SWARM online exhibition at Gallery 1c03

An archived digital space of environmental art pieces

Roewan Crowe is a co-curator of SWARM, a digital exhibition presented by Gallery 1C03. (Supplied photo)

Although many venues and events are currently closed to the public, there are still ways to enjoy events occurring live or on the internet. Gallery 1C03 on the University of Winnipeg campus has been holding Eruption, an art exhibit by Grace Nickel, but they have also recently helped host the SWARM art exhibit online.

SWARM is a collection of art from various LGBTQ+ and Indigenous peoples surrounding the themes of environmentalism, feminism and insects. The exhibit was created and organized by the University of Winnipeg greenhouse artlab, a plantbased art space located on the top floor of the library. The artlab gathered eight contributors to create poems, videos, essays, photos and other artistic pieces all on the swarm.greenhouseartlab.com website.

The site itself contributes to the exhibit. Viewers engage with a honeycomb structure of buttons to navigate SWARM’s content, presenting the art experience in a uniquely digital medium. Audiences must explore by clicking on the different images, not knowing what the website will show them next.

Although the art pieces are abstract, they are all held together by cohesive themes. hum of the blue hive, a video by Roewan Crowe, depicts a gardener’s interactions with their garden. Audree Espada’s essay on Valérie Chartrand describes Chartrand’s artistic work with bees and how Chartrand’s work reflects on humanity’s impact on insect pollination. UnRavel by Willow Rector is a series of images intended to show what it would look like if bees could use humans and human materials as they do flowers.

In a Q-and-A session during the artists’ talk held on March 10, Maram Rocha, one of the exhibit artists, spoke about fellow artist Franchesca Herbert-Spence and how she spoke in a class he was in about the importance of community within artistic spaces. He also said that he felt no difference between working for a physical space and working for a digital space and that the existence of SWARM’s digital space was essential for artists to stay connected.

Dallas Cant, one of the co-curators of SWARM, said the art exhibit’s digital “arc. hive” was a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a way in which audiences could get intimate with the art virtually. They also said that the SWARM website’s hexagonbased layout was inspired by bees and bee bodies in order to capture the presence of bees in a digital space. Cant was in close contact with their web designers to make the website exactly in their vision.

“Moving from the idea of ... exhibiting in person to sharing art digitally was a challenging pivot,” Cant says in an email to The Uniter. “But the site turned out to be a highly engaging space of collective makingwith that holds the art well. And as life is, right now at least, I think the arc.hive will reach more folks than an in-person exhibit could have. And that’s really exciting, to have that kind of reach.”

The SWARM exhibit is a reminder of the human effects on nature, but it also is a representation of how humans as a species connect to nature in various ways. The exhibit artistically proposes different methods on how to improve human engagement with plants and insects. Through art, the university’s greenhouse artlab shows how beautiful the world is and motivates its audience to keep it that way.

To view the SWARM exhibit, visit swarm.greenhouseartlab.com.

Published in Volume 76, Number 21 of The Uniter (March 17, 2022)

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