Reflections: NAISA

Akimbo is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a monthly series that draws on our rich archive of clients, critics, and contributors to reflect on the accomplishments of the past and look toward future possibilities. Our second installment features New Adventures in Sound Art.

NAISA’s Executive Director Nadene Thériault-Copeland and Artistic Director Darren Copeland answered our questions.

Picture of NAISA North Media Arts Centre showing two outdoor installations: The Sensation of Distribution and The Decomposing Piano (photo: Nadene Thériault-Copeland)

What are some of NAISA’s highlights from the past twenty-three years?

Performance by La Cellule d’Intervention METAMKINE in SOUNDplay 2005 (photo: Jamie Todd)

New Adventures in Sound Art was incorporated as a not-for-profit in Toronto in 2001, after operating as a collective from 1998 to 2000 producing 8-channel surround-sound works by artists from across Canada in a series called Sound Travels. This later became the Sound Travels Festival of Sound Art (which continues to this day) and has included many outdoor events on both Toronto Island and at the Artscape Wychwood Barns. The festival also included the Toronto International Electroacoustic Symposium which was co-produced with the Canadian Electroacoustic Community from 2007 to 2017.

In 2001, NAISA launched the Deep Wireless Festival of Radio & Transmission Art in the spring (now winter) and the SOUNDplay Festival in the fall. Since moving NAISA to South River in 2017, the Springscapes series was added to celebrate the awakening of natural sound in our region after the quiet of winter.

NAISA developed many partnerships over the years, including the Drake Hotel in Toronto and Open Ears Festival in Kitchener, a highlight of which was the presentation of Negativland in 2005. Another was the co-presentation with Pleasure Dome of La Cellule d’Intervention METAMKINE for NAISA’s 2005 SOUNDplay Festival.

In January 2017, NAISA moved to South River, ON and in November 2021, with support from donations and a mortgage through the Community Forward Fund purchased its current venue at 313 Highway 124 in South River.

What has changed for NAISA over that time and what is your current programming philosophy?

Sound Can Fly for sound can and sound man by Steve Heimbecker and Neil Cadger (Neil Cadger shown in picture) on Toronto Island in 2009 (photo: Stefan Rose)

The move to South River changed the way NAISA delivered its programming, but it hasn’t changed the nature of the content. In Toronto the programming was geared to timed events. In South River, timed events are more challenging as audience members sometimes travel as far as sixty kilometres or more to attend. A three-month period for an exhibition has better attendance and now all of NAISA’s performances and workshops are hybrid, both to accommodate our audience from the region and our international following. Most events are also archived so that they are available for a longer period with audiences who join in afterwards at their convenience.

Describe a couple of your upcoming events/installations/performances/etc. that you’re particularly excited about.

Dan Tapper, Helios 2024

We are presenting Helios 2024 by Dan Tapper until April 1 as the main exhibition during this year’s Deep Wireless Festival of Radio & Transmission Art. This transmission art installation produces sounds and images based on satellite images of solar flares and VLF, capturing the electromagnetic sound energy that is encircling the earth.

The move to NAISA’s new location offers many more opportunities for permanent and semi-permanent outdoor installations. NAISA currently has two: The Decomposing Piano, created by NAISA staff members, and The Sensation of Distribution by Mitchell Akiyama and Brady Peters. Both continue to be enjoyed by community members. There are also many activities being planned for NAISA’s 25th anniversary in 2025/2026, including a new symposium that will focus on indoor and outdoor sound installations and sound sculptures.

What is your vision for the future?

Kristine Diekman performing on Secret Reception at NAISA North Media Arts Centre, Sound Travels 2023 (photo: Darren Copeland)

NAISA will continue to celebrate and draw attention to the interesting and complex natural world through the artworks it presents as well as those that integrate multi-sensory aspects and provide ways for artists to deepen their insights and perceptions.