HEARINGS: a sound based research project at Todmorden Mills

Radiodress by Natalie Logan_web
Closing Reception + Launch
Date: Saturday June 25, 2016
Time: 1:30–3:30PM
Location: Todmorden Mills, 67 Pottery Rd, Toronto
With: Radiodress, Tsēma Tamara Skubovius, and Michael Palumbo

Please join Trinity Square Video on Saturday June 25th for an afternoon reception celebrating the completion of a six-month sound based research project at Todmorden Mills Heritage Site. The event will be accompanied by short talks by resident artists, Radiodress, Tsēma Tamara Skubovius, and Michael Palumbo, and by Trinity Square’s Curatorial Researcher in Residence, Maiko Tanaka. We will also be launching The Embodied Sonic Research Toolkit by Radiodress, including contributions from Tsēma and Palumbo, as well as Palumbo’s Aural Phenological Clock.


Since January 2016, Trinity Square Video has been facilitating a collective research project at Todmorden Mills—a historic site comprised of forests, meadows, a pond, and restored buildings that were part of a small industrial community within Toronto’s Don Valley. Titled HEARINGS, the research project takes up the double meaning of “hearing” as both auditory perception and judicial testimony, inviting artists to listen for and amplify the muted narratives that make up its multi-species history. During their residencies the artists spent time on the site individually and collectively, using various research approaches—personal and embodied listening practices; Indigenous methodologies; and improvisational listening and recording systems. Underlying their research was a desire to explore approaches to listening that render it a tool for unlearning colonial ways of perceiving land, living species, and cultural history.

Research projects

Taking personal and embodied listening practices – a facilitated process designed to build collective knowledge of the site – Radiodress’s listening methodologies centre our human bodies as witnessing/observational tools privileging inter-species connection, temporal shifts and trusting physical sensation, as well as non-verbal knowledge. For HEARINGS, Radiodress researched the sounds of the earth, air and water on the site, framed by the moon cycles. As the spring season entered, she laid on the grounds at various locations on the site, including the art gallery, cottage, wildflower trail and Helliwell House, at the new, full and half moon risings. In addition to her observation sessions, Radiodress created the Embodied Sonic Research Toolkit, a publicly accessible toolkit which will be launched on June 25, 2016 representing the co-development of research through various listening strategies the HEARINGS artists have employed. Radiodress conceived the toolkit as a resource for audiences, staff, and other artist/researchers to conduct their own site-specific sound based inquiry at Todmorden Mills.

Riot Rock Rattles is part of an ongoing project by artist Tsēma Tamara Skubovius called LAND|MINE, inspired by material and mechanical relationships that link bodies to the land. The rattles are cast from rocks that the artist has gathered from urban gardens, from the “constructed” wild near the outskirts of the city and from her home territory in Northern BC. They are activated by glass beads inside shells of copper, rawhide and ceramic – materials that assume both cultural and industrial value. “Riot Rocks” are a size of rock that is hand-held and can be perceived as threats. That potential for riot or ceremony is the tension in the objects (rattle or otherwise) and a metaphor for the resonance of human activity on the land. As part of HEARINGS, Tsēma facilitated two Riot Rock Rattles workshops in which participants went through the process of creating their own rattles using a rock found on the Todmorden Site for the cast. The aim was to realize Indigenous methodologies individually and together in community through listening, talking and creating awareness of bodies acting on the land and making new histories.

To approach the complexity and deep time of the site, artist Michael Palumbo takes his experience working in electroacoustics, systems thinking and performance studies to research and create a machine-improvisor companion called Aural Phenological Clock. Inspired by Natalie Jeremijenko’s PhenologicalxClock, which presents time as seasonal, local, multi-species and interdependent rather than mechanistic, as well as a smudging ceremony performed by artist Philip Cote through which Palumbo was invited to make an offering to the land upon his first visit to the site, he approached the piece less as a recording device and more as a performative contributor to the aural histories of Todmorden Mills. The aim is to explore hierarchies of time scales on macro and micro levels and how these boundaries get blurred and reformed, using research approaches of creation, offering and improvisation over delineation, extraction and control.

HEARINGS is initiated by Trinity Square Video and facilitated by Curatorial-Researcher-in-Residence, Maiko Tanaka. As a practitioner who takes up curatorial practice as a vehicle for pedagogical, collective, and material-discursive knowledge production, Tanaka took on Toronto Arts Council’s proposition to animate historic sites by exploring the gap found between conflicting public literature on Todmorden Mills. On one hand, Todmorden Mills has been described as a gateway for the interplay between nature and culture over the last 11,000 years; while on the other hand, official tourist literature and on-site didactics tell a history limited to early 19th Century British settlers. Within this context Tanaka invited artists exploring the relationships of sound, performance, time and place to make research into the deep time and more-than-human history of the site from a decolonial perspective.


Michael Palumbo (BFA) is an artist and researcher whose interests include distributed creativity, human and nonhuman agents in performance, and creative computation. Recent projects include dispersion[dot] (Palumbo 2016) and Fibrotic Geographies (McMackin and Palumbo 2016). Selected previous works include his performance video games Recursive Writing (2015) and Stethoscope Hero (2014), electroacoustic compositions CrossTalk (2013), Soup Phase (2013) and Iron Harvest (2012), and as an executive producer of the distributed performance concerts From the Ether (2015) and Telematic Embrace: You Had Me at Hello World (2014). He is a researcher in the Distributed Performance and Sensorial Immersion Lab (DisPerSion Lab), and will begin his PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies at York University in September.

Radiodress uses live and recorded talking, singing, yelling and listening to consider bodies as sites of knowledge, and communication as a mystical and political practice. Through guided participation, ritual and play in public space, Radiodress highlights the relationship between collective voice and the empathic act of listening. Her projects have been performed widely in North America, Europe, South Asia and the Middle East. Her ongoing ritual bath project, MKV was exhibited as part of CIA#3 in January, 2016 at the Art Gallery of York University. In 2015, Radiodress presented Mysterium Tremendum: precarious labour, prophetic vision, transformative justice at the Worker’s Arts and Heritage Centre in Hamilton, Ontario. She is currently pursuing ongoing relational work through spiritual care with people who are incarcerated.

Tsēma Tamara Skubovius is an interdisciplinary artist and member of the Tahltan First Nation. She studied Northwest Coast Formline Design at K’saan (2005/06), has a BFA from ECUAD (2011) and MFA from OCADu (2016). Tsēma has shown in notable group show, Interweavings for emerging First Nations artists who have previously won a YVR Art Foundation scholarship (RAG 2014/15). She is currently a featured artist for Culture Shift, Contemporary Native Art Biennale in Montreal and Luminato festival in Toronto (2016). Tsēma graduated from the Interdisciplinary Master’s in Art, Media and Design program at OCADu showing her thesis work, LAND|MINE that connects materials to mine sites and bodies to the land.

Maiko Tanaka is a curator based in Toronto. She has held curatorial positions at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery (now Art Museum), InterAccess, as well as Casco – Office for Art, Design, and Theory (Utrecht). In 2014 Maiko co-edited The Grand Domestic Revolution Handbook published by Casco and Valiz, and Model Minority, published by Gendai Gallery and Publication Studio – publications which were both based on long-term collective research projects she co-curated. She holds a BFA from OCADU, an MVS from University of Toronto and serves on the board of Gendai and the editorial advisory of C Magazine. She is currently undertaking a curatorial residency at Trinity Square Video where she is exploring technologies of perception, inter-species listening and science fiction feminisms through a media-archeological lens.

The closing celebration of HEARINGS will take place on Saturday June 25, 1:30–3:30PM at Todmorden Mills. We hope you can join us!

Todmorden Mills is located at 67 Pottery Rd, Toronto. More information on location and access can be found here.

HEARINGS is funded by the Toronto Arts Council’s Animating Historic Sites and Museums Partnership Program.

For more information on the Toronto Arts Council’s Animating Historic Sites and Museums Partnership Program program visit: http://www.torontoartscouncil.org.

Banner image: Radiodress, esr, 1/4 moon, 2016.
Photos by Yuula Benivolski and Natalie Logan