Alexis Williams

 

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An artist’s job, like that of a scientist or a spiritual leader is to devote their life to understanding things from atypical or extraordinary points of view.  While the scientist uses tools like the microscope and x-ray machine to expand their scope of observation and the shaman uses trance and meditation to increase their field of vision; the artist chooses instruments like laser beams and feathers from their unconventional tool kit to extend and amplify their senses.  In turn, each transmits their findings through journals, ceremony or exhibitions to share their particular experiences with the world.

The word shaman literally translates to “the one who knows” or “the one who can see in the dark” The shaman is able to see invisible spiritual forces that affect our behaviour.  The invisible forces that the scientist sees are microbes, light waves and the laws of physics and biology. The invisible forces that the artist sees are symbols, implications and innuendo.  All three of these characters are explorers. Examiners of truth. Driven by curiosity and passion. Breakers of boundaries. Inspecting reality and their surroundings. Experimenting with their relationships to reality. Seekers of knowledge and experience.

As an artist with a research led practice I am interested in both new and traditional disciplines where people inquire about who we are and what is really going on like Biology and Mysticism.  Just as Science and Spirituality have appropriated art, my art appropriates them back. I frequently use both microscopes and meditation to develop my creative processes. Remixing not only cultural information but the ways it is communicated. As an artist interested in paradigm shifts and moments of realization, I am drawn to new media, the lecture and ceremony as methods to perform my work which often attempts to draw attention to things that were always visible but are overlooked or ignored until we learn how to see them.

 

Alexis Williams (A.K.A. Ember Erebus) is a Canadian artist working mainly in video and print. She currently experiments with sound and sculpture. One of her sound pieces was selected to be in the 2014 Marrakech Biennale. She has a love for biology and frequently uses natural materials like mushroom spores, butterfly dust and spider webs to experiment with untraditional print-making techniques. Her work often highlights the kinship of Art, Science and Mysticism. In 2013 she had two solo shows of a collection of monumental sacred geometry made with graphite rubbings of man hole covers. Her most recent solo show was a collection of Shamanic masks that showcased art and science alliances as contemporary magic.

Williams holds a BFA and an MFA from Concordia University in Montreal where she studied Art and its connections to meditation and biology and worked as a Teaching Assistant for undergraduate classes on Ecology & Art and Book Making.  She worked as a technician the digital print lab at Concordia for 3 years and has given workshops on letterpress, various experimental printing techniques, movement and biology.

Williams is an amateur mycologist. In 2011 she was commissioned by the Ottawa Art Gallery to construct a mushroom garden that would engage the community. The project was supported by a grant from the Awesome Foundation and was awarded the Mechtronix Graduate Fellowship for Innovative Excellence.  She was a Pukaskwa National Park Artist in Residence in 2013 where she studied the park’s mycology and lead public tours on the wild mushrooms and her relationship to them as an artist. In 2014 Concordia University awarded her a Graduate Mobility Award to photograph the wild mushrooms of Canada to illustrate a book she wrote on the subject, a project she continued as painter in residence at the Sachaqa Art Center, Peru in 2015. One of these paintings won the Ottawa Field Naturalists Club art competition in 2016.

In 2014 the Hexegram Centre for Research-Creation in Media Arts and Technologies awarded her an internationalisation grant to participate in several artist residencies including a month in Finland at the Arteles Creative Center. While in Finland she studied with the Finish Bio Art Society and learned to print with living yeast. She also used the grant to participate in the Culture Vultures Sidi Ali residency in Morocco to study underground Sufi trance rituals and then produced the catalogue of work inspired by the group’s experience.

As an undergrad she ran the urban artist collective Metroglyph, which met weekly to produce work. The collective showed and hosted events in Montreal. From 2004 - 2007 Williams worked collaboratively as a performance artist with Fiona Annis. In 2005 - 2008 they ran the fire centric circus, Swan Vestas, with whom she wrote and performed across Canada and the states as well as running the administrative side of the business. From 2009 – 2012 she worked as a live Video Jockey performing at music festivals and events around eastern Canada. Between her BFA and MFA she studied event management at Algonquin College in Ottawa. In 2014 she founded the Ayatana Artist Residency Program as director and continues to lead international artists on science expeditions with Canadian scientists, pilots and naturalists.