Portraits of the Arctic From a Southern City: Toronto, the Arctic, and Their Entanglements
My PhD project is a SSHRC-funded research-creation project housed in the Communications and Culture Program at Ryerson University and York University. Research-creation projects combine creative and academic practices to produce new knowledge. In my case, I am producing a traditional PhD dissertation as well as a feature length documentary film.
My dissertation examines the history of documentary film in the Arctic while questioning the absence of southern cities from the Arctic documentary visual lexicons. Southern cities, like the capitals of the Arctic coastal countries (Copenhagen, Moscow, Oslo, Ottawa, and Washington), play an outsized role in Arctic communities but their bureaucratic officials, corporate headquarters, manufacturers and political offices are rarely featured in Arctic documentary films. Cities that are seemingly disconnected from the region, like Toronto, are especially excluded from Arctic visual lexicons even as they shape the region’s economies, influence the region’s cultural markets, and shelter Arctic migrating species. The presumption is that one must see the Arctic to understand the Arctic; my dissertation argues that one must also sometimes turn away from the Arctic to understand the Arctic. Indeed, Toronto may very well be a fruitful starting place for unravelling the issues faced by the Canadian Arctic region.
My documentary film is about the Canadian Arctic but it refuses to point a lens on the region. Instead, it takes Toronto as an Arctic landscape ripe with institutions, individuals, policies, and geologic features with tremendous influence over the region. The film cinematically unravels the city’s myriad entanglements with the Arctic, starting first with migratory Arctic birds that land on Leslie Street Spit to overwinter, and ending with pharmaceutical companies bioprospecting in the Arctic for organisms with medicinal properties. The film serves as an intervention in the Arctic documentary lexicons discussed in the dissertation.
PhD by Design Symposium 2020: Materializing Theory, Theorizing Practice. “Arctic Documentary Lexicons & Toronto” Author. Paper. Organized by Brooklyn Experimental Media Center at NYU Tandon School of Engineering, New York, NY, 2020. Postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Arctic Frontiers. “Communication Blackouts: Technology, Resources, and Sovereignty in the Arctic Ocean.” Author. Paper. Organized by the Arctic Frontiers Secretariat, Tromso, Norway, 2020.
Arctic Frontiers. “Conceptual Photography for the Arctic” Author. Pecha Kucha Presentation. Organized by the Arctic Frontiers Secretariat, Tromso, Norway, 2020.
Arctic Frontiers. “Communication Blackouts: Technology, Resources, and Sovereignty in the Arctic Ocean.” Author. Poster. Organized by the Arctic Frontiers Secretariat, Tromso, Norway, 2020.
Russia in the Arctic Dialogue: Local and Global Context 2019. “Photography in the Arctic.” Author. Paper. Organized by the Northern Arctic Federal University of Russia, Arkhangelsk, Russia.
Intersections/Cross-sections Conference 2019. “The Extra-linguistic: Research Creation as
Methodology.” Panelist. Organized by the Graduate Student Association of the Communication and Culture Program at York University and Ryerson University.
Future Communications Conference. “The Extra-linguistic: Research Creation as Methodology.” Panelist. Graduate conference organized by the Communication and Culture Program at York University and Ryerson University, Toronto, ON, 2018.
“Making a Documentary.” Guest speaker at the British International School in New York City, NY, 2018.
Canadian Communication Association Annual Conference 2017. “Focus on Features: How Feature Filmmaking Problematizes Toronto’s Role Within the Cultural Cluster.” Co-author. Paper. Organized by Canadian Communication Association, Toronto, ON, 2017.
Film Studies Association of Canada Annual Conference 2017. “Focus on Features: The Future of Filmmaking in Ontario”. Co-author. Paper. Organized by Film Studies Association of Canada, Toronto, ON, 2017.
De/Materializing Bodies Symposium. “Bunker Bodies.” Author. Paper. Organized by The Studio for Media Activism, Toronto, ON, 2016..
Make City: A Festival for Architecture and Change-making. “Tempelhof Airport and Grassroots Organizing.” Filmmaker Q&A. Berlin, Germany, 2015.