Life in the (artistic) Zone

“Can I have your ticket please?”

I show the young woman with the stylish hair-cut my Royal B.C. Museum ticket, the one I paid $15.00 plus GST for.

“No,  your ticket with a word printed on it…look….”  She deftly produces  a small, brightly colored laminated card palmed in her hand.  Only thing is, she shows it so quickly, and the word’s printed so small, I can’t see it.

“Oh I don’t have a word ticket.”

“That’s all right, you don’t need one.  You can just shout out a word.”

Wanting to play – and having been brainstorming for the letter “Z” – I pull out a pen and write “Zanzibar” on the back of my Sight and Sound ticket and hand it to her improv partner.

“Zanzibar!?” he says, “Where’s Zanzibar? Does it even exist?”

“Off the coast of India, isn’t it?” she says.

And so it started, the improv session of Dave Morris and Missie Peters in the Majestic Theatre at the Royal B.C. Museum’s Sight and Sound Festival.  A one-night performance installation, bringing the permanent exhibitions to life with the use of sound.

Attracted by the laughter and applause of the preceding audience, I’d wandered into their act after being mesmerized by the U Vic Drummers in the First People’s Gallery, where local poet laureate and visual artist Janet Rodgers was drawing and coloring a plastic sheet overlaid on an archival photograph.

Janet Rodgers, Victoria's current poet-laureate, added her vision to archival photos at Royal B.C. Museum, Sight and Sound Festival, April 28th, 2012.

It had been an almost transcendental experience hearing the group’s rhythmic drumming of the single big drum, accompanied by traditional First Nations singing – for this evening, a call and response – while I gazed at a mural-size archival photograph of totem poles, and viewed a short historical film of war canoes, the rowers’ oars rhythmically entering the water, the leader – dressed in animal skins and mask, doing a war-dance at the head of canoe – all in perfect time with the live drumming.

I only stayed for one set of Dave and Missie’s evening-long  performance before being distracted by the sounds of The Victoria Phonographers Union coming from the adjacent Old Town: four digital composers seated behind laptops round a single table, periodically sending commands to play their creations through loudspeakers, bringing to life the installation with the sound of people milling through the streets of old town, while up on the next level, Buddha machine sound installation – also working with laptops – enlivened an otherwise static installation of The Mine, with sounds of miners working.

Next stop, the Tremblay Farm: a pioneer settlement.  Definitely one of the highlights of the evening with local blue-grass players Garret Thompson and Shanti Bremer.

On my way down to the second floor, I pass the Gum Sing Musical Society, representing Victoria’s Chinese community with their traditional instruments and music.

On the second floor, in the Natural History section, I get a personal favorite, and another excuse for the letter “Z” – Zoology: Paul Walde and Tina Pearson‘s installation of Music for Natural History in Four Parts, their 15-player ensemble filling the space with the environmental sounds of Prelude in Ice, Elk Concerto, Shoreline Operetta and Delta Sequence.  Each musician creating a unique bird, mammal, or natural sound with their instrument: drums, whistles, horns, strings, percussion, vocals.

So what about the letter “Z” and living in the (artistic) Zone? Well, as an artist and performer, there have been many Zones that have inspired and nurtured my creativity.  I’ve touched on some of those places in this A-Z Places I’ve Lived.  It’s great to finish the challenge with a post about other artists and their work.  Sight and Sound was terrific opportunity to be introduced to the work of so many gifted artists living and working here in the Artistic Zone on Vancouver Island.  And it was very special to meet them in the Royal B.C. Museum and witness how they draw inspiration from our shared heritage. I look forward to getting better acquainted with them all.  It’s good to be home!

What zone do you live in?

8 thoughts on “Life in the (artistic) Zone

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    1. Yes Jenn it was a wonderful evening and great to see so many artists of different types on the same evening. A celebration of the many unique ways we can draw on our common heritage.

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