Alive Matter

Nadine Baldow

Eastern Edge Gallery
May 24-July 6, 2024
Reviewed by Daze Jefferies

To hold or tether, to regard together. The given, the encountered, the somehow sempiternal.

Memories, desires, and relationships are witnessed across many land-based and site-specific practices, as well as common gestures of survival or resilience, in Newfoundland and Labrador. Indigenous feminisms, like in the work of Mi’kmaw leader Gertie Mai Muise or Mohawk and Anishinaabe scholar Vanessa Watts, teach us that place holds the aliveness of felt knowledge and embodied kinship. Recognizing and revisiting these ecological connections, I consider the words of Red River Métis scholar Zoe Todd and settler artist AM Kanngieser: “when we mobilize place, land, water, atmospheres, and other non-human beings in our histories, we must be mindful of all the relations and reciprocal responsibilities that we are invoking.”

Near the beginning of Nadine Baldow’s residency at Eastern Edge, she and I shared an exchange about the politics of gathering found materials, which can sometimes feel like a critical repositioning, but more than this, disruption and displacement. Her exhibition Alive Matter is a viscerally evocative amassment of driftwood, fishing gear, bones, moss, salt, and more. The work carries social histories of its matter-in-place, and it speaks to new materialisms as a field of practice that eschews the duality of nature and culture to uphold their interdependence. Anti-colonial worldviews affirm how relationships between humans and non-humans bring each other into being, and as such, terms like “matter” and “materiality” can signify presences without linear beginnings or ends.

Nadine Baldow, Alive Matter, exhibition photo


Baldow’s practice attends to the experiential transformations of visiting: with landscapes, with fisherfolk, with generations and continuations. Engaging with the work in a gallery setting educes an emotional awareness of lifespans. I sense that the sculpture is a being, and the temporality of a shoreline or a forest or a cliffside or a port city’s edges is felt otherwise as detritus, mementos, and offerings enfold. In some ways, this work is not unlike many captivating beach assemblages created meticulously or unintentionally by water, wind, and weather. Curious acts of (dis)arrangement and lamenting are further conveyed through salt-encrusted remnants and hundreds of bones stained with red lipstick kisses of life and death.

Alive Matter joins a chorus of voices addressing and questioning ecological responsibilities within Newfoundland and Labrador. As ongoing effects of colonialism and racial capitalism define what Farhana Sultana has called the Anthropocene’s “unbearable heaviness,” what might a collective artistic response – one comprised of Indigenous, settler, diasporic, newcomer, and visiting artist or community perspectives – recurrently express about this place, as well as this inherited present? What forms of language, what reciprocal ethics, what materials are necessary now?

Daze Jefferies (she/her) is an artist, writer, and educator based in Ktaqmkuk (Newfoundland).
She is the author of the poetry chapbook Water/Wept (Anstruther Press, 2023), and co-author,
with Sonja Boon and Lesley Butler, of Autoethnography and Feminist Theory at the Water’s
Edge: Unsettled Islands (Palgrave, 2018).