Anchor Project

Touched by the Tears of a Butterfly

by Mike MacDonald
with support from Andrew Coll

Touched By The Tears of a Butterfly is a silent video created by the late Mi’kmaq media artist and gardener Mike MacDonald that features a Monarch butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. The video is a simple and direct presentation that foregrounds the wisdom of the butterfly’s process with no explanation, no translation, no human interpretation. The work creates a quiet space for relationships to emerge, and demonstrates that Mike’s apprenticeship to butterflies and plants was truly one of respect and listening.

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Mike MacDonald (1941- 2006) is a Mi’kmaq media artist and gardener who planted butterfly and medicinal plant gardens throughout Turtle Island, many outside art centres and public galleries. Touched By The Tears of a Butterfly is a silent video that features a Monarch butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. The video is a simple and direct presentation that foregrounds the wisdom of the butterfly’s process with no explanation, no translation, no human interpretation.

The butterflies and plants enact a sustainable way of being in the world, and of relating. In particular, Monarchs eat the toxins in milkweed to protect themselves from predators and reciprocate the generosity through pollination. This exchange makes their incredible, almost 5000km migrations possible — both species are able to reproduce and transmit their wisdom of connection through generations because of this reciprocal relationship. Art is living reciprocity.

MacDonald’s interest in butterflies began when he felt unwell, and an elder suggested, “When you are not feeling good you go find a butterfly and follow it and it will lead you to a medicine that will make you better.” The work creates a quiet space for relationships to emerge, and demonstrates that Mike’s apprenticeship to butterflies and plants was truly one of respect and listening.

In a world where much is asking for our attention, can we simply wonder at the wisdom that is inherent in the quiet, vulnerable emergence of a butterfly? Can we be with our listening?

BIO:

Mike MacDonald (1941- July 17, 2006) Born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, MacDonald is of Mi’kmaq ancestry. Mike drove across Canada every year working as a video installation artist and gardener in addition to pursuing photography and new media projects. Self-taught, he focused on the environment, incorporating plants and animals in his artworks. He found inspiration in both his aboriginal ancestry and Western sources, drawing from science as well as traditional medicine and ethnobotany. His works have been featured in exhibitions worldwide at such venues as the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona and the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris, France. In 1994, he was awarded the prestigious Jack and Doris Shadbolt Prize from the Vancouver Institute for Visual Arts and in 2000 he received the first Aboriginal Achievement Award for New Media presented at the Toronto imagiNATIVE Festival. MacDonald’s most renowned projects include the butterfly gardens he has planted across Canada since the early 1990s. They are tactile living examples of his devotion to and admiration of the environment. Inspiration to create the gardens can be seen in his video installation works, most notably in Touched by the Tears of a Butterfly (1994). This installation features silent videotape in a loop projected in front of a set of rocking chairs. The video follows the life of a butterfly, from its existence as a caterpillar until it bursts from its cocoon as a colorful winged insect. MacDonald has also been recognized for presenting some of the most touching installations on Aboriginal heritage and community. For example, Electronic Totem (1987) showcased a stack of five video monitors, one on top of the other, depicting the contemporary life of an Aboriginal community in British Columbia. Mike's careful, positive storytelling, as well as his tender regard for nature and the quiet goings-on of the butterfly, has built him a reputation as one of the more significant contemporary artists in Canada.

Image credit: Mike MacDonald’s Digital Garden. Detail of placemat series 4 (1997) MSVU Art Gallery.

Monday, October 12th Saturday, October 17th
12:00 AM until 12:00 AM
Add to Calendar 10/12/2020 12:00 AM 10/17/2020 12:00 AM America/Halifax Touched by the Tears of a Butterfly

Touched By The Tears of a Butterfly is a silent video created by the late Mi’kmaq media artist and gardener Mike MacDonald that features a Monarch butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. The video is a simple and direct presentation that foregrounds the wisdom of the butterfly’s process with no explanation, no translation, no human interpretation. The work creates a quiet space for relationships to emerge, and demonstrates that Mike’s apprenticeship to butterflies and plants was truly one of respect and listening.

5440 Spring Garden Rd
Installation Illuminated

Location

Halifax Central Library (front courtyard)

5440 Spring Garden Rd

Wheelchair accessible - Fully accessible