The Riding Mountain Artists’ Residency provides professional artists with an opportunity to be inspired and create their works in the park’s setting. In return these professional artists invite visitors to interact with them and uniquely discover the park through their eyes and works.
Michelle Wilson’s work with bison began this past summer when she was an artist in residence at Riding Mountain National Park in 2016. Every day for two weeks, she observed and captured audio recordings of the bison that inhabit the Lake Audy plain enclosure. Collaborating with conservation officers, members of the local indigenous communities, naturalists and most importantly the bison themselves, Michelle formed a connection to these creatures and their biosphere.
“Following upon this undertaking, I have begun to develop a new body of work entitled Wallow,” said Michelle. “To wallow is to roll in the dirt as bison do, but it is also ‘to devote oneself entirely; especially: to take unrestrained pleasure [and] to become or remain helpless’. This definition describes my commitment to this multi-year body of work, the experience of making it and the seemingly contradictory emotions it will evoke.”
Wallow incorporates audio recordings, installation, GPS technology and textile works. It recognizes the bison of Riding Mountain as individuals while simultaneously connecting them to a profound historical loss. This experiential work will make palpable the presence and absence of the bison, as well as their inseparability from this land and its people. In the fall of 2017, Michelle will return to Riding Mountain to witness and facilitate discussions around conservation, land use and Indigenous culture.
“Through animal bodies, we can use situated knowledge to tell broader stories of colonization, interdependency, renewal and repression. The story of these bison, the Canadian government, and local indigenous peoples is still unfolding. I hope to utilize the connections I made while conducting my 2016 field research to observe blessing, smudging and offering ceremonies practiced by local First Nations before the yearly bison culls. While I understand the reality that necessitates the ‘removal’ of several bison a year, I believe it is worth looking, both rationally and affectively at our actions and authority over ‘other’ lives.”
Originally a photo-based artist, Michelle Wilson has expanded her practice to incorporate new media, sculpture, textile, text, and relational works. She represented Canada at the Recontres d’Arles in 2008, and, more recently, presented at the 14th annual Institute for Critical Animal Studies Conference. Wilson received her BFA from the University of Ottawa in 2005, and graduated with highest honours from the School of Photographic Arts, Ottawa in 2008. In 2015, she successfully defended her MFA thesis, ANIMA: Visual Art as a Vehicle for Exploring Other Modes of Relatedness. She is currently a PhD candidate in Art and Visual Culture at the University of Western Ontario.
Heading out to Riding Mountain?
Connect with Michelle on Saturday, September 30th at 2:00 p.m at the Visitor Centre.