I am an artist, anthropologist and educator living and working on the unceded territories of the Lekwungen-speaking peoples and the Songhees, Esquimalt and WSÁNEĆ peoples where I have lived since 2002. Of working-class Scottish and mixed European descent, I was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Miꞌkmaꞌki territory. I received an MA in Environmental Studies and a PhD in Visual Art and Anthropology from the University of Victoria and am currently an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the School of Environmental Studies at University of Victoria.
My practice is grounded in a concern with the techniques and ethics of image-making. I engage with the conditions and practices of photography in research, writing and artworks. For example, I engage anti-capitalist camera forms like camera obscuras and I break down and rebuild cameras to create an effect based in breath and movement for collective image-making. Over the past four years I’ve been striking up non-toxic relationships with plant-based emulsions and experimental gardens.
I work with media anthropologist Kate Hennessy on experimental art-based research about archives and collections. We’ve been writing and making artworks to consider anarchival materiality, or the generative force of entropy within archives. In our article, Fugitives: Anarchival Materiality in Archives, we describe how non-human archives and their human stewards both constrain and enable preservation.
My academic articles and artworks argue that photography both constructs and deconstructs truth claims; that institutional spaces like archives exert the entropic force of “vibrant matter” (Bennett, 2010) despite striving for stability; and that contested territories like national parks are simultaneously ground zero for crises like climate change effects and overflowing with resilient life. My work rests on the assumption that learning to hold and even celebrate these lively contradictions is crucial to imagining more just worlds.
Some of my research and site-specific interventions are archived on trudilynnsmith.blogspot.ca
For over a decade I was a member of the curatorial collective Ethnographic Terminalia, that was an experimental project that curated exhibitions in North American cities, working with over 150 artists and anthropologists to demonstrate how contemporary artists, anthropologists, and institutions are engaging with anthropology, ethnographic methods, and art.
While much of my work is situated in events and site-specific temporary installations outside of galleries, my work is also exhibited nationally and internationally at The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (AGGV), The Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Crane Arts, 500x, Fifth Street, Open Space Arts Society. My place specific works have been installed in (selected): Waterton Lakes National Park (CAN), City of Rocks Natural Preserve (USA); Yellowstone NP (USA); Capitol Reef National Park (field station) (USA); Santa Cruz Island (USA).