Montreal’s “Leisure” Settling into The Rooms for an Exhibit on Local Folklore & Berry Flora

They wanted to explore the shared work (historically often female) of the harvest on through the transformation process into the finished jams, for them symbolizing a deeper act of selection within the landscape, and refinement, time spent with a raw material, also looking at what the new product retains of its original essence.

Leisure is a collaborative conceptual art practice (Susannah Wesley and Meredith Carruthers)  based in Montreal, with work focused on the inner and creative lives of women, and altered or heightened states of time and awareness, often expressed through dialogue with the landscape or cultural myths like witchcraft or faerie lore. 

This might sound a bit heady, but it is easily comprehensible in conversation with them, as I discovered while they were spending 2 weeks as artists in residence here in St. John’s working on an installation that will be presented in January at the Rooms.

I was contacted by a Rooms staffer to spend some time talking to Susannah and Meredith after they had decided they wanted their work in Newfoundland to focus on berries, jams, and natural dyes, all subjects dear to my heart.

They wanted to explore the shared work (historically often female) of the harvest on through the transformation process into the finished jams, for them symbolizing a deeper act of selection within the landscape, and refinement, time spent with a raw material, also looking at what the new product retains of its original essence.

The connection between faerie lore and berry picking also fascinated the artists. Otherworldly intervention into human time is not lost on them as both metaphor and explanation of the tragic, mysterious and awesome.

Liminal states, those where we are at the threshold between the sacred and the mundane, are alternately deeply vulnerable and rich with potential,  allowing different ways of seeing. The heightened state of vision experienced when scanning a large swath of land for the red or blue of berries is also a new way of seeing, a different and ancient way of interacting with the landscape.

The collapsed sense of time experienced in nature echoes tales of being stolen by the little people, children coming back days later in what seemed like only hours to the stolen child.

Susannah and Meredith were great sports, surviving being dragged around cliff-access-only corners of the Southside Hills to be educated on berries, mushrooms, and herbs, and were rewarded with the tip to spend a weekend in gorgeous Bonavista  getting some rural culture.

Returning inspired, they spent time researching provincial folklore archives, which has left them with a deep curiosity about bakeapples and a respect for our faerie tradition. They will be working with archival images in the upcoming project, as well as natural ones.

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