The Curatorial Incubator V.16: Living in Hope – Program #8


Acoustic Ocean, 2018, Ursula Biemann

Vtape presents

THE CURATORIAL INCUBATOR v.16: Living in Hope – program #8

The eighth – and final – edition of this year’s Curatorial Incubator starts Friday, March 5, 2021, with a Zoom Live introduction by emerging curator Shalon Webber-Heffernan at 7pm ET followed by the first title in her program, Acoustic Ocean by Ursula Biemann.

This year’s Curatorial Incubator is drawing to an end. This year we invited eight incubatees to each make a program that responds to the theme of Living In Hope. In keeping with the restrictions of COVID-19, we are taking the entire program on-line, unrolling one title per week with an on-line Zoom conversation at the end of each program featuring the curator and the artists.

On Friday, March 26, 2021, Shalon Webber-Heffernan will be in conversation with artists Ursula Biemann, Shelley Niro, prOphecy sun, and Sharon Isaac at 7pm ET on Zoom Live. Check the Vtape website for a link to this conversation.

PROGRAM #8 Curated by Shalon Webber-Heffernan
love as rupturous as I know it to be

Becoming a new mom in a global pandemic has been an experience that’s shaped me in ways I cannot yet know, but know are extraordinary. My heart’s new colossal capacity has prompted me to consider anew a genuine ethics of care that reaches beyond the performative care I see unfolding in a variety of cultural and political settings today. love as rupturous as I know it to be ponders caring otherwise, prioritizing action while envisioning a radical unbounded love. Intuitively, instinctively, and uninterested in aesthetic distance, I selected works that spoke to me viscerally. I was guided by a desire to explore relationships that exceed those that are strictly between humans to include those that exist between plants, animals, and things, and merge into minerals, energy, land, stars and waters. Curator Tarah Hogue once described how the work of Michif artist Christi Belcourt “nurture[s] relations through kinship networks that are place-based, inter-species and otherworldly, and in turn demonstrates, through beauty, strength and wonder, that other (to colonial capitalist) ways of being in relation to one another and to the earth are both possible and desperately urgent.”1 These other ways of being have inspired me in thinking through what a hopeful future might feel like.

The title of this series is an excerpt from an essay2 by Karyn Recollet that imagines cosmic kinship and imagines the potent magic of dark matter—the vibrant power of imagining elsewise. These videos symbolize an ethos of generosity—a central tenant for intimate practices of care in a world wildly in need of renewal. They simultaneously index the grave responsibility necessary if ongoing flourishing of life is to be sustained. Understanding that all our complex and fragile interactions are inextricably linked requires acknowledging our dependency, collective need, grief, and reciprocity as basic elements of being. Transformation calls for a rebirth of the world as we know it and demands we are brave enough to face the troubling vulnerability and shattering affective burden of living in hope.

Shalon T. Webber-Heffernan is a curator and doctoral candidate in Performance Studies at York University. Her work broadly examines feminist performance projects that respond to issues surrounding borderlands, space, and disappearance throughout the Americas. She was Curator in Residence at the Curatorial Lab @ Sensorium Centre for Digital Arts and Technology (2019-20) and recently worked with Toronto’s 7a*11d and grunt gallery.

love as rupturous as I know it to be

Ursula Biemann, Acoustic Ocean, 2018, 18:00
I close my eyes and imagine the calmest cold waters—a profound solitude.

The midnight blue sounds and vast environment of Ursula Biemann’s Acoustic Ocean evoke meditative, magical thinking in deep time. Sonic frequencies and fin whale vocalizations swell in my heart. The absence of a sea butterfly’s heartbeat foretells of things to come. A whale’s memory chamber holds secrets of an ancient future. A dolphin’s ghost is free and swirling away from all entanglement.

Biemann’s oceanic video installation probes the acoustic dimensions of marine life in the North Atlantic. Located on the Lofoten Islands in Northern Norway, the video centers on the performance of a Sami marine-biologist-diver who is using a model of a submersible equipped with hydrophones and recording devices. In this science-fictional quest, the aquanaut’s task is to sense the submarine space for sonic and bioluminescent forms of expression and feeling—interconnected relations between marine, human, scientific, energetic, and digital worlds become enmeshed.

Shelley Niro, Tree, 2006, 05:00
In a dream I had, a pregnant woman was a tree and in her grasp was every kind of plant. She was the holder of wisdom, pain, and all the love in the world.

Shelley Niro’s Tree is a tender film that acknowledges the import of spiritual connectivity while illuminating the pernicious nature of slow violence. The atmosphere of Niro’s film is austere, barren. A woman personifying earth bears witness to the murderous fallout of capitalism, ecological destruction, and spiritual collapse. In his 2013 book Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer writes that “grieving is a sign of spiritual health. But it is not enough to weep for our lost landscapes; we have to put our hands in the earth to make ourselves whole again.”

The woman listens with a broken heart to the visions of earth. Her body transmutes, returning to eternity. We sense that she may return once healing and the balance between humans, land and water have been restored.

prOchecy sun, Traces of Motherhood, 2016, 02:20
I’ve been reflecting on the ordinary, day to day elements of motherhood, like eating cold curry at 10AM on zero sleep while my baby screams—trying to approach these less than fabulous moments with openness, mindful attention, and awe. The entirety of life in a single moment.

prOphecy sun merges minutiae with magnificence in her video art practice. sun uses smartphone technology to capture task-like movements, and improvisational gestures as she walks with an atmospheric weather balloon and a small child through vast, open land.

Traces of Motherhood is part of a multi-channel video and sound installation that considers how the body responds to the agency of things in the world. The work emphasizes temporality and the technological unconscious, and our ability to sense and perceive different forms of media that are visual, aural and tactile. Traces of Motherhood contemplates non-human sites as performing entities and the environment as active collaborator.

Sharon Isaac, Dancing with Naango, 2018, 03:17
My daughter stares with wonder at the leaves flitting in the wind and reaches out for their succulent green flesh.

Sharon Isaac’s film Dancing with Naango makes me think about matrilineal lineages and of place. I watch it and wonder about dance as embodied knowledge transfer, ancestral presence, trauma, and the healing properties of joy. Isaac’s film traces her daughter’s journey as a Jingle Dress dancer, and is a gentle dedication to her Great Grandmother, Naango (Star).

The film is an oral and visual retelling of the reasons her daughter dances and the deep importance of maintaining her Ojibwa traditions. The distinctive rattle and clink of the metal cones and the hopeful prayers invoked through the dance spark a tingling sensation. The gestures in this work overflow with jubilation and are sensitive to that which cannot be encapsulated through words. There is a quality of light that shines with undiminished luster.


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1. Hogue, Tarah. “Walking Softly with Christi Belcourt.” Canadian Art. June 21, 2017.
2. Recollet, Karyn. “Kinstillatory Gathering.” c mag, Issue 1