Artists: Kathy Lewis, Art Fredeen and Si Transken and Students for a Green University, Lukas Bosch, Jenny Couto
Word: Knowledge and University of the North
There is a student group and a faculty group in the room. They have questions. They need to know exactly what they are doing, to see what the extent of task is before they commit.
The faculty like their word “knowledge” it is appropriate for them, they think, and so central to a university. The student group have “University of the North.” They look overwhelmed. How are they going to get all those words on the same size 6 x 12 piece of glass that the faculty have. It strikes me how symbolic this is. Faculty carry knowledge easily while students arrive at the University of the North, often overwhelmed at the journey ahead, only knowing that gaining knowledge will not be easy.
The students are quiet, intent on their task. They are researching, searching the web for images to support their ideas. They have a plan and move to execute it. Very quickly they get to a space of dividing the work equitably, working side by side, shoulder to shoulder, facing in the same direction. Speaking quietly and concretely: “This doesn’t look like an R, it looks more like a Y.” One is writing the word NORTH on one glass piece, making each letter from symbols and icons of living in the north. It has sharp strong angles; the man-made on the land. The other is scripting University as flowing curved words, each carrying a blanket of snow. Together, as these words and letters and images come together they bring together the human and the natural worlds embedded in the landscape of the north.
At the other table the faculty are cheerfully debating. Circling the task, not agreeing. Initially, they were going to share out the letters but have moved quickly into a realm of ideas, instead into the intellectual, ideas about gender, and how knowledge is shifting women’s place in the world. They talk about the divide between the grass roots and the ivory tower; how that gap will shrink as more first generation scholars, those from homes and families where there was little or no knowledge, bring their perspective to knowing and knowledge.
They talk about how there are different kinds of knowledge: experiential knowledge, traditional knowledge, Indigenous knowledge, community knowledge all of which flow up to supplement the halls of knowledge up the hill. “Why don’t we keep it simple?” moves into a discussion of green, how green could become greener at the university became Canada’s green university.
Now they are on a roll and ideas and words and images are many. “Let’s make the letters start very concrete, then become more organic, knowledge blossoms and roots itself in the earth of the north.” “Who can draw a pine cone?” Kathy the forester can. She begins drawing a carefully detailed and beautiful pine cone, her scientific eye capturing and carrying those details and moving them from science into the service of art.
There are rumblings. They are fretting at limits. “There is not enough space for all these ideas.” This seems uncanny, given how pressed faculty are for space in the reality of the physical infrastructure. They figure out a way to get more space. They are debating how to use the second piece as an extension of the first. This brings them to “edgy” – how defined the edges of the piece of glass are. It brings them to how knowledge, how “to know” pushes you over an edge of not knowing. They are analysing the word now; how knowledge embodies Know and ledge; Know – I – edge. Now they want more time. They now want more knowledge, more precise knowledge: “How will the colours look when they are fired?”
They are all working hard now, each intent upon a task. Learning from each other: colour theory, the changing status of women in the north as they acquire knowledge, planting seeds, how much knowledge is shifting and changing. “Knowledge is what we make it.”
Four pieces of glass, Knowledge floating and grounded, science and art together, pushing at too well-defined edges and restraints, and lack of resources as the University of the North brings together elements of human and nature: weather, landscape, recreation, work, home school, all rooted in the language of the land, embracing 'En Cha Huna, which directly translates to "he/she also lives", and is a reminder to respect all forms of life. A strong foundation to knowledge and the University of the North.