Lou Sheppard and William Robinson: i want to be a seashell / i want to be a mold / i want to be a spirit


William Robinson, Mushroom Kit I, Pearl drums, mycelia, oyster mushrooms, wood chips, variable dimension, 2021. Image: Lenny Mullins.

Lou Sheppard and William Robinson: i want to be a seashell / i want to be a mold / i want to be a spirit

Curated by Wes Johnston and Rebecca Semple
17 October to 28 November 2021

i want to be a seashell / i want to be a mold / i want to be a spirit.” These lines from architectural critic Noboru Kawazoe’s Metabolist Manifesto (1960), informed the trajectory of Lou Sheppard and William Robinson’s exploration of the Dalhousie Arts Centre leading up to its 50th year, which happened to coincide with the building’s renovation and expansion.

Junji Mikawa is credited as introducing the Metabolist theories to the building project from 1969 to 1971, supporting local firm Fowler, Bauld & Mitchell Ltd. (now FBM Architects). Metabolism is an architectural theory and movement which emerged from post-war Japan, fusing popular Brutalist megastructures with organic biological growth. What resulted are structures which are both imposing in size and severity, with more natural elements of beauty within their designs, perfectly exemplified within the architecture of this building. The inclusion of Metabolist principles within the design of the Dalhousie Arts Centre sets it apart from all other mid-century architectural projects in the region.

The organic curves, open air spaces, and extended angles of the building are intended to echo an organic, living ethos. Reading the building and its history as an extended score, Sheppard and Robinson consider the idea of culture—as a cultivated artistic experience and as a cultivated microbial organism—as it shapes and is shaped by the building.


Lou Sheppard, Notations for a Lingua Franca (Topography, Tongue, Hydrostatic Pressure), digital print on satin, 36” x 36”, 2021. Image courtesy of the artist.

Sitting somewhere between music, dance, and theatre, the works in the exhibition draw from the opening lines of Kawazoe’s poetic manifesto. Information gleaned from archival sources are transcribed into scores and blueprints which represents the history of cultural production that occurred in the building as repeatable experiences which can be read, interpreted, and performed by the audience.

A collaboration with mushrooms, a choir of breath, the traces of sunlight that move through the building over a year, are notated and performed, echoing fifty years of cultural activity within this space.

Thus, the exhibition serves as a reflexive space where Sheppard and Robinson have transcribed the Dalhousie Art Centre as a series of scores which lead the audience through a performative experience of the building itself.

Dalhousie Art Gallery
6101 University Avenue, Halifax, NS, B3H 4R2 | gallery@dal.ca

Website: artgallery.dal.ca
Instagram: @dalhousie_art_gallery
Facebook: /DalhousieArtGallery

The Dalhousie Art Gallery is located in the lower level of the Dalhousie Arts Centre. There is a permanent ramp located at the front entrance of the Arts Centre on University Avenue and automatic doors to assist with entry into the building. The lobby is carpeted and there are wide pathways throughout the building. There is an elevator on the main floor with access to all floors in the building including the Art Gallery. There is a gender-neutral, single-occupancy washroom with automatic door and accessible stalls in the women’s and men’s washrooms on the second floor which can be reached via the elevator. There are two accessible parking meters located on Seymour Street by the side entrance of the Arts Centre. The Gallery floors are a smooth, hard surface.

Dalhousie Art Gallery is located in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq. We are all Treaty people.