Laura Anzola at EMMEDIA, Calgary

By Levin Ifko

While visiting Laura Anzola’s Voices, which recently extended its run at EMMEDIA, I find myself entering a darkened space illuminated only by watery reflections cast upon gallery walls. Immersed in this liquid landscape, I hear voices sharing visceral stories dealing with personal experiences of immigration. Each voice is amplified by glowing hand-drawn animations projected across the room, honouring practises of storytelling and memory. An array of tiny blue lights appears from above, signalling as each voice begins to speak. Drawn towards the sounds, I move across the room, hoping to hear the stories clearly while standing directly underneath each light. Across the gallery space, two different speakers become illuminated. As another voice is added to the mix, the spoken words reflect similarities between stories. There’s a fourth voice now and a melody emerges. At times, the voices fade and are replaced by music, intermixing the guttural sounds of humpback whales, which also illuminate lights as these new voices move across the gallery.

Laura Anzola, Voices, 2024, installation (photo: Caitlind Brown)

Both sound and animated visuals come together to create introspective moments, such as when drawings of city quadrants (NW, SE, NE, SW) appear to melt away and fall into the floor. Or a dialogue about borders, where one person’s voice moves effortlessly between speakers around the room. To catch these moments, I recommend experiencing this show in its entirety. The display of moving images and sound lasts around forty minutes. Sensing how the voices shift and change throughout the duration of the piece is immersive and moving. Anzola’s storytelling builds towards a climax where language becomes a score that overwhelms the room, and then gently dissolves into an oceanic calm.

Laura Anzola is a prominent new media artist here in Alberta. She draws on her background in animation and digital arts to craft immersive installations. Whether negotiating the geography of borders or the way AI attempts to mimic the natural world, she thoughtfully intertwines technology into her art. If you’ve travelled through Mohkinstisis in the past several years, you may have encountered her large-scale animations and interactive video work projected onto buildings and sculptures during events and festivals across the city.

Laura Anzola, Voices, 2024, installation (photo: Caitlind Brown)

In Voices, Anzola collaborates with artists from across the globe to tell a story that is at once deeply personal while also being an experience held by many. The “voices” we hear in this exhibition are narratives received first-hand from Calgary’s immigrant community, and the story that each person shares reflects this multitude of experiences. In conversation with the artist, she passionately shared her interest in the humpback whale and reflected upon this mammal’s ability to move through oceans and communicate between large distances through sound waves.

At the heart of this show, is a real sense of fluidity. Using sound as a medium, each voice moves freely throughout the gallery. This parallels the experiences of a whale in the ocean, where water blurs the invisible lines that humans have drawn between nations. International borders are irrelevant to whale songs, which are chanted together though miles apart. In Voices, we are invited to connect with each other, share stories, and move through a world that feels a little smaller.

Laura Anzola: Voices continues until February 24.
EMMEDIA: https://emmedia.ca
The gallery is not accessible.

Levin Ifko is an interdisciplinary artist currently based in Mohkinstsis (Calgary). They will talk your ear off about music, queerness, and media art. Mostly, they believe that art is an opportunity to connect with ourselves and our communities.