Kitsilano Beach is a staple of Vancouver’s geographic identity. You might visit a few times a week to walk your dog, or to take in the sunshine with friends and family.
But how often do think about your relationship to that land? How might you consider its role in your life if you found out it might not be there tomorrow?
Local artist Valerie Christiansen has been asking these questions for years—ever since her hometown of Kitimat became the site of a discussion about Indigenous land rights, identity, and pipeline development. She’s talked to Indigenous activists in Canada, the United States, and Queensland, Australia, and this Wednesday (August 9), the results will be on display at Hadden Park in Kitsilano with the interactive mixed-media performance Wet Ink, presented as part of the Vines Art Festival.
The park’s trees will hold tablets displaying the faces of Wet Ink’s interview subjects, paired with audio of their testimonials. The piece also encourages guests to interact with the landscape of Hadden Park in new ways—one station asks people to write a letter to a tree, for example.
When building Wet Ink, Christiansen was particularly struck by an interview with an Indigenous man from Australia, discussing how the Great Barrier Reef, an essential part of his home’s ecosystem, is currently under threat.
“He said that if the land is destroyed, they lose their identity because the land is part of their identity,” she says. “That struck me because I think I do have a different relationship to land. I think a lot of people still do care about where we live, but we could get up and move. Whereas he’s saying if the Great Barrier Reef is destroyed, then he feels like his identity is destroyed.”
Christiansen hopes that Wet Ink will ignite conversations about the spaces we occupy, while also acknowledging the global struggle over resource extraction, where Indigenous people are often on the front lines. The first performance is local, but Christiansen plans to adapt the piece this fall in London, England, where its discussion of land rights is just as essential, but less frequently heard.
“What Canada, America and Australia have in common is that they’re colonized, and I believe that this is just another form of colonialism, when people put pipelines through spaces,” says Christiansen. “I don’t know that in Europe they necessarily think in those terms any more. They see colonialism as this ancient thing that happened a long time ago, whereas the effects and the ramifications are still playing out in 2017, just in new ways.”
While there are big travel plans in place for Wet Ink, Vancouver residents are invited to come out and engage in the piece’s examination of land preservation, starting by looking at our own back yard.
More information on Wet Ink and Vines Art Festival can be found here.