Song for a Willow

In collaboration with my partner and two sons, we honored a felled Willow tree in Parc La Fontaine, Montréal, Québec. Excavating its roots, clearing debris and memorializing its stump, we created a space of ritual in this highly populated park intersection. The work then developed a life of its own via the passersby. Contributions have included planted rootstock, from which Willow trees are capable of regrowth; an increasing number of ‘bouquets’ following the original shown in the detail; as well as various relics including an abalone half shell and offerings of food.

Ré - Song for a Willow (before)

Ré - Song for a Willow

Ré - Song for a Willow (detail 01)

The Way Of Dundas Hill (baby Camino)

This sIMG_2130ummer I embarked on the Camino de Santiago (the Way of Saint James) – a thousand-year-old  800km pilgrimage which began in Saint Jean Pied de Port in France and ended in Compostella in Spain. It was gruelling but perfect. I learnt a lot about my body and how to gently control my walking and thoughts. I accidentally left one of my orthotics in Paris before I boarded a train to Bayonne and then continued on a bus to Saint Jean Pied de Port in near tears. The next day we hiked the Pyrannes and entered Spain. After a bout of heat exhaustion and painful ankels and knees, I realized how much of this trip needed to focus on my own control and understanding of my body as I completed the 800km hike without orthotics.

For our workshop, I organized a ‘baby camino,’ which began at my home downtown and concluded at my studio on campus.  We ‘hiked’ the hill on Gordon street which was formally known as Dundas Hill. Camino means ‘way’ – so we walked the way of Dundas Hill.

We began with a small discussion of the history of pilgrimage, understanding that pilgrimage can be taken for secular and personal reasons as the Camino de Santiago is visited by thousands of people each year, only a handful of who are practising Catholics. Pilgrims were given small pilgrim’s passports which they were then asked to fill with their intentions for their walk.

discussing pilgrimage

Next everyone was asked to stand up. We noticed the ways our bodies stand naturally. Our natural imbalances. The ways our ankles curve in and our knees overextend. We acknowledged that some of these imbalances we cannot change however, we can gentle and consciously adjust the ways our knees overextend, to adjust our weight to our cores, to let the weight of our backpacks fall on our hips as opposed to our shoulders.

Thirdly we walked slowly, to follow our natural gaits. To pay attention to the way our body wants to move. Understanding that in one kilometre we cannot change everything about our gaits. Perhaps we can honour the way our body wants to move naturally.

consciously walking, honouring our natural gait

Fourthly, we paid attention to our breath. Following the natural rhythms of our breaths in tune with our natural gait. We walked slowly to pay attention to our bodies. We would focus on these processes when we walked.

Before we began to walk we consciously focused our minds on the processes of our bodies. This is what we would focus on when walking. Other thoughts on midterm papers and art critiques would be gently pushed out of our minds when we walked. We weren’t going to talk. The way is personal for everyone. We were going to focus on ourselves.

We began walking in silence. Across Wellington Street, up Gordon.

crossing Wyndham Street
at the top of Dundas Hill

We completed our walk at my studio with some coffee to break our silence. Pilgrims showed their passports and talked about their intentions for their pilgrimage. Did they find what they were looking for? Some said yes, others were unsure.

outside my studio post-camino

We discussed our findings and decided we had a Buen Camino.

Deep Time, Radical Camping: Notes from a walk at Mono Cliffs

Notes from the Outdoor School field trip to Mono Cliffs Provincial Park on October 2nd, 2015, with some observations about the landscape and a lecture on radical camping.

by Amish Morrell

Mono Cliffs Provincial Park. We started at the top of Walter Tovell side trail, ate apples and climbed trees on our way to the lookout (at the scissor tips), where we could see Toronto, swam, skipped stones and picnicked at McCarston’s Lake, and ended on 3rd Line, near the South Outlier.

We began on a side-trail of the 850 km-long Bruce Trail, and walked to the edge of a 450 million year old sea that once spread from upstate New York to Michigan, when there was no terrestrial life, and the days were only 21 hours long. Looking down into the rock beneath our feet, we found it to be full of the fossilized traces of ancient lifeforms. Looking to the right, to the West, we could see the more recent traces of the Wisconsin ice-sheet, a glacier that stood two kilometres deep and left sand and gravel and ice as it retreated 12,000 years ago, forming the Orangeville Moraine. One piece of ice stayed buried in the glacial till, forming a lake as it melted, where we swam and skipped stones. Straight ahead of us, to the South, we could see a small mountain, with caves and rocks spires along its perimeter, that was formed when rivers poured off the glacier, severing it from the former shoreline. A hundred kilometres beyond this bump on the horizon we could faintly see the black shapes of the Mies Van Der Rohe-designed towers in downtown Toronto, built in the late 1960s. Had the atmosphere been a little clearer, we would have been able to make out the CN Tower as a tiny hair on the horizon.

To the South lay the rivers and brooks that flow into Toronto, creating one of the largest urban ravine systems in the world. In one of these ravines, in the late 1800s, a kid named Ernest Tompson Seton built a shanty in the outskirts of the city in what is now either Rosedale Ravine, or Moore Park Ravine, or on another brook that flows into the Don River. Thompson mythologized his time spent in the Don Valley with a racist children’s novel called “Two Little Savages” describing the adventures of two boys who pretended to be Indians, and filled with his own illustrations, that he published in 1903. In 1906 he published The Birchbark Roll of the Woodcraft Indians as a series of article in the Ladies Home Journal, using the figure of the Indian and ideas of nature-pantheism as a path to social and moral reform, at a time when real First Nations peoples were being persecuted for the practices Seton was appropriating. Seton, who had met and was influenced by the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin and his ideas about cooperation, was staunchly anti-capitalist, believed in communal living and saw nature as a vehicle for moral instruction. Based on these ideas, he formed the League of Woodcraft Indians, and in 1910 became the head of the Boy Scouts of America, a position he left in 1915 after disagreement with Lord Baden Powell, who lead a parallel British organization and who supposedly plagiarized Seton’s Birch Bark Roll, replacing the figure of the Indian and nature-worship with militarism and Christianity.

Seton’s Woodcraft Movement influenced a number of other organizations that combined radical politics and outdoor living. These include the early 20th-century group called the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry, which was founded by Quakers and which emphasized kindness, fellowship, and conservation. Others included the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift and The Forest School Movement. Formed in 1920, the Kibbo Kift, according to Matthew De Abbitua in his book The Art of Camping, “attracted disaffected Scouts, left-wingers, former suffragettes, theosophists, vegetarians and artists.” (106). Emphasizing open air education, health of body mind and spirit, craft skills, cultural development and pacifism, the Kindred reflected these ideas in their symbology, with the K describing a yoga-like physical stance that represented openness to the sun and to knowledge, and holding an annual open-air assembly, called the Althing, which drew its name from the Icelandic Parliament at Pingvellir. Members of the Kibbo Kift made their own tents, hiking outfits and ceremonial costumes, sometimes consciously drawing from Constructivist designs, and including brightly coloured and embellished with bold patterns and badges. By the 1930s, the Kibbo Kift began to evolve into a political organization, leading to the formation of Britain’s Social Credit Party.

Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, in Costume, 1930s
Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, in Costume, 1930s
Member of the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, in ceremonial attire. circal 1920s.
Member of the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, in ceremonial attire. circal 1920s.
British artist Oliva Plender, performance, part of
British artist Oliva Plender, performance, part of “Machine Shall Be the Slave of Man, but We Will Not Slave for the Machine” at the Tate Triennial, 2009

There were other organizations that embraced camping. In the 1890s, organizations such as the proletarian Naturfreunde, which had as its slogan “Free the Mountain” saw one of the crises of capitalism as being workers alienation not just from ownership over labour, but alienation from nature. Combining Marxism and a semi-religious view of nature, hiking groups functioned as workers academies, where people discussed topics from socialism to history and botany, emphasizing nature as a site of self-education, where one “learned from the book of nature whose pages are turned by the feet (Alexander, 81).

Oliva Plender, from
Oliva Plender, from “Machine Shall Be the Slave of Man, but We Will Not Slave for the Machine” at the Tate Triennial, 2009

Similarly, there were exclusively youth-focused groups, such as the Wandervogel, or the Wandering Birds, which began in 1887 as a high-school stenography club, whose members saw a tombstone epitaph while out on a hike that read “Who gave you wandering birds the knowledge never to go astray” (Alexander, 124). Made up of teenagers, mostly of the middle-class, they rejected mass-production and consumerism, researched folk and craft traditions, and sought freedom from adult control through unsupervised hiking and camping, known as “wild hiking.”

Wandervogel, early 20th c.
Wandervogel, early 20th c.

Another group, called Der Anfang (The Beginning), which began in 1913, organized salons and published a journal that criticized the education system, the church, the family and the military and advocated for youth culture, free of adult control, where nature was a site of freedom and exploration (135). Writing under a pseudonym for the journal that Der Anfang published, one of their members, Walter Benjamin, who was then a high school student, wrote “We are seized by the feeling that youth lasts only one brief night, so fill it with ecstasy!” By the First World War, there were tens of thousands of mostly German youth of both genders participating in camping organizations like the Wandervogel or unsanctioned forms of wild hiking.

Wandervogel, early 20th c. Source unknown.
Wandervogel, early 20th c. Source unknown.

With Germany in severe economic recession by the late 1920s, the Wandervogel began to fragment, with some members become proto-hippies, forming the Ascona commune, a gathering point for intellectuals and cultural figures in Monte Verita, Italy (the subject of an exhibition curated by Harald Szeemann in 1978), and others becoming proto-fascists, joining organizations like Germany’s White Knights (Savage & Ryan). Another effect was the organization of urban and exurban groups of “Wild Boys,” formed among the more than 14,000 homeless teenagers who lived in the outskirts of Berlin and in other parts of Germany, taking on names like “Blood of the Trappers, “Black Love,” and “Forest Pirates,” “Edelweiss Pirates” and “Shambeko Band” often after the North American frontier novels of Karl May. The Wild Boys had strict social hierarchies, lead by an older boy, called a “Bull,” with a younger boy called a “Queen” who was a servant and sexual slave to the others, and subjected their initiates to feats of physical strength, blood oaths and sado-sexual rituals (Gordon, 96).

Wild Boys Initiation ritual, 1920s.
Wild Boys Initiation ritual, 1920s.

The Wild Boys, who made their living largely through burglery and prostitution, had a distinctive style, described in 1923 by the French journalist Daniel Guerin as often including “black or grey Chaplinesque bowlers, old women’s hats with the brims turned up Amazon-fashion, adorned with ostrich plumes and medals… handkerchiefs or scarves in screaming colors tied any which way around the neck, bare chests bursting out of open skin vests with broad stripes, arms scored with fantastic or lewd tattoos, ears hung with pendulums or enormous rings, leather shorts surmounted by immense triangular belts daubed with all the colors of the rainbow, esoteric numbers, human profiles, and inscriptions such as Wild-frei [wild and free] or Rauber [bandits].” (quoted in Savage & Ryan)

Winnetou, Ring Bull of one of the Wild Boys.
Winnetou, Ring Bull of one of the Wild Boys.

During World War II, many youth including Winnetou were conscripted into Nazi organizations. Others resisted, and hiking and camping took on heightened political meaning as the Nazis forbid any hiking that was not part of the activities of the Hitler Youth. The Edelweiss Pirates composed anti-Nazi songs, clashed with Hitler Youth organizations, and formed an armed resistance made up concentration-camp escapees, deserters, and forced labourers (Savage & Ryan).

There we have it, politics, style, sexuality, and camping. A seemingly unlikely convergence, but important predecessors for artistic movements and countercultures that evolve throughout the 20th century, and a far cry from today’s commercialized and competitive ideologies of camping and hiking as leisure and athleticism.


Matthrew de Abaitua, The Art of Camping: The History and Practice of Sleeping Under the Stars (Hamish Hamilton, 2011)

Beth Gilhespy, “Escarpment Geology: Another part of our Living Landscape” Bruce Trail Magazine, Spring 2015.

Mel Gordon, Voluptuous Panic: The Erotic World of Weimer Berlin (Port Townsend WA: Feral House, 2008).

Jon Savage and Johnny Ryan, “Remembering the Wandervogel,” VICE online, March 1, 2011.

Harald Szeemann, Le mammelle della verità (“The Breasts of Truth”), 1978. See:

John Alexander Williams, Turning to Nature in Germany: Hiking, Nudism, and Conservation, 1900 – 1940 (Stanford UP: 2007)

Tulsi or Holy Basil

I’ve been purchasing Holy Basil or Tulsi from the organic market on campus for a few years. After Andrew and I visited the Organic Farm on campus for our club research and we were able to help harvest and prep produce for the market, we decided to make some Tulsi tea with fresh herbs sourced on campus to share with the outdoor school class. A number of students enjoyed and were interested in the healing properties of Tulsi or Holy Basil – so here’s some information:

holy basil1
tulsi or holy basil (Ocimum sanctum)

While basil is found on every continent, tulsi or holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) is indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. It is a bushy shrub that grows to about 18 inches in height. Its leaves are oval and serrated, with colors ranging from light green to dark purple, depending on the variety. In the wild, tulsi is an annual, but it can be kept as a perennial by trimming it before it forms seeds. The plant has delicate lavender-colored flowers, and its fruit consists of tiny rust-colored nuts.

Often referred to as holy basil, Tulsi is a potent herb that has been used in India for thousands of years to treat colds, coughs, and flu. According to Ayurveda**, tulsi promotes purity and lightness in the body, cleansing the respiratory tract of toxins and relieving digestive gas and bloating. Tulsi leaves offer a rich source of essential oil, containing eugenol, nerol, camphor, and a variety of terpenes and flavonoids. The oil is a strong antiseptic against many kinds of disease-causing organisms, including bacteria, fungi, and parasites.
In terms of the Ayurvedic doshas, tulsi carries the bitter, pungent, and astringent tastes and generates a warming influence on the physiology. The herb is predominantly Kapha-reducing, but it can also be used to pacify Vata and Pitta. However, it can have a mildly Pitta-aggravating effect in individuals who are severely overheated.

Tulsi has spiritual as well as medicinal significance in Ayurveda. In Hindu mythology, the plant is an incarnation of the goddess Tulsi, offering divine protection. Many Indian families keep a living Tulsi plant in their homes – tending to it with great care and reverence. The plant’s woody stalks are often made into beads used in meditation malas or rosaries.

Tulsi Tea:

If you are looking for Tulsi as a pre-packaged tea it can be found in tea bags in a number of stores in Guelph. A good place to start would be the Stone Store or to visit New Age. If you would like the plant fresh – visit the Orangic Market Thursdays on campus (while there is still harvest) 3-6pm near Rozanski and purchase a bunch for $1.50. I ‘process’ the herbs by separating the flowers and leaves and drying them in baskets. I use the leaves for cooking and the flowers for tea. Alternatively you can hang the whole bunch upside down in your kitchen and just break off what you need.

tulsi tea

** For anyone unfamiliar with Ayurveda – it is is a 5,000-year-old system of natural healing that has its origins in the Vedic culture of India.

Machine Project: Houseplant Vacation

Machine Project self determines as firstly a storefront in Los Angeles, but also an informal educational institution, and a loose group of artists and collaborators, but also an incorporated non-profit functioning on donations, members and volunteers . In 2010 they embarked on a humorous project called Houseplant Vacation at the Hammer Museum which was much in line with our practice in Outdoor School with Diane.

Houseplant Vacation: 

From their website, machine project describes their project below:

The Hammer invites you to give your houseplant a vacation during our August Cultural Retreat for Plants. Throughout the entire month participants plants will be installed in the light flooded linbrook terrace, and presented with a series of readings, performances and musical events for plants. Plant portraiture provided by Lisa Anne Auerbach. We will provide a dedicated (one-way and auto-answering) phone line connected to a loudspeaker should you wish to call in and speak to your plants.

* Saturday July 31st 11am to 5pm: Drop off at the Hammer Museum and plant portrait photography
* Saturday August 7th 1-4pm: Musical performances, dramatic readings, and psychic plant healing
* Friday August 13th 11pm-Midnight Plant Pornography screening (no humans allowed, sorry)
* Saturday August 14th 1-4pm: Musical performances, poetry, and psychic plant healing
* Saturday August 21st 1-4pm: Musical performances, historical accounts of botanical exploration and psychic plant healing
* Saturday August 28th 11am to 6pm: Plant pick up at the Hammer Museum

Reminder: Plant drop off is July 31, 11am-6pm and pick up Saturday August 28, 11am-6pm ONLY! (Please no sick/infested plants – this is a vacation, not rehab.)

Please email with the subject line “I’m bringing my plant” so that we can get an idea of how many plants we will be checking in for the month. (We will not respond to your email, this is for plant count only!)

You can download the plant release waiver and fill it out before you come to the museum or you can do this when you drop off your plant.

You can also download a selection of readings compiled by Joshua Beckman to be read to plants, entitled  “Poems and prose for potted plants”Poems and prose for potted plants“.

Tarot card readings were provided for each plant on vacation by Kristina Faragher, available to view here.


Broken City Lab: Alive and Well


“This year marks an interesting point in Windsor, Ontario’s history. The city appears to have survived the lowest lows of the economic crisis and the social, cultural, and political realities in front of us seem to offer some sense of hope and possibility. Back in September, we painted a 350 foot message that reads, “AS OF 2011.09.21, WE ARE ALIVE & WELL”, which is now viewable from around the world on Google Maps. The text is meant to be a caption of sorts for the city and references the start of the 2011 Windsor Biennial along with Iain Baxter&’s curatorial role — two incredible examples of creativity in the city, which we hope are indicative of the changes coming to Windsor. This project was made possible by the Art Gallery of Windsor, the City of Windsor, and MacDonald & White Paint. (see more)”

From Broken City Lab see more here.

Canary Project (Eve Mosher): High Water Line

“HighWaterLine was a public artwork on the New York city waterfront that created an immediate visual and local understanding of the effects of climate change. ”


“Eve Mosher marked the 10-feet above sea level line by drawing a blue chalk line and installing illuminated beacons in parks. The line marks the possible extent of increased flooding brought on by stronger and more frequent storms as a result of climate change.  During the summer of 2007, Eve walked, chalked and marked almost 70 miles of coastline. As Eve was out in the public creating the work, she had a chance to engage in conversations about climate change and its potential impacts.”




“The Canary Project assisted Eve with documentation (including filming and editing a movie about the project), publicity, content editing, organizing meetings with relevant scientists, research, studio space and volunteers.”

For more about the ongoing project see here.

Canary Project: Increase Your Albedo!

Increase Your Albedo! is an ongoing project involving sculpture, fashion and interventionist performances.  It is an investigation into latent mythology.  The more reflective the Earth, the less sun is absorbed and the cooler it stays. Ice and snow are white.  When they melt, the earth gets less reflective, warmer. More ice melts, and it gets even warmer.  We want you to increase the overall reflectivity of the earth by wearing white.  Albedo is the measurement of the earth’s reflectivity.”albedo4 albedo8

“We want you to increase the overall reflectivity of the earth by wearing white.  Albedo is the measurement of the earth’s reflectivity.”

albedo7  albedo5

See more from Canary Project on the Albedo website here.

Hannah Jickling and Helen Reed: Portland Orienteering Museum

PAM Score-O_2010

“For two years, I have collaborated with the Columbia River Orienteering to produce orienteering events at the Portland Art Museum for the now-annual Shine A Light event. The museum was instituted as a site for sport, offering a new approach to navigating the museum’s ‘terrain,’ while simultaneously offering a unique art-viewing opportunity to the back-woods competitor.”


“Orienteering is one of very few sports that relies on the interpretation of visual material such as maps and symbols.  Like art, it depends on a complex system of visual imagery and demands a level of visual literacy from its participants.

Typically, the sport of orienteering involves navigating one’s way between specified points of woodland terrain with the aid of a topographical map and compass. The sport combines creative decision-making, physical endurance, and navigational skills in some of the most scenic wilderness areas in the world.  A standard orienteering course consists of a series of sites or features to be found – each indicated as symbols, colors and patterns on a map. On the ground, orange and white control flags mark the locations that the orienteer must locate.


Interpretive maps, visual symbols and markers are equally common to the landscape of museums, galleries and other cultural sites. I am interested in using the conventions of an orienteering map to mark museum features and cultural sites in distinctive topographical terms.  I want to use orienteering as a ready-made performance and as an existing system for navigating art.”POM9 POM5

Shine a Light, Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon, 2009

Shine a Light, Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon, 2010

Orienteers Find a Way, Autzen Gallery, Portland, Oregon, 2010

Related Reviews and Publications:

Shine a Light.  Exhibition Catalogue.  Portland: independently published, 2009.

Shine a Light.  Exhibition Catalogue.  Portland: independently published, 2010.

Radon, Lisa.  ‘Shine a Light.’ Ultra PDX, 15 October 2010. <>.

Blake, Vanessa.  ‘Artful Orienteering.’ Orienteering North America, January/February 2010: 22-23.

For more on Helen and Hannah’s works see here.

Hannah Jickling and Helen Reed: The Canoedio


“The Canoedio was a floating studio, in a canoe, during a 6-day trip down the Yukon River with Helen Reed, Eric and Stephanie Steen and Bob Jickling. The Canoedio was used for painting, reading and a mobile pinhole photography dark room. The project also included the transport of a 111-year old sourdough culture that had traveled the same river during the Klondike Goldrush. After paddling in to Dawson City, we presented the Canoedio at the Yukon Riverside Arts Festival.”

A workshop on portable pinhole developing. The Canoedio, Yukon River, 2009.


Bob developing pinhole photographs. The Canoedio, Yukon River, 2009.canoedio1

Related events and exhibitions:

Yukon Riverside Arts Festival, Dawson City, Yukon, 2009.

See more of Hannah and Helen’s works here.