MEET US IN THE FOREST, as night falls…

A spooky view of two wood cabin style buildings, in the semi-darkness. Large cedar silhouettes loom behind. A video projection illumiates the front wall of one cabin.

This FEELed Note was prepared by FEELed Lab Research Associate Tara Nicholson.

‘I am seeking to explore a worldview that, speaking metaphysically, is ‘beyond the physical,’ yet, paradoxically, is deeply concerned with the matter of ‘nature’ and sentience.’ (Gothic Metaphysics, Alchemy to the Anthropocene, Jodey Castricano)

On December 9th 2022 the FEELed Lab’s Fringe Natures X was convened by me and Astrida Neimanis at UBC Okanagan’s Woodnhaven EcoCulture Centre, located on syilx territory. Taking place on one of the shortest days of the year and just before the Winter Solstice, I was excited to have over thirty people gather to experience participatory performances from Caolan Leander and Michaela Bridgemohan, accompanied by a gothic-queer soundscape designed by Marc LaTulippe.

A tree wrapped in brown paper leans to the left, among

As we gathered around a warm campfire with hot drinks and snacks, Latulippe’s soundtrack animated outdoor projections of campy horror movies such as the 1920’s ‘Nosferatu’ Dracula film. Participants were also invited to have a Queer-Eco-Gothic portrait taken. My large-format film camera and demos of our eco-darkroom were very popular.

Tara Nicholson, Queer Eco-Gothic photographer!

MFA Writing candidate Caolan Leander welcomed participants to a fireside reading, where he shared juicy bits from his work-in-progress called Bad Weather – a polyphonic novel that questions our relationships with the land through the lens of ecological haunting.

Later, recent MFA graduate and artist Michaela Bridgemohan asked us to collectively draw on nearby trees that had been covered in large sheets of brown paper. Thoughtfully, Michaela shared charcoal she had recently collected from an Okanagan forest fire for us to use. These drawing tools powerfully connected the activity to Michaela’s own artistic practice rooted in Afro-Gothic stories and ideas. We used burnt trees to draw on processed trees that were covering trees: past, present, future.

A person in a red had and black puffy jacket reads from a script. Behind him about eithgt individauls stand and listen,

Together, the performances, sounds, projections and portraiture created a unique space to explore queer and feminist understandings of what a joyful urban forest can be, even in the dark. This end-of-the-light celebration asked participants to “MEET US IN THE FOREST,” where what happens is sometimes hidden and always partially unseen or unknown. Around a warm campfire we were able to gather within a queer, feminist, anticolonial space to create new relationships and celebrations. I was inspired by those who participated and the experiences we created.

The face of a person with green-rimmed glasses in a large black fur-lined hood is illuminated in the semi-dark.

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