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Toronto artist Colette Laliberté's exhibit 'Nbiish-Eau-Water' opens Friday at GNO

Project questions how lakes are named
You're invited to check out Toronto artist Colette Laliberté's exhibit “Nbiish-Eau-Water” at Galerie du Nouvel-Ontario starting Friday. (Supplied)

You're invited to check out Toronto artist Colette Laliberté's exhibit “Nbiish-Eau-Water” at Galerie du Nouvel-Ontario starting Friday.

What does mapmaking reveal? And what can it conceal?

With Google Maps’ quasi-monopoly on digital maps, not to mention the ready availability of their satellite images covering the entire planet, questions around mapmaking are becoming more and more important. 

What can you really learn about a place by only studying the network of its roads, the borders between the communities that live there, and the static contours of its living waterways?

During her visits to the Greater Sudbury region, Laliberté was struck by the abundance of lakes, rivers and other waterways in the area. After a closer study of the region’s topography, she noticed that most of these waterways still bore the names given to them by settler cultures.

We can’t help but question the decision-making process that precedes the graphical representation found on a map. Why do we call this lake Ramsey? Why not Lake Bimitimigamasing? Around the communities of Lively and the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek First Nation, locals don’t always use Makada Lake’s traditional name, preferring to use the English name “Black Lake,” even though newer maps (Google Maps included) clearly designate it as “Makada Lake.”

Laliberté’s project questions and renders abstract the labels and other conventions associated with cartography. Over the course of a creative residency at the GNO, Laliberté will show us her interpretation of the region’s geographic maps by creating a large-scale site-specific wallwork.

An opening reception for the exhibit takes place Oct. 13 starting at 5 p.m. You can view the exhibit at GNO until Nov. 15.

On a related note, GNO also hosts a free conference on the relationship between water and visual art starting at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 12.

Laliberté, Emilio Portal, Elyse Portal, and Deanna Nebenionquit will share their thoughts on the role of water in their work and explore the question of art’s responsibilities to water. A question and answer session will follow the discussion.

The gallery, which is located at 174 Elgin St., is open 12-6 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. Admission is free.