Christina Battle is an artist based in amiskwacîwâskahikan (Edmonton), 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. She looks to disaster as a series of intersecting processes including social, environmental, cultural, political, and economic … which are implicated not only in how disaster is caused but also in how it manifests, is responded to, and overcome. Through this research, Battle looks closer to both online models and plant systems for strategies to learn from, and for ways we might help to frame and strengthen such response. 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 artistic and online models might help to frame and strengthen such response.
Battle’s practice prioritizes collaboration, experimentation, and failure; she has a B.Sc. with specialization in Environmental Biology from the University of Alberta, a certificate in Film Studies from Ryerson University, an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute, and a PhD in Art & Visual Culture from the University of Western Ontario. 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: most recently at: Window Winnipeg; Gallery 44 (Toronto); The Blackwood Gallery (Mississagua); The Grantham Foundation (Quebec); The Art Gallery of Burlington (Ontario); and The Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa, Ontario).
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.
Current Artist-Run Centre Board & Committee Involvement:
Latitude 53 [Edmonton]
Previous Collective 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]
selected written things about my work:
A conversation (in 3 parts) between Alana Bartol, Rita McKeough, and myself, is now up online at Remediation Room (project curated and facilitated by Alana Bartol).
Jessica Mulvogue wrote an insightful and lovely essay that includes considerations about BAD STARS: Art of the Interregnum in Canada’s Chemical Valley, published in The Routledge Companion to Contemporary Art, Visual Culture, and Climate Change, 2021.
Moments of Perception: Experimental Film in Canada, a book edited by Jim Shedden and Barbara Sternberg launches from Goose Lane Press.
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).
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.
Mediated Disaster and Unmediated Climate Anxiety: A Conversation with Christina Battle and Jayne Wilkinson – in Other Places: Reflections on Media Art in Canada
“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.
Artoronto.ca “Christina Battle & Kristie MacDonald: What Was Will Be” review of dearfield, colorado exhibition at Gallery 44 by Shellie Zhang, 2014
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
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
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
“Christina Battle’s Alchemy”, Janine Marchessault (pdf) 2007 from CFMDC’s Artist’s Spotlight DVD series Study Guide