Exhibition “In This Place, I Am Here” by Emily Rose Michaud

Language Bilingual
Attendence mode Face-to-face event

Emily Rose Michaud

In This Place, I Am Here

There are many names for the great river that flows by L’Imagier gallery, including Kitchissippi, Kichi Siibii // rivière des Outaouais, Ottawa River[1]. Is this a reflection of its many facets? Of the people who inhabit the shorelines; the relationships that emerge from the waves, the life that grows on its banks, the wounds buried in its depths, the stories of dispossession of land and water, the countercurrents and the voices carried by the wind.

Artist Emily Rose Michaud has a curiosity for the interconnected watershed of her native Outaouais bioregion. She reflects on these natural systems in all their beauty and complexity, and how they are embedded into local history. She has spent hours immersed in the landscapes where water and land meet, and has conversed with people contemplating the essence of place. This approach has led her to create works in a diversity of forms, solo or with other artists, using various media: drawing, painting, ceramic, cyanotype, performance, living textile, audio and video. Together, these works are a cross-pollination of  art, ecology and education. They open a dialogue with an ecosystem that is both natural and cultural.

On paper, clay or glass, Michaud traces the course of rivers to create a map of place and memory. She uses the cyanotype technique to work with sunlight and materials found in the landscape, revealing bluish shapes on various papers – some of which are handmade from cotton and local plants. She also sculpts the topography of waterways in clay, imprinting their contours into the earth. From this, she produces tiles with aquatic glazes and illuminated porcelain pieces. When displayed on a wall or placed on a light tablethey form a map of the watershed. With ceramist Marie Drolet, she creates hexagonal tiles representing local plants, grouped according to the four seasons. The hexagonal shape is inspired by the water molecule; its repetition evokes the infinite droplets that compose the waters of our world. It is also the shape of the honeycomb, which reminds us of the symbiotic relationship between bee and plant.

From her visits to different sites throughout the seasons, Michaud creates videos and sounds that form a digital archive reflecting space and the passage of time. She interviews members of the local community to gather their memories and their views on how the region has changed. These recordings are assembled into soundscapes and videos reflecting a love for place, but also a sense of loss at the disappearance of certain landscapes. Plant matter finds its place in the gallery in the form of living tapestries grown from peas and wheat seeds. These blankets of grasses recall the life cycle of germination to decomposition; their robust root systems demonstrate the principle of interrelation.

Michaud’s reflections on belonging to the land and the embodied experience of it eases the distress we have in the face of the ongoing climate crisis. Our attachment to water and land gives us power as we confront the near constant loss and change affecting our daily lives. From this recognition, a more engaged ecological consciousness can emerge – reminding us that humans are part of a web of relationships on which our survival depends. Like the water that keeps the earth alive, our collective responsibility is to care for this precious balance. 

  1. Kitchissippi in the Anishinabemowin language means “great river”, but this word does not refer to the whole river for the Algonquin people. (James Morrison and Sicani Research and Advisory Services, “Algonquin History in the Ottawa River Watershed”, in Cultural Heritage, 2005). On one side of the river in Quebec, it is known as the “rivière des Outaouais”, while on the other side in Ontario, it is the “Ottawa River”.