Song Of The Whale

In September 2019 I spent 9 months on Salt Spring Island carving a full size replica of a humpback whale. I used salvaged styrofoam and plastic collected from beach clean ups organized by Ocean Legacy, based in Vancouver.  The first exhibition of Song of the Whale was at the Yukon Arts Center, Whitehorse, Yukon, December 2020 until end of Feb 2021. See links below for media coverage. My deepest thanks to my friends, my cheerleaders and supporters, without whom this project would not have happened.

Daniel Janke created an evocative and haunting soundscape for the installation entitled Speak Whale (listen and/or download)

detail of whale skull

I have been thinking about water as a theme for almost 10 years now. Looking at the various ways water moves and exists on the planet and telling stories “tracing water” so to speak through its various states. We see airborne water falling to land, becoming glaciers, becoming rivers, emptying into oceans, moving into and out of our bodies, through plants and cells. What does water look like when there is no water? During 2016/17, I did a number of artists residencies in Europe and Morocco, tracing water. I started in Cork Ireland, trying to create both sonic and visual works in collaboration with Karen Power. This led me to seek water in the remote Moroccan desert (near the Algerian border), in France and then I spent 2 months in southern Spain, studying the drawings left by the tides. Tales of the Tidelines was a site specific body of work I made and exhibited in Spain, gave rise to the next exhibition Catch of the Day, in Mazatlan, Mexico, which in turn has inspired the idea for Song of the Whale.

Water and air currents circulate this planet continuously and these are the elements that connect each of us, each living being, to one another. Too often we forget that. On my wanderings around the globe, I have witnessed landscapes changing over time. More garbage washing up on beaches, more people travelling and consuming, wild places being encroached, people struggling to subsist. We know more and have access to more information than ever before, yet we have lost connection to this earth we live on. We have forgotten how to be still and listen.

It disturbs me to know that animals and birds get caught in abandoned fishing nets and ingest plastic thinking it is food. One whale washing to shore with a gut full of plastic is one too many and I wonder, if it is in their bodies, isn’t it in ours?

I wanted to make something beautiful to celebrate the beauty of our oceans and bring attention to our inability to deal with our garbage. Creating a life sized humpback whale using ocean salvaged styrofoam seemed the ideal project. Daniel Janke has created a beautiful, evocative soundscape- a conversation between humans and whales. The space will be converted into an underwater landscape, a place to dream and hopefully talk to the whales.

Song of the Whale is a tribute to these amazing migratory animals -whales embody the interconnectedness of the entire globe through water. The process of making this work was a deep dive into paying even more attention to my own consumer choices and the repercussions of how I live on this planet.

Links and media coverage

“Song of the whale” is a short documentary depicting the “making of” process of this project.

Excerpts from the first exhibition of Song of the Whale at the Yukon Arts Centre in Whitehorse, Yukon.

CBC article on my early research.

Up here Magazine article by Kanina Holmes

North of Ordinary Magazine article by Kanina Holmes PDF

Yukon News story

Honouring a Whale, What’s Up Yukon article by Amber Church

Song of the Whale is mentioned in 2 articles in L’Aquilon Magazine (check out pages 31+…the last image is the best!)

Many thanks to...