C Ramsay: Who Is This One? What the Robin Feels

02nov10:1510:45C Ramsay: Who Is This One? What the Robin Feels10:15 - 10:45(GMT+00:00) View in my timeEvent typePresentationTopicOther-than-humanSession ID: Session 5A


(Tuesday) 10:15 - 10:45(GMT+00:00) View in my time

Event Details

Christine Ramsay: Who Is This One? What the Robin Feels

This proposal addresses four framing themes of Borrowed Time: Species and habitat loss; mass-extinction; anticipatory grief; and art, grief and spiritual practice. It is a hybrid presentation of artwork through academic concepts focusing on “ecological grief.”

“Who Is This One? What the Robin Feels” meets the Anthropocene condition through the figure of the American Robin— Turdus Migratorius—and the concept of “ecological grief.” Although ecological grief is now being widely experienced, as Neville and Cunsolo write, “it often lacks an appropriate avenue” for “expression and healing.” Now more than ever, we must recognize that humans are in continuity with all living beings and that our unchecked hubristic attitudes and extractive activities are bringing devastation and tragic loss to the world and its ecosystems.

I use the archetype of the bird to represent beings as psycho-geological forces. Jung understands the bird as the great symbolic “mediator;” flying about between water, earth and sky; transcending boundaries, such as life and death—a “soul-guide” to the after-world. Drawing actual dead birds is a gesture in visualizing the caretaking role we will increasingly be called upon to play with others—human and animal—in living and dying in the Anthropocene.

My pastel drawings of the robin answer Jon Young’s What the Robin Knows with the question: ‘What might the robin feel?’ What Young has learned in attending intimately to the ecology and “expressive” power of robins is that “[e]very living being has a purpose, a mission, a life strategy, a set of gifts.” Young counters the inevitable charges of anthropomorphism by insisting that we must relegate such scientistic arrogance to the past. His conviction is that “understanding the birds really does help us to understand ourselves and, if we wish, make some changes.” The robin is an archetypal bird and human representations of it span many centuries and cultures. I juxtapose the dead robin, cradled in his bath, with the moon and its gravitational pull on the planet and the heart, connoting the mother, fertility, the mystery of origins, inner knowledge, and the cyclical phases of our existence on earth. Controlling the tides, the rains and the seasons, the moon’s waxing and waning symbolizes being born, developing, maturing in the fullness of one’s allotted time, and declining into sleep, death, re-birth, the unknown. When it’s full it also brightly illuminates for Earth the middle ground between the light of day and the dark of night.

As birds of all kinds, including the robin, are increasingly threatened by environmental degradation that pushes them toward the precipice, my drawings in “Who Is This One” offer their lives, and deaths, for contemplation.

Short Bibliography:
Neville Ellis and Ashlee Cunsolo, “Hope and Mourning in the Anthropocene: Understanding Ecological Grief,” Theconversation.com. 4 April 2018.

Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols (New York, Doubleday, 1964).
Jon Young, What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World (Boston: Mariner/Harcourt), 2012.

Keywords: Art and ecological grief in the Anthropocene; Bird as archetype; American robin; Jungian psychology; Bakhtinian dialogism

Speakers for this event

  • Christine Ramsay

    Christine Ramsay

    University of Regina, Faculty of Media, Art, and Performance

    Dr. Christine Ramsay is a Professor in the Department of Film (University of Regina, Canada). Her research areas include Canadian and Saskatchewan cinemas, masculinities in film and popular culture, curating expanded cinema, philosophies of identity, and the culture of small cities. She has published Atom Egoyan: Steenbeckett (Black Dog, 2018); Overlooking Saskatchewan: Minding the Gap (URegina Press, 2014); and Making It Like a Man: Canadian Masculinities in Practice (Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2011). In 2012 she was Visiting Scholar at the Graduate Program in Canadian Studies, University of Edinburgh. She currently serves on the editorial boards of Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies and Imaginations: Journal of Cross-Cultural Image Studies. Her research includes a painting and drawing practice, and an emerging body of work on the archetypal figure of the bird in the context of Saskatchewan, the prairie ecosystem, and the Anthropocene and affect. She currently serves as the President of the Art Gallery of Regina. christine.ramsay@uregina.ca Faculty of Media, Art, and Performance University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada https://www.uregina.ca/mediaartperformance/faculty-staff/faculty/f-ramsay-christine.html

    URL https://www.uregina.ca/mediaartperformance/faculty-staff/faculty/f-ramsay-christine.html

    University of Regina, Faculty of Media, Art, and Performance