“Touching the Ocean, Receiving Medicine”

“Touching the Ocean, Receiving Medicine”
By Anna Horsnell

The room is dark. On the wall is a projection of brown water, its undulating surface a hypnotic recording of slack tide, that period when tidal waters pause to change direction. Water becomes clouds become time itself. Brown water of the Minas Basin pulled and pushed by the constant rhythm of the mighty Bay of Fundy. The room resonates with a haunting soundtrack composed within the lines of poetry written on the wall. This combined experience is entitled Arrival, an immersive installation on exhibit at the Ross Creek Art Gallery until December 20.

Many of us who live here in Nova Scotia feel a strong and even innate connection to the ocean. That feeling goes to the bone of artist Lindsay Dobbin. She is a Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk), Acadian, and Irish water protector, artist, musician, curator, and educator who lives and works on the Bay of Fundy in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of Lnu’k (Mi’kmaq). She is also a recent recipient of an Emerging Artist Recognition Award presented at the 2019 Creative Nova Scotia Awards Gala.

As she explains in her artist’s statement, “ I consider my practice to be a living process – asking questions, following curiosity, with the intent of understanding and kinship. The works I create are environmental studies, and recognize the natural world as witness and teacher.”

Arrival is the result of an earlier performance by Dobbin during an artist residency in Upper Economy on the Bay of Fundy in 2015. It was there she spent six days in the intertidal zone just listening and being present until the idea for a performance piece emerged from her observations. She would walk with the incoming tide, marking each step with a drumbeat as a marker for the pulse of the tide itself. That six-hour performance had a huge impact on Dobbin, and once again she turned to her art to process and respond to her experience. Arrival was born. She composed the audio on guitar while she wrote the poetry. The video she shot later on the Shubenacadie River. The title Arrival isn’t so much about arriving in a particular place. It’s more about being present, catching the tide when it’s about to turn, that potency of expected change. The words of her poetry resonate: “Trust drawing me toward land. Touching the ocean, receiving medicine.”

What does she hope people gain from her exhibit? She offers the installation as a space for people to observe and listen, and hopefully not just to her work, but also to hear something themselves. It is a space for others to reflect on their own experience or to learn more about the Bay of Fundy. “Being present is enough sometimes. Nature is incredible,” Dobbin believes. More and more, with the land-based work she does, she just wants to listen, to create a frame for others to see something that was there all along. She invites our own interpretation. “Can we hear the natural world speak, and come to know its language? How can the land guide us? Our listening? Our actions?” Potent questions for our time about connection and belonging. As Arts Programming Director Ian Funke-McKay suggests, “Experience the Bay of Fundy in a new way, through the importance of water to our community and landscape.”

Dobbin has just finished a new project with composer Marcus Goddard and the Victoria Symphony, a collaboration about water called Confluence which debuts November 24 in Victoria. She is also looking forward to a Ross Creek residency later this winter or early spring when she will focus on her writing.

On December 8 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm, Dobbin will be present at Ross Creek Centre for another Family Art Sunday. This will be a great opportunity to meet the artist and experience her unique exhibit, if not before. Find out more about Lindsay Dobbin and her work at lindsaydobbin.com.