The exhibition examines the material connections between humans and cormorants as demonstrated by the birds’ collection of non-biodegradable waste materials. Devil’s Colony is a recreation of the nesting site and its dramatic shifts in ecological activity. The work transports patrons into the heart of the colony to bear witness to the complex lives of a burgeoning species at a critical sociocultural and political moment. Through this intimate, material encounter, Devil’s Colony attempts to promote curiosity and empathy to consider the manifold relationships we share with other agents in the natural world.   Spit Spectre , C-print, 48” x 32”, 2019, documentation by Jamie McMillan
 Toronto’s Leslie Spit boasts North America’s - and perhaps the world’s - largest colony of double crested cormorants, an ancient group of highly adaptable water birds that thrive in diverse environmental conditions. The annual nesting site is situated on a human-made parkland comprised of backfill waste deposited outward over decades from Toronto’s lakeshore. Known colloquially as the 'devil bird,' cormorants numbering in the tens of thousands in colonies across the Great Lakes have attracted significant media attention for their apparent destruction of green space and commercial fish populations. Cormorants have been reviled in non-Indigenous western cultures from biblical times onward through intergenerational biases based largely on cultural beliefs. After populations were decimated throughout the 20th century from exposure to chemicals like DDT, their rebounding numbers owe much to the conservation efforts of the scientific community.   Colony, Southwest Capture , C-print, 59” x 24”, 2019
  The Blind  is an installation artwork that recreates the scientific observation blind within which environmental researchers are able to observe the world’s largest colony of double-crested cormorants at Toronto’s Tommy Thompson Park.   The Blind,  Mixed media, video, and field recording (double-crested cormorant colony), 9’ x 20’ x 5’, at Hamilton Artists Inc, 2019.
  DCC Nest Samples  is a photographic archive of nests containing human-made waste products selected by the cormorants at Leslie Spit. They evince the material and colour preferences of the birds while providing a glimpse into the after-life of commonplace materials.   DCC Nest Samples , C-print on cotton rag, series of 71, 20” x 20” each, 2019.
 Preliminary image archive of cormorant nests and anthropogenic materials, digital image, 2018.
 For Devil’s Colony, the photographic archive was installed in a manner that recalls the actual placement of cormorant nests at the Leslie Spit Colony.
  Spit Spectre  is a speculative performance artwork that muses on time, materiality, and interspecies relationships in the anthropocene. A being composed of materials found within the colony nests, it stalks the site in perpetuity.   Spit Spectre  (performance), video installation, 43 minutes, documented by Jamie McMillan, 2019.
  Spit Spectre  (sculpture), human and cormorant-foraged materials, textiles, PVC, and earth, 72” x 32” x 34”, 2019.
 Special thanks to the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) for site access and information on the colony, and to environmental biologist Dr. Gail Fraser for her mentorship and support throughout the project. Devil’s Colony has been supported by the Toronto Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Canada Council for the Arts.
prev / next