Creating bridges between the audience and the land

Boreal hip hop, still from “Remote Sensibility: the ecology of perception”
Grace Simpson-Fowler, Talia Woodland and Karyin Qiu were early participants in Remote Sensibility, performing in Marten’s favorite stage: outside


What happens when you bring Elders, astronauts, visual artists and choirs together? If you’re Marten Berkman, you end up with a multi-screen stereo 3D video and sound installation that depicts an orchestration of the land with visual art, music and performance.

“I have been inspired by a lifelong love for and relationship with the land, an observation that our industrious nature currently orphans us from it, and the brilliant example of respect and inclusivity that the Peel watershed journey demonstrates about embracing the layers of meaning which overlap in it,” said Berkman. “By listening inclusively and sensitively to multiple perspectives, we arrive at the most resilient solutions. This is medicine for the world.

“That is my inspiration on a pragmatic level, the pragmatism addressing the challenges we currently face. But ultimately I have been inspired by what I feel, the diverse perspectives reflected in the piece. These insights and sensibilities speak to the heart, and are like words in a larger poem or colours of a larger canvas I am inspired to bring to life.”

Berkman hopes that his work will help create a perceptive and emotive bridge between his audience and the land. “I want to reflect the reality that we are connected to the land, no matter where we are,” he said. “I feel artists can be the mediators of that bridge, when the urban spaces we have created and the lifestyles that have evolved isolate us from so much of life, and the startling beauty and fragility of the earth.”

In order to create the exhibit, Berkman needed to bring together a wide range of collaborators, his most ambitious collaboration to date. “Over a dozen artists and two choirs across four provinces and territories have participated, not to mention international contributions as well,” he said. “I am so grateful and humbled by these artists who have entrusted their work to my vision, and I am excited with what we express together.”

Although collaboration is intrinsic to the work of Remote Sensibility VIII, Berkman also values solitude in his artistic practice. “I often retreat to the land in solitude, it has been a refuge all my life,” he said. “And in solitude is where inner creativity has space to unfold. But there is such joy in sharing and collaboration adds the chemistry that can take us in unknown directions and that is the joy of adventure. I find sharing and supporting each other just lights the fire and fills the sails of our imperative need to create. Like the magic that can happen when melding imagery and music, it is amazing what beautiful chemistry happens when we collaborate with our respective mediums.”

Remote Sensibility VIII: the ecology of perception, runs at the Yukon Arts Centre from Dec. 5 to Feb. 29.

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