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Artist in Residency Program Bringing Climate Change Awareness to the Waterfront

Artist in Residency Program Bringing Climate Change Awareness to the Waterfront

Now at the waterfront, there are two art installations by Lisa Hirmer, that bring to light topics on climate change. These installations in partnership with Waterfront Toronto are part of Hirmer’s waterfront artist residency examining life in this moment of climate emergency.

The two new works are:

  • The Atmosphere is Always Still Being Made: an innovative public sculpture at HTO Park West that creates a space to sit with the scale and difficulty of climate change. It is made from a lime-based concrete, chosen for its carbon-capturing capacities: it absorbs atmospheric CO2 around it, getting stronger as it does so.
  • Careful Infrastructures for Reassembled Lands: To sit along the water’s edge at the mouth of the Don River, looking out onto the lake and sky as well as the Port Lands and soon-to-be Villiers Island, this series of poetic works is about considering how the city might be inhabited differently considering climate change and together with all the non-human beings and forces that also live in the city. This piece was made with artists/ writers Elwood Jimmy and Sangamithra flyer @observeatorybelfast and fabrication by @ocelmetfabracation
The Atmosphere is Always Still Being Made, Lisa Hirmer's first temporary art installation as the waterfront artist-in-residence

Sitting down with Hirmer, she offered some insight about the project and the inspiration behind the installations.

Q: What does being appointed the 2022 Waterfront Artist in Residence entail?

A: The 2022 Waterfront Artist in Residence has been a really interesting and varied period of research and experimentation leading to some new public works. I was able to meet with a lot of people connected to the waterfront in different ways and take time to find inspiration for the new works from the place itself. It has allowed me to collaborate with a series of writers I really respect for a new sign project and experiment with a new material (lime-based concrete) for a new sculpture work. 

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your inspiration for this residency?

A: The theme of the residency is climate change, which is something I think about a lot, both in work and in life. I liked that the project call didn’t shy away from the scale of the problem with climate change and that it was making a really generous space to think about how to respond to climate change as an artist. I’ve been interested in Toronto’s waterfront for a long time, including work about the mouth of the Donduring my Master of Architecture thesis at the University of Waterloo. There’s something special about the way the city’s urban fabric here tangles the more-than-human beings and forces along the waterfront. I felt like this was a really rich context for creative interventions that explore how we live in ecological relationship in the city, and how those relationships could be different. 

Q: Your residency is focused on climate change – what has pulled you towards this kind of work?

A: Climate change is such a massive issue–where the very livability of this planet is at risk–so it’s impossible to avoid. Throughout my work I’ve been interested in the relationship between things and climate change in many ways is an issue of relationship, an urgent call to consider how things are connected. I think the generation of people alive right now are unlikely to see an end to the climate emergency and figuring out how to live in this space is something I think a lot about as an artist. What is our responsibility to the future?

Q: What is the aim of your residency?

A: I don’t tend to work with very specific aims but I’ve used this time to embrace experimentation and working in new ways, without knowing for sure what the outcomes will be. I hope the work invites people into a productive consideration of climate change and the need to live differently, one that neither succumbs to dejection nor makes light of how big of an issue it really is. 

Q: What kind of art can people expect of you this year?

A: Two works are going to be going up very soon. The first is called The Atmosphere is Always Still Being Made, which is a public sculpture that creates a space to sit with the scale and difficulty of climate change. It is made out of a lime-based concrete which I chose to work with for its carbon capturing capacities. As the sculpture sits at the waterfront it will be capturing atmospheric CO2 around it, getting stronger as it does so. The interesting thing is that this means the exhaled breath of viewers will also become part of the work and I hope this reminder of the ways we are in and of atmosphere frames climate change in a way that offers meaningful possibility to those experiencing it.

Careful Infrastructures for Reassembled Lands, Lisa Hirmer's second temporary installation

Q: What do you hope people ultimately take away from your work?

A: I hope I am able to offer space to people to think seriously about climate change and what it means in a way that is grounded in the here and now. Climate change is right here, all around us and I hope art can help us see and contend with that.

Q: What are you most looking forward to with this residency?

A: I’ve been so grateful that the residency offered the framework, time and resources to experiment and develop new, unexpected work. A lot of calls for public projects require a clear sense of what you’re going to do from the start. I really appreciated that I could start with open questions, take time to talk to people and spend time on the waterfront, experiment with new ideas/materials/techniques, not knowing exactly where they would end up. There are the public works going up but the thinking and experiments I’ve done during this time will feed my practice for years to come and for that I’m grateful. 

Q: Where can people find you?

A: There is a website up for the residency: www.warmingdays.ca and I’m also at: www.lisahirmer.ca  I’m a slow poster but I’m also on Instagram: @lisa.hirmer 

Hirmer’s work is organic and thought provoking allowing viewers to connect with the world, communities and circumstances that surround its creation. Her residency, Projects for These Warming Days, is aimed at creating meaningful, experiential encounters with the community, to activate multiple under-utilized spaces along the lakefront, and draw new audiences to the waterfront.

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