Artist

Elizabeth Chitty

I am a Canadian, settler occupier (she/her) currently living in Maynooth, ON on unceded Algonquin territory. I was born in St. Catharines ON and spent most of my life in the Niagara Region, a place governed by the Dish With One Spoon and the treaties that followed including the Two Row Wampum. I was born in 1953 and have no ancestral relationship here; my parents arrived from England in 1951.  My father worked in the foundry at General Motors and at home worked with wood; after working outside the home my mother taught vocal music and speech arts at home. After graduating with an Honours B.A. in Fine Art, Modern Dance Major from York University in 1975, I spent my early career in Toronto and Vancouver where I was associated with the artist-run centres 15 Dance Lab, A Space, Art Metropole, Western Front and Trinity Square Video.

I returned to Niagara in 1988 and immediately began a query into what it means to be of a place. From 2008 to 2021, my preoccupation was the water that flows throughout the Niagara Peninsula, which is between two of The Great Lakes. I began with natural water bodies and their settler naming and as I learned more came to understand the extent to which, with colonization, the land has been incised to carry water from the lakes to local industry. Water infrastructure and governance became key to my examination. Reflection on the relationship between Indigenous and settler peoples here first appeared in my work in 1990 and one way I consider place is through pre-Confederation Treaties, agreements about relationship - sharing and mutual protection - among sovereign Nations; Two Row Wampum, Nanfan Treaty and Treaty of Niagara.

Interdisciplinarity has always been at the core of my practice. I have worked at the intersection of performance, video, sound, photography, dance, and community-based strategies in the gallery, stage and public realm. Reflection on the body and consciousness informed by Buddhist practice emerged in my work of the early 1990s. Walking first appeared in my work in 1992 in a series of performances, re-surfaced in 2007 and developed into a key strategy for both participants and myself as camera person in later video and audio installations. Field recording and audio livestreaming became another means to express place.

My primary material is movement – of digital images, sound and the human body. Early work addressed information technologies, deconstruction of media, the material of performance and a feminism based in a notion of sexual agency.  The totality of my practice navigates relationships in how we feel, think, move and create meaning in physical and social environments. My core question is –
What does it mean to be in a body, in this place, at this time, with others?

In parallel with my work as an artist, I played many roles as a cultural worker in artist-run centres, provincial and municipal government (Ontario Ministry of Culture and Communications, City of St. Catharines), art service organizations, and a public art gallery. I taught Creative Process at School of the Toronto Dance Theater (1991-2007), practising a pedagogy built on my training as a mediator and facilitator. I have worked as a facilitator and a trainer in consensus-building and group governance. While my artistic practice embraced strategies of community participation, it is as an administrator that I built community-engaged art practice both as Executive Director of St. Catharines and Area Arts Council and as Interim Grants and Program Officer at Brock University | Rodman Hall Art Centre. Additionally at RHAC, I developed and delivered public programs for exhibitions.

My engagement with the Niagara Indigenous community began in the 1990s while serving on the development of the Three Fires Community Justice program, as a member of Winds of Change Women's Drum Group and occasional camera operator for Youth and Elder Conferences. I worked in the horticultural industry as necessary and survived homelessness for over 3 years in middle life. I raised a daughter and am a grandmother. This lived experience informs my practice.

Elizabeth Chitty fonds, 1975-2021 available at Art Gallery of Ontario Edward P. Taylor Library & Archive

Videography

Swallow

2018, 15:00 minutes, colour

Bridging the Twelve

2016, 05:13 minutes, colour, English

Walking the Talk

2016, 05:21 minutes, colour, no audio

Projecting Want

2010, 10:00 minutes, colour, English

David Buchan: man-about-town

1996, 22:00 minutes, colour, English

T.V. Love (a made for tv love story)

1982, 03:40 minutes, colour, English

Dogmachine

1981, 20:10 minutes, colour, English

Desire Control

1981, 12:00 minutes, colour, English

Telling Tales

1979, 26:45 minutes, colour, English

Demo Model

1978, 21:19 minutes, colour, English

Critical Writing

FFWD, RWD, and PLAY: Performance Art, Video, and Reflections on...
by Tagny Duff. Caught in the Act: anthology of performance art by Canadian women, 2004. Toronto: YYZ, 2004.
Asserting Our Bodies
by Elizabeth Chitty. Caught In the Act: an anthology of performance art by Canadian women, 2004. Toronto: YYZ, 2004.
Talk diminishes work of art
by John Bentley Mays. The Globe and Mail, June 15, 1990.
On Signs & Sex: Visual Evidence "A series of video screenings,...
by Kathy McLeod and Nancy Shaw. Fuse, Fall 1987, v. 11, no. 3.
Performing Miracles
by Linda Genereux. Canadian Art, June Summer 1987, v. 4, no. 2.
Snafus Snip Video Perspective
by Randal McIlroy. Winnipeg Free Press, Mar. 2, 1985.
The Use of the Self to Structure Narrative
by Peggy Gale. Musee d'Art Contemporain, 1984.
Canada (cont.)
by Unknown. Video 84, 1984.
Prime Time Video: Breaking Ground
by Renya Onasick and Peter Lynch. Prime Time Video, 1984. Saskatoon: Mendel Art Gallery, 1984.
Is it prime time yet?
by Robin F White. Prime Time Video, 1984. Saskatoon: Mendel Art Gallery, 1984.
Making Airwaves
by Bruce W Ferguson. Prime Time Video, 1984. Saskatoon: Mendel Art Gallery, 1984.
Artist's Markings in the TV Landscape
by Renee Baert. Prime Time Video, 1984. Saskatoon: Mendel Art Gallery, 1984.
Danceworks 31: what's going on?
by Alina Gildiner. The Globe and Mail, June 24, 1983.
Prime Time Video bears the look of acceptance
by Liam Lacey. The Globe and Mail, Sept. 17, 1982.
Agit.Prop: Walter Philips Gallery / Banff / July 9 to 25
by Leila Surji. Vanguard, Oct. Fall 1982.
A Question of Place 2
by Jennifer Oille. Vanguard, Nov. 1981, v. 10, no. 9.
VIDEO/VIDEO: If this event was a dry run for PAY-TV, one must view...
by Clive Robertson. Fuse, Nov. 1981, v. 5, no. 8 & 9.
Discontinuous Notes on and After a Meeting of Critics, By One of...
by Vera Frenkel. artscanada, Mar. 1981, no. 240.
Vera Frenkel: Interview by Elizabeth Chitty
by Elizabeth Chitty. Vancouver Guide, 1981.
Paul Wong: Prime Cuts
by Julie Healey and Elizabeth Chitty. Video Guide, 1981, v. 4, no. 3.
Vera Frenkel
by Elizabeth Chitty. Video Guide, 1981, v. 4, no. 2.
Marshalore
by Elizabeth Chitty. Video Guide, 1981, v. 4, no. 1.
You Must Remember This
by Elizabeth Chitty. Fuse, Jan. 1980, v. 4, no. 2.
11e Biennale De Paris: Les Canadiens
by Unknown. Parachute, Fall 1980, no. 20.
Video is not television, Performance is not theatre
by Martha Fleming and Douglas Durand. Body Politic, June 1980, no. 64.
Telling Tales
by Jane Ellison. Video Guide, June 1979, v. 2, no. 2.
Télé-performances/ Toronto
by Rober Racine. Parachute, Winter 1978, no. 13.
Brushing up on TV as an art form: Toronto Conference of video...
by Steven Davey. Sunday Star, Sept. 3, 1978.
Colin Campbell
by Elizabeth Chitty. Video Guide, Mar., v. 3, no. 4.