Sandra Semchuk

Sandra Semchuk
, Associate Professor, Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

Presentation Summary

Last summer just after I washed my windows a young Oriole flew into the glass, fell to ground and died. I stood back in the shadows and witnessed as its siblings responded. One jumped up on the belly of the fallen Oriole and bounced slightly, seeming to be attempting a resuscitation. The other two walked up to the glass and stared at and through the glass, with what I saw as an intensity and curiosity.

The barrier between Oriole’s world and mine was activated and made visible by the clear glass that so abruptly stopped the first Oriole. That barrier was further activated by the sibling birds who focused their attention on the glass, appearing to try to understand what it was. Secretly I felt was seeing something of their consciousness, a consciousness that had they been aware of my presence or had I not been curious, may not have been revealed. I felt that I was looking into a world that was hidden or masked from me because I was human.

In this talk I will discuss how the engagement and activation of invisible barriers to cross-cultural and cross species communication may reveal possibilities that enable dialogue and recognition to occur. I will consider my use of photography and 3D stereoscopic video in tracing and breaking down barriers historically created through fear and projections. Through the cross cultural photographic work that my late husband, James Nicholas, a Cree orator and poet, and I did, and through the cross disciplinary work with singer, composer Jerry DesVoignes, I will consider the profound impact of the more-than-human in the creation of the larger context of dwelling in consciousness.


Sandra is a storyteller, photographer and video artist whose inquiry includes small animals that constantly count “coup” on her, coming close enough to make it impossible for her to video them. Her collaborations and video works use autobiography and dialogue as the basis for recognition and identity across generations, cultures and species. Semchuk’s work disrupts myths that historically have shaped settler relations to First Nations. She considers flora and fauna for possible relationships between the indigenous and the non-indigenous cultures. She uses lenticular and video technologies to reveal glimpses of the complex specificities of private daily lives of nonhuman animals. Semchuk’s photographs and videos have been exhibited internationally.