Lights On The Exchange Artist Spotlight: Seema Goel

Seema Goel is an artist, writer, educator, and curator. With a dual background in the arts and sciences, Seema connects these two worlds in her art and community activities through outreach programming, art-science curatorial projects, and her sculpture practice which critically engages scientific process and themes.

Along with her son, Dashielle, Seema created an immersive art installation in the window of 84 Albert St. to act as the back drop for poetry readings as part of the Lights On The Exchange Festival. The following is her writing in response to the work.

Making Light

I met one of the poets for this project and was asked, “What have you been making?”

I balked.

I’ve been making dinners.

I’ve been making excuses.

I’ve been making up stories and using them to rationalise my actions.

I’ve been making a mess and wallowing in it, trying to feel my way through materials.

I’ve been making do, making the most of what I have.

I want to make a scene but I’ve also been avoiding making trouble, so I’m making myself sick with indignation.

I’ve been making mountains out of molehills and molehills out of mountains to diminish their threats, to close the door on the zombies and just make a cup of tea.

I’ve been making-over my home so I do not need to encounter the world.

I’ve been making make-believe, so I can pretend some things away.

I’ve been learning to make eye-contact, to see and be seen.

I’ve been making my bed and lying in it and finding that this is not a negative thing, but something to remind me that making is powerful.

I’ve been making eyes at my sweetheart and kissy noises at the cat.

I’ve been making connections between what is happening at city hall with what is happening on our city’s streets.

I’ve been making people stand up and take notice.

I’ve been making bets on the future, leaping and hoping the net appears.

I’ve been making my confession that I am guilty of weakness, of not understanding, of taking the easy road some days.

I’m making good on promises; I’m making an effort; I’m making things better, though sometimes I’m making things worse. And then I am making amends.

I’ve been making up my mind and making decision and making moves. Some days I unmake them, and then I wonder if I’m making errors in judgement. I’m making judgements.

I’m making mistakes – which I like to call failing up so I can make myself feel better and have the confidence to make the coffee the next morning and start again.

I am making something of myself.

I am making friends out of strangers, and enemies out of friends, and friends into better friends. I am making the most of the moment for a few moments each day.

“I am making plans.” I say.

For Cale – who made me think.

Thank you to the many who assisted in the creation of this pop-up valentine’s card to the city: We make our city everyday.

Dashiell, Steve, Elise, Blair, Paul, Talita, and Brian – you made this possible. Sean/ Martha Street Studio – what amazing bamboo paper!. Miriam – Inspiration! Lowell – thank you for letting me be part of the space. Mahri and Eric – thank you for inviting me to be part of this project and for reminding me that I still know how to make things.

To make comes from the Latin root facere – meaning to do. When we make things we are doing. To be a maker is to be a do-er. We don’t always understand it, but we go through it. Once on the other side we look back and realize that was magic.

On Second Thought

If anyone is actually wondering about the content of work, beyond the obvious city on fire, the subtext is about how we shape our environments and they shape us.  When a habitat is made uninhabitable, those that reside within it either adapt or leave, and new species move in to fill the niche. The glorious places of downtown are empty, but our streets are abundant with those needing places to sleep, and businesses looking for premises within budget. We force the vibrancy of our city into the periphery, diluting the energy of the community by spreading it physically further away and draining resources, we shift our strategies to mercantile and mercenary, away merciful and connected. 

All our movie monsters are of our own making, by our experimentation or neglect of the natural world, by our disdain or exclusion of others, by our fear manifesting as violence. It’s not the courage of guns or cops that we need, but of those willing to put the bottom line at the bottom, where it belongs.

The people who own the buildings of the exchange want people to be here. If you are looking for a space, skip the realtor and find the person who has actually made the investment into the community by buying a building – no kidding, someone loved this place enough to buy a building here. That is an amazing commitment. No one wants their building empty. Find that person and find out what can happen.  We blame the landlords, but they have not gone through a villainizing chamber to be transformed into terrible creatures of destruction. They are in fact hoping to get a call and find out someone is ready to move in.

On the edges of our city small suburbs bloom. They seem safe. There’s parking. The more we shift our time to those places, the more the meagre transit budget and city services have to stretch, and consequently the shittier the transit system becomes for those depending on it. A thousand cities show us the examples of what happens when you empty the downtown. But there are also cities that have actively rescued their centre. We need to make it easier to be here. When the dollar store and the giant tiger are filling in the roles of hardware and grocery store, we know the problem has become dire.

I think most of us can agree that capitalism puts value on the wrong things. Quantifying our success or failure by a dollar number is naïve.  We know that right? We know it matters more to give our kids hugs than video games, and our spouses time rather than jewelry. I can go on and on. What I’m saying is, when you have the chance for kindness – to give or receive, take it – take the chance. 

See Seema and Dashiell’s work as the backdrop to our Poet Box readings, curated by CV2, on February 29th, March 7th, March 10th and March 19th, with poets Azka Ahmed, Cale Plett and Ella Taylor. All readings begin at 7pm and are approximately 15 minutes.