The arts have an important role to play in supporting people’s communion with death and this series offers to create a space in which participating artists can share work with the Lethbridge community that reflects on our shared mortality, the nature of impermanence and grief, and the things that haunt us.

The Waking Death group exhibition at Casa, curated by Annie Martin and Shanell Papp, has invited artists to address themes of death, dying and grief, to present a polyphonic and diverse range of works drawn from local and national artists. In addition, a programme of weekly events at Casa will include film screenings, knowledge sharing, and a line-up of performances organized by Mia van Leeuwen that similarly present a range of perspectives, voices, and bodies and will include artistic imaginings of ritual, celebration, contemplation, song and play attending to death, dying and grief.

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“Octi-ghost” by Mandy van Leeuwen

expanded rationale

Current legal and medical frameworks often sequester processes of death and dying to medicine and the funeral industry; end-of-life care, grieving and celebration are assigned to legally recognized family. Feminist, queer, gender-diverse, non-ableist, Indigenous and environmentally sustainable perspectives and approaches to death, dying and grief make urgent an expansive reconsideration of kinship, intimacy and care in human life and death, and with the more-than-human. Giving attention to practices of care in dying and death troubles ableist, ageist, gender-normative and racist prescriptions of our behaviour and relations within this critical space. Waking Death: Arts & Culture Event Series intends to offer a space for creative, relational, and slow considerations of these matters and will contribute to alternative and critical conversations around death and dying, focusing on the unique resources and spaces that the visual and performing arts can provide for the excavation of this subject from an embodied and experiential perspective.

waking death collective

The series is produced by the Waking Death Collective, a multidisciplinary trio of artists; Annie Martin, Shanell Papp, and Mia van Leeuwen came together with a shared interest in contemplating themes of death, impermanence, dying and grief, expressed in their respective artistic practices.

Annie Martin

Annie Martin’s practice traverses sound installation, drawing, painting, textile, performance and video. Her work has been exhibited widely in Canada, and also internationally. Martin received her MFA from Concordia University in 1994. She lives and works in Lethbridge, Alberta, in the traditional territory of the Blackfoot confederacy, and is an Associate Professor in the Art Department at the University of Lethbridge.

Shanell Papp

Shanell Papp maintains her research-based studio practice from her home, working primarily in textiles/sculpture and frequently in photography, video, drawing, and AI. Exhibited widely and published in multiple textbooks, foreign art books, and interviewed multiple times by the CBC and in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! – the work seems to have many connections. Papp holds an MFA from the University of Saskatchewan and is currently an MLIS student at the UofA. Papp lives in Lethbridge, in the traditional territory of the Blackfoot confederacy.

Mia van Leeuwen

Mia van Leeuwen practices the body of performance to explore wide-ranging themes while playfully blurring the lines between theatre, performance, ritual, and visual art. Unsettling, juxtaposing, queering, re-mixing, winking, collaborating, guiding, and making strange are some of the actions that inform the devising of her various projects. Her object theatre adaptation of Sapientia – a martyr play written in the 10th century by history’s first known female playwright Hrotsvitha of Gandershiem – won two METAs (Montreal English Theatre Awards) for Outstanding Independent Production and Outstanding Contribution to Theatre (produced by Scapegoat Carnivale Theatre, Montreal). Currently, she is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Lethbridge and visitor on Treaty 7 Territory, Canada.