us. I think of the strawberry as this healing, rebirth, and renewal, because I really do believe that Indigenous people are in a renaissance right now. The culture, the language, is alive and is coming back.
I took an anthropology course, and there were circles and squares and diamonds to represent family trees. There was something very beautiful about that visual imagery. With the strawberries and their root systems, I was thinking about that kind of code, symbolizing family trees and rebirth and history. I saw the botanical drawings, and that’s what drew me in – oh, I need the plant with the roots, for when you think about history from generation to generation, it all affects everything. The residential school affected how my grandmother parented, how my father parented, it affected how I parented, and that is what I was thinking about with the botanical drawings.
Chanika Svetvilas (she/her/hers) is an interdisciplinary artist based in Princeton, NJ who utilizes lived experience to create safe spaces, to disrupt stereotypes, and to reflect on contemporary issues. She has presented her interdisciplinary work at ABC NoRio, Brooklyn Public Library, Westbeth Gallery, Denver International Airport, Asian Arts Initiative, Islip Art Museum, Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, and more. She is curator for the annual exhibition, Unique Minds: Creative Voices, at Princeton University and presented by the Graduate Student Government Mental Health Initiative. Svetvilas is also co-founder of ThaiLinks and Thai Takes, the first biennial Thai film festival in New York City. For more information, visit chanikasvetvilas.com.
Chanika's present/breath Artist Statement: As someone who self-identifies with an invisible disability of bipolar disorder, I search for ways to describe my way of being. My presence of mind fluctuates, meanders, collides with memories and is not always present when medical treatment has pulled me away from myself instead of providing care. I use charcoal to describe my lived experience as a transformative material that in its activated form is used to absorb chemicals after a stomach is pumped from a drug overdose and as a tool that allows me to leave my mark including my mistakes. I use my own voice in text layered and smeared over medical ones juxtaposed with images like a rebus puzzle. My prescription bottle sculptures use humor and whimsy to convey the ironies of the alienation of treatment and healthcare disparities. To disrupt the alienation, I invite viewers to embrace themselves and write a self-affirmation on a reflective speech balloon to share with others as part of a community that is present in the gallery.
(Full image description: Stranger to Myself (detail of 7ft by 20ft drawing), 2022, charcoal on photocopies of behavioral transition manuals, rice paste. The detail of the 20ft drawing has images from left to right: the Rx symbol on the upper left and lungs crossed by an anthurium stem that faces a striped circle with belted strips stretching out from four corners. In caps letters spell SEARCH within the circle. Below these images is the word “EXIT” drawn backwards.)
Soundcloud links to the three artist statements (linked via QR codes in the gallery itself, part of the aesthetic access provision in the gallery):
Symposium Day: May 7th, 1.30pm - 6.00pm
1.30pm: Meet in 22 North Gallery (for the whole of this day, we will negotiate being outdoors or indoors in community, taking various access needs into account). We will engage in welcoming somatic work with Stephanie Heit (independent artist, Turtle Disco, Ypsilanti), Charli Brissey (UM, Dance Department), and Petra Kuppers (UM, English, Women’s and Gender Studies), followed by a structured conversation about the work that surrounds us, in the presence of artists Jennifer Lickers and Chanika Svetvilas.
2.30-3.15, 22 North Gallery: Book Launch for Petra Kuppers' Eco Soma: Pain and Joy in Speculative Performance Encounters (University of Minnesota Press, 2022, open access). This book grew with and out of many of the engagements we had in our Eco-Somatics series these past years. How do dream journeys, poetry explorations, science fiction, dinosaur bones, and soft blankets go together? Celebrate the book release with us!
4.00-4.45: Workshop with Jessica Rajko.
In this small workshop we will focus on the palpability—the feeling of our active senses—in interactions with various technologies and apparatuses. Beginning with small, sensory explorations augmented by non-digital technologies such as ear plugs and stethoscopes we will explore the richness of our active, seeking senses. This will transition to similar explorations with custom-made wearable technology bands that unpack various biosensors and methods for making biosensor data legible. This offering is slow and playful—engaging curiosity as an entry point into criticality, particularly around questions of quantification, surveillance, and digital representation(s).
Jessica Rajko is an Assistant Professor at Wayne State University in dance and big data analytics. Her creative research and critical scholarship explores what we learn pragmatically, aesthetically, and ethically, when researchers cultivate spaces of methodological plurality and generative tension between dance and computing fields. Jessica has presented her research at Harvard’s Digital Futures Consortium, UPenn’s Price Lab for Digital Humanities, and University of New Mexico’s ART Lab. She’s also shared her interactive/performative artworks at CHI, Digital Humanities Summer Institute, Electronic Literature Organization Conference, Amsterdam’s OT301, Currents New Media Festival, and the Heard Museum.
5--6: Closing Performance Sharing with bree gant.
bree gant is an artist and thinker from the westside of Detroit. They studied film at Howard University while gentrification paved over Washington, DC, and moved back to Detroit, when the city filed for bankruptcy, to see the cranes had followed her home. She has held residencies and fellowships with Art Matters Foundation, Kresge Arts in Detroit, Red Bull Arts, People in Education and Detroit Narrative Agency, and exhibits artwork nationally. Some of their most transformative experiences were collaborative, improvisational performances with folk like The Gathering, Visions of the Evolution, and The Fringe Society. bree is currently researching the bodily experience of depending on the bus in the Motor City, binge watching early 2000s science fiction, and probably at a park somewhere dancing in the snow.
Registration for the in-person Symposium (free): https://www.eventbrite.com/e/presentbreath-symposium-tickets-321749580657
Access Notes: Wheelchair access, microphone, various access technologies will be on site. Limit 15 participants, to allow for some distance. If you require CART, ASL or other access provisions during the symposium events, please inform us at firstname.lastname@example.org by May 2nd, so that we can arrange the exhibit space accordingly.
Final Artists' Closing Talks May 26th, 6.30-7.30 ET, online
with Jennifer Lickers and Chanika Svetvilas.
Register here for free for the online talk zoom link (live captioning will be provided):
The Eco-Somatics/Eco-Arts series has been sponsored by the Eco-Arts Think-Act Tank from the National Center for Institutional Diversity, the University of Michigan’s Departments of English, Dance, Theatre, Initiative on Disability Studies, Graham Sustainability Institute and the Program in the Environment.
Prior Community Arts Project Actions in the present/breath series:
present/breath: ongoing participatory drawing/performance action with Petra Kuppers
(This project started before Omicron shut us down quickly, just as vaccines became part of our lives) - Let's look at one another again, freed from Zoom screens and lonely living rooms. Let’s see each other as humans in the three-dimensional wild. Come and join 10-min participatory drawing actions. Community performance artist Petra Kuppers invites people to create surreal contour drawings of one another, of dancing participants, and of quietly meditating ones. All materials provided, zero drawing experience necessary, grounded in disability culture values of access aesthetics and experimentation. Enjoy spending a few minutes to look deeply at and witness another human being.
Haehnle Crane Sanctuary, Turtle Disco goes... Crane Dancing trip, October 23, 2021
Turtle Disco, Ypsilanti, opening performance ritual at Eco Monsters and Somatic Takeovers symposium, September 16, 2021
Evanston Arts Center, Illinois, September 2021. Olimpias Video exhibited as part of
Either Wrong or Right, Just Examine: Examining the State of Our Environment, curated by Adero Knott and Alpha Bruton.
Closing performance of present/breath on September 5th, 2021, 1pm CST.
Artist Residency, Frankfort, Michigan, with Vidhu Aggarwal, Megan Kaminski and Stephanie Heit, August 2021
part of Starship Somatics, MELT, July 2021
Pride Festival, Ypsilanti, June 2021
1st First Friday, Ypsilanti, May 2021