Serena Lee in Conversation with Collaborators

February 26, 2022

This is an online event: registration is closed as of 4pm on February 25th. Please email to inquire about joining.

wave hands, like clouds, not eyes invites you to enter an array of haptic encounters, as you might visit a spa or classical Chinese garden. You enter by yourself or with someone you know. You are invited to take off your shoes, attune your senses, and notice time unfolding by engaging with shifting textures, sounds and scents. The cyclic spatial narrative is guided by the feeling of taijiquan, an internal martial art that balances healing and combat, incorporating daoist principles of non-purposeful action 無為 (wu wei), natural spontaneity 自然 (zi ran), and grounded in the interplay of yinyang 陰陽. Over the course of the project, Serena Lee collaborated with Vancouver-based artists Megan Hepburn and Gina Badger to create a series of ‘scent clocks’ with which to notice time through touch and smell, such as wafting incense, rubbing cedar sprigs, warm stones cooling, and the peeling of clementines. In considering the process of emptying and filling, Serena invited dance artists Lee Su-Feh and Justine A. Chambers to spend time in the space and respond in a somatic way, without needing to define an audience.

wave hands, like clouds, not eyes playfully evades the neo-liberal imperative (and exoticised veneer) of relaxation towards productivity, reflecting on how we might reorganize our senses — indeed, what ‘makes sense’ — inspired by taijiquan as a mode of learning by noticing.

Please visit the artist’s website for a broader glimpse of the project, including images, recordings, and writings by Kristen Lewis and Daisy Kim.

The artist acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

The sound of running water, the brush of eucalyptus, the feeling of straw underfoot: wave hands, like clouds, not eyes transformed Or Gallery into a speculative spa, in October 2021 to January 2022.

The immersive installation was a multi-sensorial experience, manifesting artist Serena Lee’s ongoing research in embodied practices of martial arts (taijiquan), music experimentation (guqin), and non-dual cosmology. The project and research process infused collaborative experiments with scent and movement, in dialogue with Vancouver-based artists.

With particular attention to the somatic, haptic, ephemeral, and intangible elements, this polyphonic conversation invites the public to join artist Serena Lee and folks who have been engaged with the project in different forms: through movement and somatic dimensions with Su-Feh Lee and Justine A. Chambers; through scent and hapticity with Megan Hepburn and Gina Badger. Joining the conversation is architect/scholar Christie Pearson who focuses on public bathing architecture; and those who have spent the most time in the space: Denise Ryner, Or Gallery Director/Curator and Katrina Goetjen, Gallery Assistant.

Serena Lee’s practice stems from a fascination with polyphony and its radical potential for mapping power, perception and belonging. She plays with movement, language, cinema, voice, and space. Serena collaborates as part of Read-in, a collective researching political, embodied, and situated practices of reading; and with artist Christina Battle as SHATTERED MOON ALLIANCE, a framework for sci-fi world-building through living research and transmedia publication. Born and raised in Tkaronto/Toronto, Serena is currently a PhD candidate at the Akademie der bildenden künste Wien (Vienna, AT) and holds an Associate Diploma in Piano Performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music.

Gina Badger (she/they) is a queer nonbinary femme and white settler of mixed western european ancestry born on Cree territory and currently living on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations (Vancouver, BC). A visual artist and an clinical energetic herbalist, they hold degrees from MIT (2010) and Concordia University (2008) and is forever a student of the plants.

Justine A. Chambers is a dance artist living and working on the unceded Coast Salish territories of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. Her movement based practice considers how choreography can be an empathic practice rooted in collaborative creation, close observation, and the body as a site of a cumulative embodied archive. Privileging what is felt over what is seen, she works with dances ‘that are already there’–the social choreographies present in the everyday. She is Max Tyler-Hite’s mother.

Megan Hepburn is an artist living and working as an uninvited guest in the un-ceded territories of the the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples. Hepburn’s work is based in oil painting and olfactory arts, specifically perfumery. She started Cracher Dans La Soupe Parfum in 2018 and continues to study perfumery and painting every day.

Lee Su-Feh was born and raised in Malaysia, where she was indelibly marked by teachers who strove to find a contemporary Asian expression out of the remnants of colonialism and dislocated traditions. Now based on unceded Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-waututh territories, colonially known as Vancouver, BC, her practice encompasses choreography, performance, teaching, dramaturgy, writing and community-organizing. Her work is influenced by her lifelong studies in Chinese martial arts and by a constant inquiry into the contemporary body as a site of intersecting and displaced histories and habits.

Christie Pearson is a Toronto-based architect, writer, teacher and urban interventionist pressing at the limits of public space, through multi-disciplinary community arts events, writing, speaking engagements, curation, teaching, and design practice. Christie is a founding member and editor at the critical journal Scapegoat: Architecture, Landscape, Political Economy and teaches at the University of Waterloo School of Architecture. She is the author of The Architecture of Bathing: Body, Landscape, Art (2020).

Denise Ryner is Director/Curator at Or Gallery, Vancouver and a writer and educator who has been based in Toronto, Vancouver and Berlin. She has worked in commercial, public and artist-run galleries in Toronto and Vancouver for over ten years including Art Metropole, Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, the Vancouver Art Gallery and recently SFU Galleries where she developed a series of public projects such as Art + City + School, Rain or Shine Saturdays and Projections at the Perel. Ryner completed her BA and MA in art history at the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia respectively.

Katrina Goetjen is a projects assistant based on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations. Goetjen is originally from Treaty 7 territory (ancestral land of the the Siksika, Piikani, Stoney-Nakoda, Kainai, and Tsuut’ina peoples), but moved to Vancouver to receive their BFA from Emily Carr University of Art + Design in 2019. Currently, their research focuses on the complex history of mental health studies in Western Canada, while her arts practice is based in photography, digital imaging & graphic design, along with textiles.