March 4, 2024

Transdisciplinary exhibit highlights water expertise across fields

BRACKISH brings together students, faculty and UCalgary community members March 6-14
Canvas painting laying on the bank of a river.
Meltwater. Submission by Will Neuhaus

The term 'brackish' refers to water with salinity in between fresh water and seawater, often found in the areas where rivers meet the ocean. This is a fitting name for the upcoming water-related exhibit that mixes approaches and ideas from different disciplines, BRACKISH: A Transdisciplinary Exploration of Water, running from March 6 to 14 at the Little Gallery and the Arnatt Gallery at the University of Calgary’s Department of Art and Art History.

Students and faculty from the Faculty of ArtsFaculty of Science and the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape will showcase their water-related research in a multitude of mediums, including photographs and textile pieces. 

Creating a space for water research to be discussed with varying perspectives and research backgrounds is the exhibition curators’ goal. 

PhD student Samantha Jones, MSc’09, one of BRACKISH’s two curators, explains that “as a scientist, I often go to a conference which has a fairly specific mandate,” and although the variety of content is increasing, folks often “fall within [their] subject area or discipline. We left [Brackish] much more open in terms of those types of constraints and really only gave the theme of water and the requirement that it would blur disciplines or ways of doing or knowing.”

Photo of Samantha Jones.

Samantha Jones.

Samantha Jones

Students, faculty, staff, alumni and university community members were invited to submit pieces, allowing for a variety of viewpoints to be showcased.

“We really wanted people to send us their work that blurs boundaries,” says Jones. “Whether that means being transdisciplinary in working across these typical academic subject areas that might be treated as silos, or using different ways of knowing or different methods to create something new or novel … (the idea being) that the space that we would create would showcase the works of students, uplift their efforts, help them build their portfolios, and then create a celebration that falls outside of a typical discipline-based forum to showcase (their) work.”  

Attendees will experience a range of sights and sounds at the exhibit, including poetry, a comic strip, textile works, architectural models, and more. The hope is for guests and participants to take away new knowledge and connections within the water research field.

“When I think of global challenges such as climate change, they’re deeply intertwined with water in so many forms,” says co-curator Tanya Yeomans, BSc’04, BA’20, currently a Master of Science student. 

“I don't think any one discipline will have all the answers. Any of these global issues with water are going to require science and engineering, but they’re also going to require the humanities and the arts. This exhibit is just one small way for us to connect.”

Photo of Tanya Yeomans doing her fieldwork in a forest.

Tanya Yeomans.

Aoife Mac Namara

The curators first met in the Faculty of Arts Department of Geography and quickly bonded over the multidisciplinary approaches to their research, both of which combine science-research and the arts.

Yeomans researches the use of satellites to assess boreal forest regrowth on human disturbances in northeastern Alberta. She uses textile works like embroidery, knitting, and dyeing with local plants to help contextualize her work. 

Meanwhile, Jones studies dissolved greenhouse gases in natural waters, using poetry to deepen the inquiry and understanding of her work. 

Although their work won’t be showcased at the BRACKISH exhibition, they have used their expertise to carefully curate projects from a wide range of disciplines across the university. This cross-discipline focus on water research aligns with transdisciplinary water initiatives happening at UCalgary, including the United Nations University (UNU) Hub, the UNESCO Chair in Mountain Water Sustainability, and One Health.

A reception takes place March 8 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. and the exhibit is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., weekdays from March 6 to 14. The galleries are located on the sixth floor of the Art Building, above the art parkade on main campus. Admission is free.