All posts by connie watts

How Designing with More-Than-Humans Fosters Social Change and Environmental Justice

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Posted on July 05, 2021 | Updated July 15, 2021, 4:41PM

Teaching design to help heal a broken relationship between human beings and the rest of the planet.

For much of history, the practice of design has been preoccupied with making lives better for the Western, modern white male, Louise St. Pierre tells me via video call.

Your clothes and shoes, your apartment, your city, your coffee mug, the headphones you plug into your ears, and, of course, the device you’re using to read this now. Someone designed all of it, she says. And for most of the world, those objects and items may have been designed for someone who looks nothing like them. This holds no less true for the non-human world.

Given the overwhelming influence design has on the world and our experience of it, what if changing how designers think is one of the keys to healing a broken relationship between human beings and the rest of the planet?

Sound grandiose? Maybe. But as Louise and Zach Camozzi, a Health Design Lab and DESIS Lab researcher, fellow designer and ECU faculty member, explain, this work of changing design occurs in exceedingly subtle ways.

In fact, as students learn in Louise’s third-year ‘Design with More Than Humans’ courseand Zach’s second-year ‘INDD Core Studio-Design for Biodiversity’ course, it starts by attempting to look at the world through the eyes of another being.

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From Stuff to Sustainability

“If designers start to design for nature, with nature in mind as a priority emphasis, then automatically, without even really knowing it or seeing it, we’re disconnecting from the priorities of modernity and industry,” Louise says.

Full article by Perrin Grauer:

Celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day

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Posted on June 21, 2021 | Updated June 21, 2021, 11:57AM

A day to recognize and honour the First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples.

June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada. Since 1996, it has been an annual occasion for celebration and community gathering for Indigenous people across the country.

The past few weeks have been exceptionally difficult for the Indigenous community, as we mourn the children found at former residential schools in Kamloops, BC and Brandon, Manitoba. But as Billy-Ray Belcourt writes, “Joy is art is an ethics of resistance.” Standing with the Indigenous community in grief is important, but so too is celebrating their resilience and delight.

To that end, here are a few ways to mark this occasion:

  • Register for the Indigenous History Forum: Truth-Telling at the Museum of Vancouver, a free two-day event hosted by the Pacific Association of First Nations Women. The forum is open to the public and features the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, as well as presentations from the Haida, Algonquin, Haudenosaunee, Métis, and Inuit people. A wonderful opportunity to learn more about Indigenous history.
  • Learn more about whose territory you are on, and what language is spoken by that Nation. The First Peoples’ Cultural Council has created an interactive map to help you learn more about the 204 First Nations in BC, which has the most linguistic diversity of any region in Canada.

Full article by Perrin Grauer:

kiskistotawâtânik aniki kîkâ kâkî-pîkîwîcik | Let us remember those that did not come home

by Caleb Ellison-Dysart



This piece is dedicated to all of the Indigenous children & youth who have been impacted by the residential & day school system, and all of the other systemic injustices that settler-colonial states design, enact and perpetuate.

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Let Us Rem

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Caleb Ellison-Dysart is a Nîhithaw multidisciplinary artist specializing in 3D Animation & Modelling. He creates an aesthetic that is raw and authentic, celebrating his Nîhithaw culture and an innate, ancestral connection to the land.

Leaving Paradise

by Jaiden George



Presented with the opportunity to make anew, and standing at the cusp of substantial change and upheaval, I prompt us to reflect on the constructed landscape: who defines paradise, and what is subsequently obscured by that definition?

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Jaiden George is a Vancouver-based photographer primarily interested in exploring the blind spots, inconsistencies and overlaps that arise as a result of the complex entanglement of people, land and culture.


by Haley Bassett



“Stop” is comprised of steel wire and Himalayan blackberry, which I chose for its aggressive qualities. Each cane is bent nearly to its breaking point and bound by wire. The piece contains a massive store of energy, representing a latent threat.

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Bassett Haley Stop detail

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My work explores how time, place and trauma converge as formational aspects of the self. I use natural materials to create these coded narratives using floriography, my personal associations with plants, as well as their cultural significance.

ECU Student on Frontlines of Fairy Creek Protests | News

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By Perrin Grauer

Posted on June 10, 2021 | Updated June 28, 2021, 9:17AM

The fight to save Vancouver Island’s ancient trees reveals an existential conflict that must be resolved to foster hope for a better future, says the Two Spirit artist.

Participating in protests against logging old-growth trees on Vancouver Island is about more than protecting forests, Naas tells me. For Naas (a camp alias being used by request), standing with protesters at Fairy Creek is about defending a vision of a sustainable, equitable future, where social and political norms prioritize people and place, instead of profit.

“Ultimately the way to achieve that future is recognizing and respecting Indigenous law and land sovereignty,” Naas says, “The First Nations are the original caretakers of this land and if there is to be hope of recovery, we must allow Indigenous land stewardship to resume.”

Naas, a Two Spirit artist and ECU student currently between his first and second year, is from the Hesquiaht First Nation. As of May, he has been serving as a camp cook on the frontlines of a fight to preserve one of the last stands of ancient trees in British Columbia.

For nearly nine months, protesters at what is broadly known as the Fairy Creek Blockade have been blocking logging company Teal-Jones from accessing a number of stands of old-growth forest in a remote region of southwestern Vancouver Island. Occupying strategic locations in camps along logging roads and on bridges near Port Renfrew, the groups have prevented fallers from accessing the Caycuse watershed to harvest the trees, many of which are hundreds or even thousands of years old — trees that protesters say represent less than three percent of remaining old growth in the province.

And by some accounts, the pressure may be working. On June 9, the BC government announced it is deferring the harvesting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek and the Central Walbran Valley for two years. The move came following a request from the Huu-ay-aht, Ditidaht and Pacheedaht First Nations to defer old-growth logging while they prepare stewardship plans. But the deferral represents only a start to the work Naas hopes the blockade might accomplish.

“These protests really represent a huge push for recognizing toxic systems, and recognizing we need change, even if it seems impossible at this point in time,” he says. “Because if we don’t change — if we don’t confront extractive resource practices and this idea of working-to-live — there’s not going to be anything left.”

Full article by Perrin Grauer:

Preston Buffalo is Taking the Power Back

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By Perrin Grauer

Posted on June 03, 2021 | Updated June 28, 2021, 10:42AM

On the occasion of his first solo exhibition, the iconoclastic artist reflects on his deep, defiant art practice and his journey to becoming a student at ECU.

Speaking with artist Preston Buffalo, it quickly becomes clear his life and work are fiercely resistant to definition. And that’s just the way he likes it.

“If somebody can’t put a label on you, it’s really uncomfortable for them,” he tells me by phone from his 200 square-foot live-work space in Vancouver’s Railtown neighbourhood. “They don’t know what to do with you. I feel like that’s where I fit in.”

When it comes to art, he’s not interested in shock value, he says. Although he does believe it’s “important to leave somebody a little bit unsettled; leave them wondering what they just looked at.”

Preston’s ease with exploring edge-case questions — often raised by his own, self-professed outsider status — is evident in his first solo exhibition, Digitizing Indigeneity, currently showing at Never Apart, in Montreal, through June 27. The sprawling virtual exhibition showcases his fluency across media, including sculpture, printmaking, photography, soundscape and digital media.



As with the rest of his practice, Preston’s instinct toward iconoclasm is front and centre throughout Digitizing Indigeneity. Describing himself as an “urban, queer Indigenous artist,” Preston is a Cree man, raised on the West Coast among Coast Salish elders and artists, who paints Formline poodles — a “clan symbol” for “those of us out there who are disenfranchised.” He explores feelings of displacement from the community of his birth and from his family’s ancestral lands in Alberta in a series of exquisite black-and-white photographs recording the decay of fence posts and abandoned automobiles under epic prairie skies.

Full article by Perrin Grauer:

Gabrielle L’Hirondelle Hill Sees a Wide-Open World, Freed from the Impossible

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By Perrin Grauer

Posted on June 01, 2021 | Updated June 01, 2021, 9:02AM

The artist and ECU faculty member on materiality, storytelling, and how decentering dominant histories can foster a better future.

Oftentimes, visions of the everyday can pass us by without making us blink.

For Gabrielle L’Hirondelle Hill, multidisciplinary artist, writer and assistant professor in Emily Carr University’s Audain Faculty of Art, the everyday is a space that has only just begun to reveal its secrets. In the commonplace, she sees a rich material vocabulary, brimming with potential. In the concept of “ordinary,” she sees a “hierarchy of knowledges” overdue for dismantling.

To engage artistically with such concepts, Gabrielle fittingly starts with what is closest at hand.

“I often work with materials that are sourced from plants, or dollar stores, or things I find in the street; things I already see around myself in my life,” she says. “I think materials definitely speak a language. I hope mine talk about everyday experiences, the charge and the possibility in those common things.”

Some days, says Gabrielle, a wander around a neighbourhood can be enough to both renew a connection to the here-and-now, and to locate herself within the broader movement of history.

“Sometimes I just like walking down the street and picking thistles and dandelions and appreciating these tough little plants,” she says. “But sometimes I learn about the stories of people who have left whatever object behind, and sometimes I can connect into larger sweeping narratives of change and history when I learn about the materials I work with.”

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This keen sense of how materials can both speak to connections and unearth the elemental in the everyday is clearly on display in the works that make up Gabrielle’s current solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), in New York City. Titled Projects: Gabrielle L’Hirondelle Hill, the show runs through Aug. 15, as part of MoMA’s Elaine Dannheisser Projects Series.

Full article by Perrin Grauer:

Eve Tuck Helps Students “Become More Like Themselves”

Eve Tuck HDD

By Madeline Barber

Posted on May 25, 2021

Meet the recipient of our 2021 Honorary Doctorate.

Despite the impressive list of honours and achievements under Eve Tuck’s belt, the first words she uses to describe being awarded Emily Carr University’s 2021 honorary doctorate are “surprised” and “humbled.”

Tuck, who is Unangax̂ and an enrolled member of the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island, Alaska, is currently the Associate Professor of Critical Race and Indigenous studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) of the University of Toronto. She is also the Canada Research Chair of Indigenous Methodologies with Youth and Communities, a recent William T. Grant Scholar (2015-2020), and a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow (2011-2012).

“It feels like a very unexpected recognition,” Tuck says, adding that it’s meaningful because Emily Carr University’s discipline and practices are seemingly disparate from her own. As a writer, teacher, and researcher, her work centres Indigenous social thought, and the ways it can be “engaged to create more fair and just social policy, more meaningful social movements, and robust approaches to decolonization.”

For those who have had the pleasure of even a short interaction with Eve, “humble” feels like an appropriate description of her character. She’s quick to credit the work of others, and notes that it’s her collaborations that are most important to her.

It’s these collaborations that she says the honorary doctorate reflects, including those with creators who consider the role of research within their art and design practice. “It’s almost like its tapping into a secret wish I had for myself to be able to work with artists or make work that is conversant with artists and people who are thinking about design and visuality and recording and installation as other ways of making meaning.”

Full article by Perrin Grauer: