Tucked away in Sandhills Park, surrounded by Peter St., Courtland Ave, Cedar St. and Saint George St., is a seven-by-four-feet and four feet deep hole in the ground.  

This hole, which has the typical dimensions of a grave, was dug in May to be the site of A Hole in the Ground, a collaborative art project conceptualized by Isabella Stefanescu and curated by Sheila McMath, artistic director of Inter Arts Matrix.  

In 2017, Linda Duvall, an artist, dug a hole as part a residency in Treaty 
6 territory—rural Saskatchewan. McMath shares that Duvall’s hole was a social experiment of sorts and the response was much larger than she had expected.  

The project includes ten artists who pass along the site to each other over the course of five months.  

McMath said the artists were placed in a specific order according to their practice and who she imagined responding to the hole after who. Linda Duvall will end the series with a final installation in September.  

McMath reached out to a roster of 20 local and non-local artists and noticed how some were attracted to the project, and some were repelled by the connection to a death.  

The idea for A Hole in the Ground emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 as Inter Arts Matrix brainstormed how they could collaborate in person again without risking their health. McMath explained that this concept grew from the palpability of mortality that was universally experienced throughout the pandemic.

McMath wanted to ground an exploration of this experience, while collaborating with others and the community, as well as the unknown nature of the time.  

Inter Arts Matrix received a grant in June 2021 and the project was planned for spring 2022.  

However, it was delayed as the Inter Arts Matrix team spent the next two years and $10, 000 of funding to complete community consultations, consultations with Indigenous representatives and archaeological assessments.  

McMath said that she is prepared for feedback and adjustments to be ongoing throughout the project.  

In addition, there is a documentary film being made and a series of written prose that are part of A Hole in the Ground. Over the course of the five months, Ben Gorodetsky, local artist, producer and storyteller, will document each artist’s time at the hole and community engagement with the installations.  

The project was inspired by Tony Urquhart’s 1983 Thresholds. For each artist participating in A Hole in the Ground, his daughter and local artist Emily Urquhart will write a prose dedicated to their work.  

Lauren Prousky is an interdisciplinary artist local to the Haldimand tract, and the third artist to work at the hole. Prousky’s part of the project, Too entirely horrible for the purposes of legitimate fiction, is about planning to put on a play about two characters being buried alive that never happens.  

Prousky’s own acting skills are featured as she plays a foolish artist exploring stories of a fictional ancestor named Yakov, a man plagued by the fear of being buried alive.  

“I figured out the motivations for all these characters and then in some ways treated it like writing a short story where there were different moving parts but it all existed in one fiction, like one world,” she said.  

Prousky’s project comes together through the filming of some test-run rehearsals, where she is behind the camera playing the foolish director, and two twin-actors are in the hole being directed.  

For this footage, Prousky hired local interdisciplinary artists Roshan James and Shalaka Jadhav to play the twins who have been buried alive.  

“It came from a place of wanting to do something narrative and funny and also trying to experiment with different mediums and the desire to not put on a play,” Prousky said.  

There will be a piece of writing that will accompany the work and explicitly point out themes of familial connections and her critique of the tendency to valorize [sic] past generations, without turning a critical eye on who they were.  

The fourth artist on site Kim Kitchen. Kitchen is an artist based out of North Bay, Ontario—the territory of Nipissing First Nation Anishinaabe.  

Kitchen identifies as a settler, artist and activist. Kitchen’s relationship with the land began on Raven Lake just outside Dorset, Ontario.  

Kitchen sees herself as a part of nature, not above it, and that all the cycles of her life appear in everything that is natural.  

The cycles of decomposition, birth, death, regeneration, as well as all the layers of perspectives, shifts, and paradigms that she has been exposed to over the course of her lifetime are translated into her land-based art practice.  

In 2016, Kitchen was diagnosed with rheumatoid disease and bedridden for three years. Her once land-based practice now confined to a handheld recording device.  

“I was a bush woman; having tended and lived off the land, creating a self- sustainable homestead on 17 acres,” Kitchen said.  

“[… We] had a most beautiful life! When Rheumatoid arrived and so severely, I was bedridden for the first three years, it was indeed shocking,” she said.  

The transition from working solo to in a team took time, including the type of assistance Kitchen would need and from whom. Embracing aids has helped her adjust her current practice.  

“I re-strategize every day, surrender is required and not in a negative way but in a positive light that ultimately allows me to live out my potential. The extreme change in my capacity and how I manage changes hourly and daily.”  

Kitchen said she is grateful for the assistance provided by Inter Arts Matrix to ensure her residency was accessible to her. This included five hours of personal support every day for work at the hole and personal needs.  

“This is the only way I could operate, the only way I could participate in such a residenc,.” Kitchen said.  

Kitchen’s project cycled through three stages beginning with death, burial, loss, and grief, then moved into regeneration, and finally birth.  

Upon arriving at the hole, Kitchen was prepared with her supplies – a mold of a close friend who was 8 months pregnant, the 30 foot scroll that participants were free to add sewing, fabric, writing, and drawing too. The children’s choir Voces del Sur conducted by Fanny Vilarte-Croce, performed the song “Para La Guerra – Nada” written by Marta Gomez from Columbia.  

On another day of Kitchen’s residency, a sound installation drifted through the park as a moving soundscape that she felt was comforting for visitors and their various experiences. “Silent Celebrations” was written, composed and produced by her close friend Benjamin Hermann, an accomplished artist also located in North Bay.  

Kitchen acknowledged that many may see the hole and immediately think of death or a grave, but for her, the hole represents a womb with so much life. Kitchen shared that this action would sum up her work: a great sharing, an offering, and participation with community.  

On July 3, Montréal-based artist, Deborah Carruthers began her residency at the Hole in the Ground. Carruthers will be the artist in residence until July 16th.  

For more information or to stay up to date with the project, follow @ interartsmatrix on Instagram or visit interartsmatrix.ca.