Culture X: Bodies in Nature, Bodies Online

Jun 2 - Aug 31, 2021

The past year has been a mass experiment in digital contingency where we have sought to explore a world together from afar. In the Cultural Studies Department at Trent University, this has meant rethinking our pedagogical approaches to research-creation and to the discourse surrounding art, culture, and theory. The students in our studio courses found innovative and insightful ways to engage with artistic production quite literally from their bedrooms, becoming one of the strongest cohorts of emerging artists we’ve seen in years. Their body of work crosses disciplines, mediums, and theoretical approaches, questioning and problematizing digitality, the body, identity, movement, nature, and the ontology of art in an age of contagion. These artworks were created in a handful of courses encompassing the Cultural Studies integrated arts platform and submitted for the Gregory R. Frith Memorial Prize: CUST 2172H: Performance and Protest, CUST2186H: Photography, CUST3111H: Visual Arts Studio, CUST3142H: Experimental Music, and CUSTCUST4586H: Cinema in the Digital Age.

Bodies in Nature, Bodies Online is the inaugural online exhibition of Cultural X, an annual showcase Trent University/Cultural Studies Undergraduate Art. Please contact Kelly Egan with any questions:

Own Undoing by Katy Catchpole (Cultural Studies and Gender and Social Justice)

Own Undoing is a digital video performance piece which explores notions of gender and gender identity, specifically with regard to my own sense of becoming. I consider gender both in terms of the formal qualities of the digital, and the contextual meaning behind my work.

In this work I undergo a process of construction and deconstruction, as my face and body are repeatedly fragmented into scattered pieces, occasionally threading together in tangible ways to reveal my figure. As these scattered fragments flicker across the screen in a flurry of reds, greens and blues, the innately painterly aura of the digital medium reveals itself. I consider this painterly condition to serve as a re-grounding of my body and my artistic hand, amidst my own disintegration.

Within this work I consider the fact that any performance, self-construction or deconstruction, is not my own—it has been handed to me, thrust upon me or projected onto me by someone else. Whether I accept or reject the constructions permitted to me, my acceptance or rejection is not an autonomous choice. The abrupt and often frenzied movements I subject my body to in time with the music could be self-inflicted or involuntary. Violent or tame. Confining or liberating.

Caption: Katy Catchpole, Own Undoing, Digital Video, Colour, Sound, 2021. (Winner, Firth Prize 2021)

Apparitions by Rachael Cain (Cultural Studies)

Apparitions marries concepts of aura, artifice, and the supernatural phenomena of Marian apparitions in a series of images featuring altered reproductions of existing artworks.

With a focus on manual manipulation, materiality, and scanner-as-instrument to glitch and distort, contact prints are made, manipulated during scanning with alternative light sources like flame. Objects used related to the original artwork in some way— kleenex to mimic drapery in Strazza’s statue, a window screen for the Immaculate Heart stained glass. The low key images could appear striking at first glance, but further inspection reveals merely a clumsy, human forgery of something holy and authentic. We expect to find Mary in gold, over roses, but find her in pixels, smeared petroleum, and plastic. Crude materiality juxtaposes the type of environment one usually encounters religious imagery. Mary cannot be willed into apparating in any meaningful way, nor can this work be reproduced with any of what Walter Benjamin describes as aura, the “here and now” of the work of art. These apparitions and reproductions are both inauthentic.

Therefore, Apparitions does not aim to transcend–the crux of the work too aware of its fraudulence. Any merits are gleaned only through the shadow of ineffables like aura and apparitions; They’re found in labour, force, smoke, mirrors.

Caption 1: Rachael Cain, Apparitions: in Ziploc, Digital Photograph, Black and White, 2020. (Original: Bouguereau, William-Adolphe. Pietà, 1876. Oil on canvas, 222.9 cm by 149.2 cm. Private Collection.)


Caption 2: Rachael Cain, Apparitions: in faux flowers, Digital Photograph, Black and White, 2020. (Original: da Sassoferrato, Giovanni Battista Salvi. Young Virgin Mary, 1640-50. Oil on canvas, 73 by 57.7 cm. The National Gallery, London.)


Caption 3: Rachael Cain, Apparitions: in Vaseline, Digital Photograph, Black and White, 2020. (Original: da Vinci, Leonardo. A Study of the Head of Madonna, 1490. Oil on wood, 24.7 cm by 21 cm. Galleria nazionale di Parma, Parma.)


Caption 4: Rachael Cain, Apparitions: in Kleenex, Digital Photograph, Black and White, 2020. (Original: Strazza, Giovanni. The Veiled Virgin, early 1850s. Marble, 48 cm. Presentation Convent, St. John’s, Canada.)


Caption 5: Rachael Cain, Apparitions: in window screen, Digital Photograph, Black and White, 2020. (Original: Unknown. Immaculate Heart of Virgin Mary, n.d. Stained glass. Cathedral of Córdoba, Córdoba, Spain.)


Soft Places by Zoe Easton (Cultural Studies)

Soft Places explores the body as a site for traumatic memory and healing. In this project I have taken photos of textures which exist in nature and in my own body and presented them side by side as abstractions. I suggest that my body is a place that holds traumatic memory not only in terms of a stagnant memory of an event in time, but in terms of an ongoing cellular process. When swatched side-by-side, my body holds textures like those found in nature, suggesting that I too am a part of the natural world and therefore have the capacity to heal and grow just like all organisms around me.

So often as marginalized people and as survivors we are told that our bodies and our minds are not natural; that they are functioning in abnormal ways.

I want the viewer to consider that we are natural. Our bodies function the way they do in order to keep us alive before, during and after trauma. We exist in this world because of these dysregulations, not in spite of. There is no shame in acknowledging them as part of our emotional ecosystems.

Caption 1: Zoe Easton, Soft Places #1, Digital Photograph, Colour, 2021.

Caption 2: Zoe Easton, Soft Places #2, Digital Photograph, Colour, 2021.

Caption 3: Zoe Easton, Soft Places #3, Digital Photograph, Colour, 2021.

Caption 4: Zoe Easton, Soft Places #4, Digital Photograph, Colour, 2021.

Gender Inequality by Carolina Engering (Environmental Studies), Ceilidh Peters (English Literature), and Ayse Lara Yildirim (Greek and Roman Studies)

CUST 2572H: Performance and Protest focuses on the theory and practice of Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed. The performance you’re about to see is an example of Invisible Theatre.

Invisible Theatre is an activist intervention in a social setting highlighting a form of oppressive behaviour without the audience knowing that theatre is happening. The objective is to draw people’s attention to the behaviour and provoke discussion about it. Invisible Theatre allows these people known as ‘spect-actors’ to have the chance to act according to the underlying moral values they hold.

Usually, this form of theatre is performed outside in places where theatre performances are not traditionally put on. As a result, the risk of social confrontation through interaction is increased, as are the risks. However, due to the pandemic, we decided to test our luck on doing Invisible Theatre through Zoom. We wanted to tell our story in a compelling way and showcase our passion for the craft, as well as our understanding of Boal’s theory. With all of that being said, we hope you enjoy our performance, and we hope this makes you think about your perspective as a future ‘spect-actor’. Because theatre can happen anywhere; are you prepared to participate?

Caption: Carolina Engering, Ceilidh Peters, and Ayse Lara Yildirim, Gender Inequality, Digital Video/Zoom Recording, Colour, Sound, 2021.

Captivating by Stephanie Etherington (Bachelor of Business Administration)

Captivating is two series of photos comprised of abstract images exploring the concept of physical manipulation of everyday items, making them unrecognizable. I designed this series with different textures, movement, and the sense of touch, taking inspiration from the light and space movement, colour, and remediation. Incorporating physical materials and presenting the work in a digital format creates tension and a limitation that does not resolve the urge to touch. By separating the series into two—one focusing on darkness and the other on colour—I was able to showcase different qualities of light and the draw attention to our relationship to visuality. The dark series has hints of natural refraction colours which develops the viewer’s eyes to comprehend the intensity of the colour series.

When creating this series of photographs, I incorporated an existing video found on I remediated it by reflecting the video onto a mirror and shot the reflection through a DSLR camera with a macro lens attachment. The reproductive tension is portrayed from the movement of colours and the sharp lines of the glass material. By using these techniques, I composed two different series of light and dark images that are visually rich and exciting to viewers.

Caption 1: Stephanie Etherington, Captivating Series: Dark #1, Digital Photograph, Colour, 2021.


Caption 2: Stephanie Etherington, Captivating Series: Dark #2, Digital Photograph, Colour, 2021.


Caption 3: Stephanie Etherington, Captivating Series: Dark #3, Digital Photograph, Colour, 2021.


Caption 4: Stephanie Etherington, Captivating Series: Dark #4, Digital Photograph, Colour, 2021.


Caption 5: Stephanie Etherington, Captivating Series: Colour #1, Digital Photograph, Colour, 2021.


Caption 6: Stephanie Etherington, Captivating Series: Colour #2, Digital Photograph, Colour, 2021.


Caption 7: Stephanie Etherington, Captivating Series: Colour #3, Digital Photograph, Colour, 2021.


Caption 8: Stephanie Etherington, Captivating Series: Colour #4, Digital Photograph, Colour, 2021.


Spook-Key Tunes by Mridul Harbhajanka (Cultural Studies and Philosophy)

This is an experimental piece which follows a strict process but generates a unique result every time—depending on the performers’ names. The name of each performer plays an integral role in this piece, and determines what musical notes one would be playing. First, the performers’ names are converted to numbers. For instance, A = 1, B = 2, C = 3, D = 4 and so on. Then, the numeric version of their names is converted to musical notes. For example, 1 = C, 2 = C#, 3 = D, 4 = D# and so on. Each performer must play this ‘musical version’ of their name on an instrument for four minutes. The interval between each note is determined by the number of letters in a performer’s first name. For example, Mridul has 6 letters so I must wait 6 seconds between playing each note (in the first round). However, in the second round when I am repeating the sequence, I should take off one second, and now wait 5 seconds after playing each note. In other words, performers should take off one second every time they repeat the sequence; and play at a comfortable pace when there are no more seconds left to take off.

Caption: Mridul Harbhajanka, Spook-Key Tunes, 2021.


Connection by Raine Knudsen (Environmental Studies and English Literature)

Connection is a stop motion film exploring connection as an energy in movement. Connection is something that is felt, and is an integral human need. Currently our collective ability to connect is constrained, but energy is boundless and infinite. My intention was to explore connection in relation to myself and the small tender moments of connection I have experienced. The energy of connection exists in fluid motion, and is something felt inside yet sometimes exists as an ‘unnoticed’ aspect of the human experience; it evolves in every moment.

I utilized gemstones and other materials from nature, thread, light, fire, music, and an antique cloth to weave together my stories of connection alongside nature’s energetic ways of connecting. The ground (wrinkling cloth and threads) and the light communicate the energetic movement of connection in ways that are subtle yet foundational, and beyond basic perception yet also deeply sensed and present. The light movement is like connection, as light can be warmly felt upon our skin and can be sensed in our vision, but we cannot touch, taste, smell, or contain light. Nature creates networks of stringy fungi called myelium, which connect to plant and tree roots underneath the ground, creating pathways of communication and connection between all rooted living things.

These myelium connections allow nature to thrive together, rather than survive individually. The energetic threads of connection that humans create are boundless, regenerative, and both fragile and resilient, just like mycelium. Connection exists everywhere and all around us if we choose to notice and feel the energy.

Caption: Raine Knudsen, Connection, Digital Video, Colour, Sound, 2020. Music: ‘Brilliant Mycelium’ by Beautiful Chorus.


A Walk in the Park by Oliver Matthews-Hanna (Cultural Studies)

A Walk in the Park is a piece that I created for a course run by Professor Martin Arnold called ‘Experimental Music.’ The piece consists of seven recordings performed by myself and five of my classmates. The inspiration behind the title comes from one of the recordings (ambient, outdoor noise), and the nature of the music itself. While creating the piece, I noticed that there were quite a few moments that were musically unexpected, in the same way that nature can be unpredictable. At the same time, each transition felt seamless. Despite the sound being manipulated throughout the track, the changes come at a pace that feels natural. The overall “flow” of the track reminded me of the motion of nature.


Caption: Oliver Matthews-Hanna, A Walk in the Park, 2021.


Selective Memory by Lindsay Olivieri (Cultural Studies)

Selective Memory explores the modern-day fascination with “vintage” aesthetics. For this series, I drew screenshots from archived home movies and framed the images in a way that replicates the appearance of a printed digital photograph one could get at their local Shoppers Drug Mart or Walmart. I paid close attention to the attributes of the image that connotate the older time period, such as ink leaks, light leaks, grain and colour. I also created a Walmart photo envelope duplicate in which the photographs are placed. My process removes the source, original home movies, further and further out of their original contexts. It moves from the home, to a digital library, to a screenshot, and to my drawings. With this, I am interested in how we romanticize the past by claiming various aesthetic qualities as our own.

Caption 1: Lindsay Olivieri, Selective Memory #1, Oil on paper, 2021.

Caption 2: Lindsay Olivieri, Selective Memory #2, Oil on paper, 2021.

Caption 3: Lindsay Olivieri, Selective Memory #3, Oil on paper, 2021.

Caption 4: Lindsay Olivieri, Selective Memory #4, Oil on paper, 2021.


People Looking at Me Looking at Them by Shaun Phuah (Cultural Studies and English)

People Looking at Me Looking at Them is about the things we see in online space and the eye contact we make with disparate places and people. Internet space has reached a novel point of live-presentness, allowing us to suddenly be in highly intimate and often times volatile personal spaces where the immediacy of the people seeing each other within these spaces create specific atmospheres along with intentionality that People Looking at Me Looking at Them tries to carry forward between each clip.

Internet space functions without state borders, and as such highly extreme and intense actions such as racial violence or massive political upheaval and neglect have become commonplace imagery that many chronic users of the internet have become apathetic to; imagery that is no longer brought to us by a news crew with a well written teleprompter but is instead brought to us through a shaky cellphone with footage that reveals the overwhelming mess of what seeing and being seen can really feel like.

Caption: Shaun Phuah, People Looking at Me Looking at Them, Digital Video, Colour, Sound, 2021.

Ghosts by Jinian Raine (Cultural Studies)

Using intricacies in the LCD molecules that make up some screens, Ghosts is a piece hidden within itself. For the viewer to see Ghosts fully they must engage with the piece, physically moving their body or their computer’s body. Ghosts is a play with control. A reaction to the helplessness of my worsening health, the visuals of Ghosts, are a depiction of a desperate attempt to achieve some measure of control over my body. Yet these images are hidden.

You cannot passively engage in this piece, the quiet element of sound forces you to strain to hear, the visuals of the piece force you to physically move either your body or your screen in order to visually engage with the piece. Yet, the viewer does have an option to reject the terms set by the piece, they can take the three blinking circles for what they appear to be on a static screen and move on. Remaining unaware or without care to look at what lies beneath the surface.

Caption: Jinian Raine, Ghosts, Digital Video, Colour, Sound, 2021.

Invisible Screen by Jinian Raine (Cultural Studies)

The digital is not a re-creation of our reality, it is not a flat interpretation, rather it is a doorway into a completely different realm. A place one can have an entire existence when the physical reality of their life doesn’t allow them to have much of one. I made Invisible Screen with the intention of embracing the very makeup of the digital and using it to the advantage of the pieces rather than the detriment. Using obstication through the digital interpretations of shadows, Invisible Screen is an expression of the angst and horror of chronic fatigue.

Caption: Jinian Raine, Invisible Screen, Gif, Colour, 2021.


Everything in the World by Madison Generoux (Cultural Studies)

Everything in the World is an archived digital video flicker film, exploring movement and gender identity regarding gender performance and hermeneutics of the body in motion. Through this video, I explore gender as a visual element and a textile form of tangible sound that can be altered and skewed to fit a contextual meaning within everyday interactions and performances.

The piece exerts control over the chaos allowing the viewer to input their interpretations of the visuals on screen. The archived footage represents various past ideologies and values concerning gender roles and the relationship between bodies and space. However, when edited and manipulated through modern technology and showcased in the current setting, these engrained ideas still seep through the cracks of modern-day living and body politics of being and gender performance and its various anxieties.