Reflections by Kiran Bhumber and Nancy Lee

Order through physical disruption – The Courtyard Commission: Dispersion
By Kiran Bhumber and Nancy Lee
Kiran Bhumber and Nancy Lee
Kiran Bhumber and Nancy Lee.

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The Ismaili Centre's marble exterior inspired us (Laine Butler & I) to develop visuals to project on to the building using paint. We video recorded the microscopic process of paint marbling on a small canvas using a 90mm marcroscopic lens. Kiran Bhumber composed the music inspired by our visuals. Ralph Escamillan choreographed movement with Sophia Wolfe and Alex Tam inspired by the ritual of garment wearing practices and the space in the courtyard.


The music behind Dispersion explores the pursuit of finding order through physical disruptions. This chaos is represented by layering organic 'found sounds' of the Vancouver landscape combined with synthesized ambient and percussive tones. The call for order is then explored by multiple clarinet melodies, which converge and diverge across the composition and represent the progression from the disordered to harmony.

Sophia Wolfe & Alex Tam. Photo credit: Jevan Crittenden.


During this residency, we have discovered a different, more tangible medium (paint) as visual artists who generally work in the digital realm. I have thought about humans and our relationship with color pigment, how blue was the last color that came to human consciousness and how we can alchemize color in this project when we use physical pigment (made from natural minerals), record it to a digital format (camera, visual softwares) and then transform it into light (projections) – keeping in mind how different color pigments in paint have different temperaments – they have different consistencies, they dry differently, they have cohesion, they maintain integrity – whereas, the colored light we see from our screens and projectors exists on a spectrum – its movements are merely illusions in the tangible world. Being able to transform color and the human histories that each color carries across its existence through various mediums – as pigment, on textiles, on surfaces, as light – discovery was a major theme in this piece.

Alex Tam & Sophia Wolfe. Photo credit: Jevan Crittenden.

Kiran & Nancy:

What we have most cherished from the residency, is the opportunity to present and engage with a community and their ritualistic / spiritual space in a new way. By presenting the piece in 2016 & 2018 we were able to (re)connect to the audience from a diverse age group – some of whom saw the show both years and those who were new to the work. Hearing some of the audience feedback after each performance has assisted in affirming each of our artistic practices.


As a musician trained in the western–classical tradition, it was truly rewarding to perform for an audience whose rich traditions diverge from the western aesthetic. In the past few years, I have been creating art which intends to (re)connect myself with my cultural heritage. Although I am not Ismaili, the performance afforded me to feel connected to my South Asian/ Punjabi roots. This is probably because of the reaction and feedback that I received from audience members ranging from children to elders. One that has stayed with me was from an elder gentleman who said my clarinet melodies reminded him of a folk song he used to sing when he was younger. I'm grateful that art has the power to illicit the past, remind us of our memories and inscribe new meanings for the future.


As an artist who often performs in 19+ venues, it was validating to connect with much younger audiences. I met a 10–year–old girl who saw the show in 2016 and came back this year to watch all 3 performances. I also really value the opportunity performing for a majority POC audience since media art and contemporary performances are often presented in a white context here in Vancouver. Hearing positive feedback from audiences from my parents' generation reminded me of how I can use my artistic practice to connect with my family and cultural heritage – which hasn't always been an easy thing for me to do as my family was unsure about my decisions pursuing an artistic career for many years.

Kiran Bhumber
Kiran Bhumber is a media artist, composer, musician and educator based in Vancouver, Canada. Kiran constructs interactive installations and performance systems that allow performers and audiences to engage with themes relating to cultural memory, embodiment and nostalgia.
Nancy Lee

Nancy Lee is an interdisciplinary media artist, filmmaker and electronic music curator. Her work stimulates and enlivens space, making a provocative statement about how inescapably interconnected we are with our surroundings.

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