From September 16th until December 2nd, Lou Sheppard, an artist based out of Nova Scotia, will be showing their work titled Rights of Passage at the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU).
Rights of Passage is “centered around Toronto’s watersheds and the rivers and creeks that run through Toronto’s urban space. I like to think of these spaces as points of friction or wild spaces between city and nature. I think of them also as queer spaces — places where boundaries become blurred,” says Sheppard, while comparing city/wilderness, human/animal, and marginal/liminal spaces
“The piece draws on these blurry boundaries to think about how we can understand our own bodies in relation to ecology, particularly in relation to ecological crisis. It follows the structure of a Greek play with a prologue, three acts, an epilogue, and a chorus,” says Sheppard. “I used a bot called Jasper.ai to write the musical script for the work. The chorus performs a series of graphic scores that were based on intersections between the rivers and Toronto’s urban landscape. The chorus was led by my partner, Pamela Hart, and she also collaborated with me on the sound design of the piece.”
“I work in video, sound, and installation. My work is really site responsive. I think about the layers of ecological and social history of a site and the ways that our discourses frame our experiences of place as a settler in so-called Canada,” explains Sheppard.
In this work, Sheppard aims “to create an environment within the gallery space that visitors experience with their whole bodies. Things to see, hear, feel, and maybe even smell.” And believes “that the experience of the pandemic and having so many of our experiences made virtual has made [them] really think about what it means to be a body in space and all the different ways our bodies might experience things.”
Sheppard also explains that considering how our bodies might experience things is also a way to think about accessibility and other ways to experience art aside from visually.
When asked what advice to give to emerging artists at York, Sheppard says that “the most important thing for emerging artists is to trust your instincts. Don’t worry so much about what you think ‘capital A’ art should look like, what seems popular, or what looks like other work you see around online or in galleries. It is important to understand how your work relates to the wider world, of course, but that thinking can come after.”
“Also, do not be afraid of rejection. A friend told me once that you should aim for one-hundred rejections a year. Rejections are opportunities to think about what might not be translating in your work and to think about how to make your ideas more clear. However, they are also a marker of your success, because it means that you are putting yourself out there,” adds Sheppard.