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Migratory routes explored by artist Nadia Myre at 2022 Edinburgh Art Festival

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  • Tell Me of Your Boats and Your Waters – Where Do They Come From, Where Do They Go? is one of three major commissions as the festival celebrates its 18th edition, running at Edinburgh Printmakers and on the Union Canal at Fountainbridge from 28 July – 18 September
  • Each commission is inspired by the theme of ‘The Wave of Translation’, marking the 200th anniversary of the Union Canal
  • The co-commissioned sited work will draw inspiration from links between Scotland and Canada, including migratory routes starting from the canal
  • Myre will also be in conversation during the opening of the festival
Coverage Briefing
Nadia Myre, Were You To Pick A Star, Reverse Transfer Print and Poem, 2022. Courtesy of the artist.
A multi-sited project from Montréal-based First Nations artist Nadia Myre is one of three major commissions that will feature as part of the 2022 Edinburgh Art Festival, as it celebrates its 18th edition. Co-commissioned by Edinburgh Art Festival and Edinburgh Printmakers, the work takes inspiration from the 200th anniversary of the Union Canal and its migratory connections between Scotland and Canada.

Tell Me of Your Boats and Your Waters – Where Do They Come From, Where Do They Go?  will use print, installation, and sound to explore reference points spanning the two countries and migratory routes started on the canal. Taking in stargazing and tricksters, it will explore indigenous storytelling, and expand on the artist’s archival research methods, considering pattern, prose and song.

As an Algonquin member of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation, Myre’s work sited alongside the Union Canal near the Lochrin Basin and in Gallery 2 at Edinburgh Printmakers brings to the fore the decolonial impulse inherent in the artist’s practice.

The artist’s research began with the encounter of Tales of Nanabozho in a local library in Montréal – a book published in 1964 by Scottish-born émigré Dorothy Marion Reid after moving to Canada, who recounts fictional stories of Nanabozho, a non-binary trickster character to the Anishinaabe peoples.

The book was published just four years after the Canadian government granted Indigenous people the right to vote. Around the same time, Canada also placed indigenous children and babies into the child welfare system after the country shifted its policies from mandatory residential schools.

Reid’s book has a mixed legacy – although winning an award and becoming a work of value for the preservation of indigenous stories, it is coloured by the worldview of a European woman. 

Myre will start with these points of reference to play with the character of the Nanabozho – who is often in trouble as a way of mirroring how humans should behave in the world. She will explore what may be missing from Reid’s tales through poems viewable across each exhibition site.

The artist also takes inspiration from the histories of Hopetoun warehouse, now the site of the Odeon cinema on Lothian Road. With land reclaimed by 1922 to make way for the Art Deco Lothian House which incorporated the original cinema, the site was previously known as Port Hopetoun basin, operating as a place for trade and travel.

As well as bringing building materials and fuel into Edinburgh city centre, people could start their journeys to the ‘New World’ on the ‘Swifts’ –passenger boats to Glasgow that linked up with trans-Atlantic routes to Canada.
The warehouse was used to separate passengers’ belongings from dusty industrial materials, and Myre will depart, explore and reimagine these journeys through an installation of sack-like bags in Gallery 2 at Edinburgh Printmakers.

The commission takes place on the Union Canal by the Lochrin Basin, and at Edinburgh Printmakers, Gallery 2, from 28 July to 18 September. Entry is free.
The co-commission is supported by the PLACE Programme, a partnership between Edinburgh Festivals, The Scottish Government, the City of Edinburgh Council and Creative Scotland. The co-commission is further supported by Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (CALC), Kinawind Lab at Concordia University, Québec Government Office in London and the High Commission of Canada in the UK as part of Spotlight Canada.

The exhibition also runs alongside new work from artist Tessa Lynch in Houses Fit For People in Gallery 1. Entry is free. Nadia Myre will also present a free, In Conversation event to discuss her project on Tue 2 August at 6.30pm in Edinburgh Printmakers. Tickets are free, and can be booked at edinburghartfestival.com.

An EP Edition, a limited print created by Myre, will also accompany the commission, co-commissioned with Edinburgh Art Festival. More information on this print will be available soon from Edinburgh Printmakers.

More about Nadia Myre

Nadia Myre is an indigenous and Québécois artist from Montréal who is interested in having conversations about identity, resilience and politics of belonging.

A graduate from Camosun College (1995), Emily Carr (1997), and Concordia University (M.F.A., 2002), Myre is a recipient of numerous awards, notably Compagne des arts et des lettres du Québec (2019), Banff Centre for Arts Walter Phillips Gallery Indigenous Commission Award (2016), Sobey Art Award (2014), Pratt & Whitney Canada’s ‘Les Elles de l’art’ for the Conseil des arts de Montréal (2011), Québec Arts Council’s Prix à la création artistique pour la region des Laurentides
(2009), and a Fellowship from the Eiteljorg Museum (2003).

Recent accomplishments include Balancing Acts (Textile Museum of Canada, 2019), Code Switching and Other New Work (Glasgow International, 2018), Tout ce qui reste / Scattered Remains (Montréal Museum of Fine Art, 2017), Decolonial Gestures or Doing it Wrong? Refaire le chemin (McCord Museum, 2016) and commissions for new work: Dans l’attente… | While Waiting… (Ville de Montréal, 2019), Oceanus Procelleum (Zuecca Project ‘Volume 0’, Venice Biennale, 2019), Tree of Shifting Forms (Canadian Embassy in Paris, 2018), the Québec Room carpet design (2015) for Canada House in London, England (with Karen Spencer), Orison (galerie Oboro, 2014), Formes et Paroles (Musée Dapper, Senegal, 2014), and Sakahàn (National Gallery of Canada, 2013). As well as having participated in international biennales (Glasgow 2018, Shanghai 2014, Sydney 2012, and Montréal 2011), Myre’s work has featured in prominent group exhibitions such as Changing Hands 3 (Museum of Art and Design, New York, NY), Pour une république des rêves (CRAC Alsace – Centre Rhénan d’Art Contemporain, Altkirch, FR), Le temp du dessin (Ensemble Poirel, Nancy, France), Vantage Point (National Museum of American Indian National Mall, Washington, DC), It Is What It Is (National Gallery of Canada), and Femmes Artistes. L’éclatement des frontières 1965-2000 (Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, QC). Her work has received accolades from the New York Times, The Washington Post, and Le Devoir, and has been featured in ARTnews, Canadian Art, Parachute, American Craft, C Magazine, and Monopol. Her works may be found on permanent exhibition at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, National Gallery of Canada, Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec, Canadian Museum of History, and the Musée des civilizations (Québec).

Edinburgh Art Festival’s Commissions Programme 2022
The Festival’s Commissions Programme, which supports leading artists to create ambitious new work, this year marks the 200th anniversary of the Union Canal with the theme ‘The Wave of Translation’ – a scientific phenomenon first discovered in Edinburgh. 

In 1834, engineer John Scott Russell watched as a horse-drawn canal boat came to a stop at Hermiston on the Union Canal. This abrupt stop created a single wave which continued along the waterway holding its shape and speed. Russell’s recording and research of this phenomenon influenced the development of modern fibre optic technology. He described the wave as his ‘first chance encounter with that singular and beautiful phenomenon which I have called the Wave of Translation’

Other commissions in the programme include leading Dutch visual artist Jeanne van Heeswijk initiating the Community Wellbeing Collective (C.W.C.), a group of residents from Wester Hailes and local surrounding areas, to create and present Watch this Space – a space for all to develop together and to experience what community wellbeing is and could be. And Finding Buoyancy, by Glasgow based artists Pester and Rossi, produced through collaboration with groups and individuals in Wester Hailes. Exploring ways that we can connect to the natural environment to help us stay buoyant in uncertain times, the project began with a guided audio journey called Finding Buoyancy – Sound Meditations (2021) inviting local people and members of community groups from WHALE Arts to creatively share responses to the canal.  

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For more information, including details of the full Edinburgh Art Festival programme, please visit www.edinburghartfestival.com or follow the Festival on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @edartfest #edartfest  
Barry Kirkham
Barry Kirkham
Barry is most likely to be seen in Edinburgh Magazine writing about local history, technology, and science.

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