from the notes to self series (2014 ongoing)
Christina Battle is an artist based in amiskwacîwâskahikan, (also known as Edmonton, Alberta), within the Aspen Parkland: the transition zone where prairie and forest meet. Her practice focuses on thinking deeply about the concept of disaster: its complexity, and the intricacies that are entwined within it. Much of this work extends from her recent PhD dissertation (2020) which looked closer to community responses to disaster: the ways in which they take shape, and especially to how online models might help to frame and strengthen such response. She is currently the Online Editor for BlackFlash magazine, dedicated to presenting critical opinions, urgent issues and divergent artistic practices from across the prairies, Canada, and beyond.
She collaborates with Serena Lee as SHATTERED MOON ALLIANCE and has exhibited internationally in festivals and galleries as both artist and curator, most recently at: The MacKenzie Art Gallery (Regina), The Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba (Brandon), The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (Colorado), Latitude 53 (Edmonton), The John & Maggie Mitchell Gallery (Edmonton), Harbourfront Centre (Toronto), Capture Photography Festival (Vancouver); Forum Expanded at the Berlinale (Berlin), Blackwood Gallery (Mississagua), Trinity Square Video (Toronto), and Untitled Art Society (Calgary).
Artist-Run Centre Board & Committee Involvement:
Latitude 53 Board of Directors: 2022, ongoing
For almost 20 years I have worked as a media artist, curator, arts administrator and educator and have been an active member of a number of communities. My practice is founded in a DIY ethos and I see culture as being entirely dependent on it if it hopes to remain current and progressive. As such, I consider organizing and collaborating to be active and critical parts of my practice, often with the goal of bridging conversation across disciplines. Primarily manifesting as video, installation, web, participatory, and curated projects, I consider artistic work to be a critical and effective way to illuminate the complex negotiations we find ourselves facing in society, and media art as uniquely situated to engage with contemporary culture as an urgent subject. I recently received a PhD in Art & Visual Culture from the University of Western Ontario where I situated my research and practice under a dissertation titled: Disaster as a Framework for Social Change: Searching for new patterns across plant ecology and online networks.
Multidimensional by definition, disaster is seen as a series of intersecting processes including social, environmental, cultural, political, economic, and technological, which are implicated not only in how disaster is caused but also in how it manifests, is responded to and overcome. Through this research I consider the ways in which disaster as both subject and framework might be utilized as a tactic for social change, and as a tool for reimagining how dominant systems might radically shift. Especially interested in how our engagement with media shapes our understanding and interpretation of information, this research focuses on thinking more critically about the tools of technology (especially that of the internet and new media technology) as part of contemporary language, and considering how information disseminated via online platforms operates within the framework of disaster. At the root of my approach is a focus on the role of collaboration, collectivity and conversation as strategies for tackling the pressing issues we face today.
My research expands beyond the impact of large scale natural disaster events, looking to disaster as action, as more than mere event, and instead as a framework operating within larger systems of power. The overarching question that my artistic work considers is: how might small gestures of artistic practice be utilized as tools for change? Through the generation of artistic works and curatorial projects, my approach relies on the premise that creating opportunities for new conversations around disaster has the potential to contribute to the reimaging of how dominant systems might radically shift. Strategies for actively working through this research manifest through the organizing and curating of film/video screenings, exhibitions and events, seen as a way to facilitate conversation and bring people together to engage in shared experiences. Through this part of my practice, I see my role as one of a facilitator who can help to shape space for others’ voices to be heard, who can contribute to actively diversifying both artistic spaces and their audiences, and who can provide opportunities for critical engagement with conversations that might not otherwise occur within artistic institutions.
A bit more about me to help provide some context with regard to my perspective, which is a Western, specifically North American one. I am a settler in Treaty 6, the daughter of a white, 3rd generation settler mother whose father emigrated to Canada from the US (sometime before the 1940s), and whose maternal grandparents emigrated to Canada from the UK in the early 1900s, before (grandfather), and after (grandmother) WWI; and a Black American father who has been a Permanent Resident of Canada since the 1960s and whose parents and grandparents lived in the Southern US, with an ancestry disrupted by the American slave trade. I myself have repeatedly moved across North America and between both Canada and the United States.1 The strategies and insights explored throughout my practice should be seen as coming from within this particular lens. Along with this individual perspective, thinking across my work and research pulls heavily from ecology, more specifically, plant ecology.2 Relating to the overall complexity that disaster studies engages with, ecology is thus defined: “The English word ecology is taken from the Greek oikos, meaning ‘house,’ our immediate environment. In 1870 the German zoologist Ernts Haekel gave the word a broader meaning: the study of the natural environment and of the relations of organisms to one another and to their surroundings. Thus, ecology is the science by which we study how organisms (animals, plants, and microbes) interact in and with the natural world.”3 I look specifically to ecological relationships among plants—especially how plants evade, respond to and prepare for disaster—as a way to find strategies for our own communities. It is important to note that my working definition of community is one that also draws from ecology: “many populations of different kinds living in the same place constitute a community,”4 and necessarily includes both human and non-human entities. [pulled and adapted from my dissertation, 2020]
1: Definitions of generation status as set by Statistics Canada: “Generation status: Canadian-born children of immigrants,” Statistics Canada, modified July 25, 2018, https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/nhs-enm/2011/as-sa/99-010-x/99-010-x2011003_2-eng.cfm; This extended introduction to help explain where it is that I, and thus my perspective, comes from was inspired by comments made by Mohawk/Tuscarora writer Janet Rogers at a recent talk in Edmonton. She discussed the importance of knowing and stating one’s own ancestry as a way to begin the Reconciliation process with Indigenous peoples. While in dialogue with Amy Fung at Latitude 53, Thursday, May 23, 2019.
2: Focus on this discipline is not new to me. Prior to engaging with artistic practice, my university studies were within ecology, which helped to shape my overall worldview (I earned a Bachelor degree of Science with specialization in Environmental Biology in 1996).
3: Robert E Ricklefs, The Economy of Nature, Third Edition (New York: W.H. Freeman, 1993), 1 (italics mine).
4: Ibid., 3.
Previous Collective & Collaborative Projects:
re:assemblage with Scott Miller Berry [Ontario; 2016-2018]
MICE MAGAZINE [Toronto; 2016-2017]
Nothing To See Here [Denver; with Adán De La Garza] [2014-2016]
F A I N T I N G C O P S [Denver; with Adán De La Garza] [2015-2016]
The Perceptual Adventure Series [San Francisco; with Nate Boyce, Marijke Jorritsma & Kent Long] [2003-2005]
The League [Toronto; with Sara MacLean, Juli Saragosa & Michèle Stanley]
Previous Artist-Run Centre Board & Committee Involvement:
Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre [Toronto]
Gallery 44 [Toronto]
selected written things about my work:
Moments of Perception: Experimental Film in Canada, a book edited by Jim Shedden and Barbara Sternberg launches from Goose Lane Press.
Jayne Wilkinson wrote about Plastic Heart: Surface All the Way Through in MOMUS: An Aesthetic of Enough.
Connecting Thru Grasses explores Prairie ecology and social issues, by Ashley Martin, Regina Leader-Post, Jan 23, 2021.
A Year of Relations by Noor Bhangu for Galleries West.
To Reciprocate All They Freely Offer by Mercedes Webb for C Magazine (issue 147 –Gather).
Lillian O’Brien Davis’s essay about connecting thru grasses [at the Art Gallery of SouthWestern Manitoba, curated by Alyssa Fearon. October 1 thru November 21].
Exhibition text by Rose van Mierlo for Notes to Self and Exercises in trust at the Boulder Museum of Contemproary Art [curated by Rose van Mierlo. October 8 thru 21].
An essay discussing Today in the news more black and brown bodies traumatized the soil is toxic the air is poison by Gabrielle Moser was published in Esse Magazine – Surviving the End of the World: Colonialism and Climate Change in the Work of Christina Battle and David Hartt.
Nadia Kurd reviewed “Grasping at the Roots,” at the Mitchell Art Gallery for Canadian Art, (Fall 2020): 111-112.
Mediated Disaster and Unmediated Climate Anxiety: A Conversation with Christina Battle and Jayne Wilkinson – in Other Places: Reflections on Media Art in Canada
Nadia Kurd includes my work in her ongoing segment: “Profiles on Practice: Christina Battle,” for Femme Art Review.
Notes to Self forReview: Notes to Self by Christina Battle – part of Forum Expanded, Berlinale
A review of Notes to Self at Forum Expanded by Andreas Hagemoser [in German]
Jayne Wilkinson mentions BAD STARS in her “A Year in Contradictions” for Canadian Art Magazine online, 2018.
Heather Davis wrote an essay about BAD STARS for Canadian Art Magazine [September 20, 2018]
Review of the group exhibition The More I Look At These Images at 8-11 Gallery (Toronto) by Terence Dick for Akimblog (December 2017)
Exhibition Publication for Le Mois De La Photo À Montréal 2015 – The Post-Photographic Condition edited by Joan Fontcuberta
Echoes in a Stranger Land– exhibition essay by Ellyn Walker for End Transmission at the Thames Art Gallery through November, 2015.
Back To The Future – A review of the group exhibition at Casa Maauad in Mexico City by Jacob Wick – Bad At Sports (July 17, 2015)
What Was Will Be (pdf)– A review of dearfield, colorado’s exhibition at Gallery 44 in Toronto by Daniella E. Sanader – BlackFlash Magazine 31.3 Fall 2014
“Questions for a Hillside” By Meg Walker (pdf) Exhibition Essay for the space between here and there (the yukon river) at the ODD Gallery.
NOW Magazine Toronto Nature’s fury: What Was Will Be probes communities’ experience of natural disasters review of the dearfield, colorado exhibition at Gallery 44 By Fran Schechter.
“What Was Will Be And Yellow Font Forest Green,” curatorial essay accompanying exhibition at Gallery 44 by Caoimhe Morgan-Feir, 2014
Canadian Art Magazine Online “Photo-Art Show Takes on Topsy-Turvy Weather” review of the dearfield, colorado exhibition at Gallery 44 By Leah Sandals, 2014
Artoronto.ca “Christina Battle & Kristie MacDonald: What Was Will Be” review of dearfield, colorado exhibition at Gallery 44 by Shellie Zhang, 2014
C Magazine “Investigating the Unexplained” interview with Clint Enns, Issue 120 “Surveillance,” December 2013
Blouin Artinfo Canada online, “Video Artist Christina Battle Finds Nothing on the News at TUFF” review of we’re not exactly sure what just happened by Mark Mann, 2013
Cinema Scope online, “Between the Walls: Images Festival 2013” Review of ‘The Twelve Devil’s Graveyards Around the World’ (was titled fog vortex) exhibition at the Images Festival 2013 by Michael Sicinski, 2013
Christina Battle: Filing Memory – Catalogue of an exhibition held at the Foreman Art Gallery of Bishop’s University, from September 15 – December 10, 2010. With texts by: Vicky Chainey Gagnon, Shawn Malley, Andréa Picard
Electrified Air and Restless Skies – A review of dearfield, colorado‘s opening exhibition at MCA Denver in Art & Shadows – by Meredith Tromble, 2012
Canadian Art online, “Ryerson Image Centre Sheds Light on Photo’s Role” Review of group exhibition including Archived Disasters [The Evidence] I.Bridge Collapse II. Unexplained Lights in Skies III. Sightings of Unknown Creature By David Balzer, 2012
Exhibition Publication for ARCHIVAL DIALOGUES: READING THE BLACK STAR COLLECTION curated by Doina Popescu and Peggy Gale at the Ryerson Image Centre, 2012
Filing Memory (2010) curatorial text by Vicky Chainey Gagnon (PDF)
Strategies of the Medium V, “Dreaming in 35mm” (link to PDF) – curatorial essay & publication accompanying Go Big or Go Home exhibition by Larissa Fan, LIFT 2010
Strategies of the Medium II, “The Transformative Potential of Optical
Printing” (link to PDF) – curatorial essay & publication accompanying Printed Light exhibition by Chris Gehman, LIFT 2009
Behind These Walls: Contemporary Canadian Experimental Short Films. A special screening of contemporary Canadian and international film-based work presented as part of the media arts festival Espace [Im]média. Curatorial essay by Vicky Chainey Gagnon (pdf) October 1, 2009
“Strangers in a Strange Land: Christina Battle’s Pirates”, Jon Davies 2008 (PDF)
“Christina Battle’s Alchemy”, Janine Marchessault (pdf) 2007 from CFMDC’s Artist’s Spotlight DVD series Study Guide