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Performance Artist Shawna Dempsey

Shawna Dempsey

Working with Wonder

Winnipeg-based performance artists hippety-hop through grand questions

January 29, 2019 — 

Although it is sometimes dismissed as childish in these austere times, wonder, according to some scientists and thinkers, might well be the original and most important human emotion, one that unifies sensory, cognitive and spiritual experience.

In the Winnipeg debut of their play, The Local Sky Tonight, two of Canada’s best-known performance artists, Shawna Dempsey & Lorri Millan, explore the human experience of wonder and the ways it can lead to belief in an unseen order. In science, that invisible order might include the invisible forces of nature, like gravity. In religion, we encounter supernatural power. While artists like Dempsey and Millan, for their part, invent powerful new ways of seeing that furnish fresh perspectives on the world in which we live.

Whimsically playing a rabbit that hi-jacks a traditional planetarium show, Shawna Dempsey, reads the star charts, imaginatively re-mapping the heavenly canvas upon which we cast our beliefs. The Local Sky Tonight explores narratives that help humans situate ourselves in the vastness of space, from the sciences of astrophysics and nanophysics, to stories drawn from astrology, mythology and literature. Models of organizing the universe are examined, as is the position of the hero/explorer. Why, the rabbit asks, is Ulysses considered a hero and Alice in Wonderland a nonsense tale? What is more appropriate than wonder?

The University of Manitoba Institute for the Humanities (UMIH) has helped to bring this performance to Winnipeg audiences at the Gas Station Art Centre in downtown Winnipeg. The performance (approx. 45 minutes) offers an added twist: it will be followed by a discussion of the cosmos and the imagination featuring a panel of local scientists, artists and thinkers. Panelists include Katrina Dunn (Department of English, Theatre, Film & Media, University of Manitoba), Helga Jakobson (transdisciplinary artist), Vesna Milosevic-Zdjelar (Department of Physics, University of Winnipeg). The moderator will be Serenity Hee-Jung Joo, Director, UMIH.

Sunday, February 3
7:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Gas Station Art Centre, 445 River Avenue

Tickets available on Eventbrite.
$5 for students (by donation), $10 general admission (by donation). No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

About the artists
Collaborators since 1989, the Winnipeg-based duo of Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan are among Canada’s best-known performance artists. Their humorous, provocative, and acclaimed work has been described as “one of the high points of contemporary Canadian artistic production” (Border Crossings Magazine).

About UMIH
The University of Manitoba Institute of the Humanities was established in 1990 to foster research and scholarship in the Humanities at the University of Manitoba, to promote cross-disciplinary research in the Humanities and to help obtain external funding for Humanities research. Located in the Faculty of Arts, the Institute addresses the needs and interests of researchers in a broad range of subject including literature and languages, film and visual culture, philosophy, history and religion, and also the literary, philosophical, theological and historical aspects of the social and physical sciences, mathematics, the arts and professional studies.



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