Guadalupe Martinez: Sensorial Visualities: Embodying Together and Alone. Installation documentation, SFU Gallery, 2023. Photos: Rachel Topham Photography.

Embodying the Edge Effect Together and Alone: a reflection on Guadalupe Martinez: Sensorial Visualities


There is an ecological concept known as the “edge effect.” An edge is the boundary of an ecological community, such as a forest or an ocean. At a hard boundary, such as a road, an area of habitat will “soften” itself. The inhabitants will feather themselves inwards away from the edge, blurring the harsh boundary and creating more niche space. At a soft boundary, such as the edge of another ecological community, biological diversity often flourishes. As both habitats soften their edges, ecological communities mingle in their shared margins. For Sensorial Visualities: Embodying Together and Alone, two iterations of a curatorial practice seminar, labeled CA412/87, were brought edge to edge. The first seminar created the curatorial premise, the second, led by Guadalupe Martinez, gathered participants and created the opportunity to feel into what it means to be a body among other bodies, and what happens when edges are softened.

When I entered SFU Gallery for the opening of Sensorial Visualities on June 24, 2023I was greeted by shades of white and pink. I felt a sense of safety and comfort as I took in the space and its softness. Curtains of white netting divided the space, and moving images of past sessions in the creation of Sensorial Visualities were projected in large scale onto the translucent curtain and through to the wall behind. Captured in this ghost-like installation were the movement workshops, listening experiments, shared readings, and experimental writings during Martinez’s seminar. As a member of the student cohort that worked together on the premise for Sensorial Visualities, I too embody a memory from another place in its timeline.

SFU Galleries Director and curator of Sensorial Visualities Kimberly Philips describes the curatorial practice seminar where the creation of Sensorial Visualities began, which she led in 2021, as “a series of searching conversations.” I feel the deep accuracy of this description as I recall the friction between frustration and elation, I sometimes felt during our intersession seminar in 2021. After deciding to accept the offer to create a curatorial premise for an exhibition that SFU Galleries would commit to mounting, the seminar cohort met twice a week and attempted to tease out a curatorial premise that we felt was most urgent. The challenge (and the beauty) of it was that we were a diverse group with multitudes contained within each of us. As the seminar concluded, rather than a single ossified concept, we had formed an assemblage. Each part existed as itself to form a whole, and it was most alive where ideas rubbed against one another. 

We often returned to the concept of empathy and the implication of our bodies’ ability to feel with another. What resonated with the group of us, and still does with me now, is a deep longing for connection, and an interrogation of how to connect ethically and genuinely with human and non-human beings. The question that arose to culminate the seminar and frame the project, What does it mean to be a body in relation to this time and place? still carries a desperation, a hunger for that connection. The participants of Sensorial Visualities share a series of improvised movement and voice exercises that invite the audience to feel with them, and learn through sensing with our own bodies. As the performers sat in a circle on sheep-skinned covered cushions, I felt the weight of my body sink into the batting. I felt my bare feet on the smooth floor, and the wind between bodies as they walked briskly by each other. I felt the tight longing and vulnerability when Kira Saragih and Deborah Kaoesyonoe spoke in response to the question, what is your deepest desire? I learned what this felt like in my body as they felt it. Without directly answering it, I approached the edge of understanding what it means to be a body in relation to this time and place through sensing my own ability to empathize with other bodies. 

Sensorial Visualities: Embodying Together and Alone was not about the whole, the finished, the concrete, or the definable. It was an edge. A place in between, a process, a conversation that has no conclusion. It was a generative site where diverse communities mingle. It was about dwelling there, among the edges. As I was leaving, I stopped to thank Guadalupe Martinez. She was with Kira and Deborah, and introduced me as one of the participants of the 2021 curatorial practice seminar. Kira and Deborah’s eyes sparkled. My chest felt buoyant as I witnessed their recognition at seeing who they had been in conversation with for the previous months. Although our relationships to Sensorial Visualities were chronological, in that moment it felt as though our work was congruent. We were two edges of the project meeting.

Teresa Donck-Matlock (She/Her) is an emerging writer and curator of Belgian and Mennonite descent. She is a grateful and uninvited guest residing on the unceded territories of the Tk'emlúps te Secwe̓pemc and Tsq’escenemc Nations. Teresa holds a Bachelor of Arts major in Art and Performance Studies and minor in Indigenous Studies from Simon Fraser University. She is currently the Assistant Preparator at the Kamloops Art Gallery.