By Sarah Goldrup

SenseLabs is a project designed by Musagetes, an international organization that works to make art more central and meaningful to individual, community, and societal life. SenseLabs are research projects in which people work with artists to collaboratively explore their connection to place and landscape.

The seeds for SenseLabs were planted in June 2011 with a project called Between a Rock and a Hard Place. Dutch artist Bik Van der Pol cleaned a sample of rock in Sudbury, which had been blackened by the mining and smelting processes that have transformed that landscape. Through this act Van der Pol highlighted our impact, the history present, and our responsibility to the landscape. Inspired by the unique setting and musical community of Sudbury, a concert bus series was created. Musicians performed on blackened pieces of rock creating new experiences and discovery in a previously familiar landscape.

The first SenseLabs took place May 2014 in Lethbridge, Alberta, where the urban landscape was juxtaposed to the distant backdrop of the Rockies. Montreal-based artist Jean-François Prost led the collective in a project titled Situations & Conditions. The group explored interesting, neglected, contested, and unused spaces, transforming sites with their presence and social interactions as well as a 20-metre length of red fabric. Through this project they explored their connection to place and the role of art in our experiences.

The upcoming iteration of SenseLabs will take place at rare Charitable Research Reserve in Cambridge. rare is an international leader in conservation, research, restoration, and education, protecting a network of natural landscapes held in trust for our community. For Musagetes the project not only has the possibility of being the foundation for a long-term relationship with rare but also with local indigenous communities. SenseLabs is an opportunity for indigenous and nonindigenous artists to connect and collaborate in a meaningful way. SenseLabs will explore the importance of place and landscape through art.

Elwood Jimmy, Program Coordinator at Musagetes said, “We’re optimistic about the project and I think that, working with the artists that we’ve chosen, we’ll be able to draw out some really amazing histories, narratives, and connections to the site over the course of the three months.”

Gabriella Caruso and Ange Loft will lead the project. Both have extensive experience working collaboratively with communities, as well as the history of the site/region, and traditional & customary practices in relation to the land. Jimmy explained, “We would love to have a core group of people that’s representative of the region, indigenous, nonindigenous and people from other communities, communities of colour. People coming together and really wanting to work, collaborate, and learn about each other and our connections to the land. There is opportunity to be really immersed in the landscape that we are learning about, its flora and fauna and the natural elements. For those who want to participate it will be really enriching on many levels.”

Musagetes, through the SenseLabs project, is working to explore the transformative and reconciliatory power of the arts through our connection to place and landscape. On the role of Musagetes in the project Jimmy noted, “We’re trying to build bridges between communities as well. We’re in a time in Canada right now where there is so much dialogue and discussion around Reconciliation and these larger issues and challenges. So, if we can contribute to bridging some of those gaps, then we are really happy.”

To learn more about the call and upcoming SenseLabs click here:

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