Dreams of We Who Wake to Sleep

Sign as thesis: The Hibernation Project’s first artwork in 2019

For the last 5 years, we’ve been facilitating a domestic art series in our house, yard, and beyond called The Hibernation Project. An unfunded event-series participating in alternative economies like friendship, sweat equity, mutual kindness, potluck, and circular reciprocity, The Hibernation Project responds to the site-specific desires, lonelinesses, and possibilities of wintertime – as interpreted through the lens of our community of Northern artists.

A semi-annual build-your-own-toboggans theme from the mind of Mike Tan. More photos and artist credits here.

Some events are fun and scrappy – a necessary reprieve from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Others are conceptual and artful, a chance for participating artists to stretch their mediums and muscles, sharing their practice with others.

Promo image for ECHOLOGY, a radio-based Hibernation theme of sound art on CJSW 90.9 FM

Intro video for Hibernation 2023’s online theme, HOMEBODIES, from the mind of Audrey Lane Cockett

In the heart of the COVID-19 Pandemic, our project expanded into interstitial space: we started a sound art radio program, we hosted a public access television station, we modelled (and remodelled) the highly-anticipated Hiber National Gallery, we expanded into shared communal spaces like public parks and parking lots.

In 2021, Khalid Omokanye led a slow collaboration called ISOLATED BABEL, unfolding across many weeks in our backyard. A different artist or team would contribute to an emergent sculpture blindly, building on layers from the previous artists until the end of the 12-week experiment.

In 2022, Desiree Nault conceived of a now-legendary socially-distanced slow dance called FIRST TOUCH, carefully unfolding in our local community centre.

Socially-distanced dance prosthetics, drawn by Caitlind Brown

Inspired, in part, by the open and deinstitutionalized weekly exhibitions at Kreuzberg Pavillon in Berlin, the mandate of The Hibernation Project continues conversations from The House Project (2011) and WRECK CITY, empowering domestic space as an alternative to studio or gallery. Drawing from concepts of hygge, self-organization, and collectivity, at its core, this series is intended to nourish communal psychic wanderings during harsh winter months.

HOUSE OF CARDS, a cardboard-fort theme from Mark Erickson & Matthew Kennedy of Studio North

Experimentation is prioritized, expectations are flexible, and artists “make do” with low-cost materials on-hand to prototype free-form concepts. Yet each year, we leave Hibernation season filled with new friends and ideas, and a more nuanced sense of what is possible – given the right circumstances and set of hands.

Partially because of this abundant feeling, The Hibernation Project has spawned several spinoff projects, including monthly sound art radio program EARS HAVE EYES and car-based exhibition IDLE WORSHIP.

A ship filled with notes for Matt, posted by fire in 2019

Since 2019, we’ve been ending The Hibernation Project with a sculpture-burn in honour of our late friend, Matthew Mark Bourree, who died suddenly in late winter that year.

GATHER BY FIRE was named for a rainbow-fire sculpture by Matthew Mark & Sarah Smalik, We Gather By Night And Are Consumed By Fire. Artists create fire-based sculptures, burned in a ritual to ward off winter and ring in the spring.

While the heart of our project is domestic, artists can participate from near and far in the spirit of sharing localized time and space through art. Intended as a gratifying, productive, and immediate experience, artworks are free from the pressure of bureaucracy and perfection. The Hibernation Project is a gestation period for concepts, for workshopping ideas, for snowy day projects, for the dreams of we who wake to sleep.

Visit the project archives here.

Most photos by Caitlind Brown. For a complete list of participants and proper credits, visit The Hibernation Project.

The Hibernation Project is based in Calgary/Moh’kins’tsis on the traditional territories of the people of the Treaty 7 in Southern Alberta, including the Blackfoot Confederacy, the Tsuut’ina First Nation, the Stoney Nakoda, and the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region III. We share these lands with gratitude, with special attention to seasonal thinking, thankful for the insights of Winter.

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