PROSPECTIVE FUTURES: THE AURELIA PROJECT was developed as part of the BIOTA series, facilitated by IOTA Institute, Halifax and is the first Faculty of Science bio-art residency at Saint Mary’s University. WhiteFeather worked as visiting scholar and artist-in-residence, hosted by SMU Senior Research Fellow in Environmental Science, Dr. Linda Campbell.
The overall project concept centered around healing and recovery of highly contaminated legacy gold mine tailing sites in Nova Scotia, using both native plant species, Solidago canadensis (Canadian goldenrod)/ Solidago gigantea (Giant goldenrod), and a mesophilic/ extremophilic bacterial species, Cupriavidus metallidurans. WhiteFeather specifically conducted solo laboratory experimentation towards microbial soil bioremediation with Cupriavidus metallidurans, which produces mercuric reductase and micro-particles of 24k gold in environments that contain toxic metals. She also mentored Environmental Studies BES Honours student, Brittany Hill, who co-developed and co-led a goldenrod ecotoxicology and in-situ remediation with Linda Campbell. The project consulted on Mi’kmaq lived experiences with ecology and the cultural landscape, with NS Museum’s Curator of Ethnology, Roger Lewis. Saint Mary’s University and the various legacy gold mine tailings sites are in K’jipuktuk, Mi’kma’ki, the Ancestral Territory of the Mi’kmaq First Nation.
WhiteFeather’s intention for the project outcome was to make a ritual offering of gold-producing microbes to a poisoned site where settler industry has rendered a landscape useless and dangerous. The ritual would include a small bundle of soil, wrapped in cloth and inoculated with live C. metallidurans, buried in the toxic soil as a potent gesture of several interrelated concepts: microbial bioremediation, decolonization of land through bacterial re-colonization and providing a critical space for dialogue around the acts of industrial mining, settler/indigenous relationships (to land and each other), language/culture/landscape and further human intervention. Unfortunately, this gesture was not supported by the university for a number of reasons and instead a mock gesture was performed with witnesses onsite. The project resulted in the production of an 8-minute video with audio interviews by WhiteFeather and archival audio from the NS Archives collections, as well as 3D SEM micrographs of C. metallidurans microbial landscapes produced by WhiteFeather.
WhiteFeather Hunter is a multiple award-winning Canadian artist and scholar. She is a PhD candidate in Biological Art at SymbioticA/ The University of Western Australia, supported by a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship, Australian Government International RTP Scholarship and UWA International Postgraduate Scholarship. Before commencing her PhD, Hunter was a founding member and Principal Investigator of the Speculative Life BioLab at Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture and Technology at Concordia University. Hunter’s practice intersects technofeminist witchcraft and biotechnologies with performance, new media, and textiles. Her current research was featured by Sigma/ Merck for International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2021.
in Space Grey was a durational mostly a-synchronous online exhibition running in fall-winter 2021, meditating on themes of connection, environmental extraction and accelerated capitalism. Works presented by Ashley Bowa & Lesley Marshall, WhiteFeather Hunter, Maize Longboat, Tina Pearson, Manuel Piña-Baldoquín, Emilio Portal and Tosca Teran.