With Star Knowledge: NADI in Conversation with Dr. Hilding Neilson


With Star Knowledge is the final episode of Walk East for Sun Rise Walk West for Sunset, a five-part series of online activations based on the public art installation Double Gazebo, by Native Art Department International (NADI). Maria Hupfield and Jason Lujan, the artists behind NADI, undertook a conversation with astronomer Dr. Hilding Neilson. Unfolded under the moonlight on a beach by the water, the impromptu conversation takes our relationship with the moon and the stars in the sky as its point of departure. Flowing from Indigenous knowledge to astronomy to the physics of the Universe, the conversation considers how we study the universe and how we are related to it, from bodily, intellectual, cultural, and philosophical perspectives. As the saying goes, every star tells a story.

To watch With Star Knowledge, please click HERE.

Dr. Hilding Neilson is an interdisciplinary scientist, working on astrophysics and on the intersection of science, astronomy, and Indigenous knowledge. As a Mi’kmaw person, Neilson strives to embrace and integrate Indigenous knowledges and methodologies to better understand the physics of stars and the Universe and our place within it. More specifically, he probes the physics of stars. From the nuclear-burning core out to the circumstellar medium where stellar winds interact with the interstellar medium, Neilson seeks to understand connections between stars and planets; stars and cosmology; and stars and us. Neilson exploits theoretical and numerical tools, and compares these with observational data sets, to reveal the hidden physics of stars. He enjoys teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as participating in public outreach and science communication.

The video documentation of the conversation is directed and filmed by artist Liang Yue, with the assistance of Man Yi.

The program of Walk East for Sun Rise Walk West for Sunset is a co-production between Markham Public Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto.


Double Gazebo comprises two intersected structures modeled on a traditional gazebo. Using social spaces as a point of departure, Double Gazebo expands on the concept by constructing something that operates as both inside and outside, to foster an interaction between the concepts of space and occupation. A gazebo can be considered a rather conservative structure, but it is a familiar type, prevalent in the community in which one variant of the installation is installed. Double Gazebo intentionally disregards colonial definitions of what Indigenous art and design elements should look like. Instead, it calls into question the concept of “categorized aesthetic” in terms of both expression and self-representation.

Designed for and informed by Double Gazebo, the intention of Walk East for Sun Rise Walk West for Sunset is multifold. Its online format addresses the related issues of social distancing and public art at this special time. Practically and metaphorically, the program builds a conceptual common ground that connects the installation’s two variants, hosted at two different locations: Double Gazebo (Markham) and Double Gazebo (MOCA). Conceived to activate the architectural potentials of the installation—an open-ended platform for observation, reflection, experimentation, and action—through the contributions by a network of local collaborators, the program highlights NADI’s mandate: to foster kinship, relationality, and non-competition.

To learn more about Double Gazebo (Markham) and the full program of Walk East for Sun Rise Walk West for Sunset, please click HERE to visit the project website.

Native Art Department International (NADI) is a collaborative long-term project created and administered by Maria Hupfield and Jason Lujan. It focuses on communications platforms and art-world systems of support while at the same time functioning as emancipation from essentialism and identity-based artwork. It seeks to circumvent easy categorization by comprising a diverse range of undertakings such as curated exhibitions, video screenings, panel talks, collective art making, and an online presence; however, all activities contain an undercurrent of positive progress through cooperation and non-competition.


Double Gazebo (Markham) was conceived as part of Becoming Public Art: Working Models & Case Studies for Art in Public, a virtual public art summit that took place in the fall of 2020, co-curated by Markham’s Public Art Curator Yan Wu and Rebecca Carbin, Principle of ART+PUBLIC UnLtd. It is presented in partnership with the Varley Art Gallery of Markham, currently on view in the gallery’s courtyard through November 29, 2021.

[1] Walk East for Sun Rise Walk West for Sunset: With Star Knowledge, 2021. Graphic design by Chris Lee. Photo by Jack McCombe.
[2] Native Art Department International, Double Gazebo (Markham), 2020-21. Installation view. Steel, plexiglass, cedar wood, paint. Photo by Jack McCombe.
[3] Native Art Department International, Double Gazebo (Markham), 2020-21. Installation detail. Steel, plexiglass, cedar wood, paint. Photo by Jack McCombe.

Media inquiries:
Yan Wu
Markham Public Art Curator

Markham Public Art
Markham’s Public Art Program was first initiated in 2003 and formalized in 2012. The objectives of the program are to inspire people to live, work, visit, and invest in Markham; to celebrate the city’s diverse cultures and heritage from multiple points of view; and to connect residents to Markham’s built and natural environment.