Mountains and Rivers Without End (MRWE) began in the fall of 2014 as a joint project between Patrick Mahon, a Canadian artist and Professor in Western University’s Visual Arts Department, and Ulises Unda, an Ecuadorean artist and PhD candidate in the same department. An initial residency in Ecuador brought together Canadian and Ecuadorean artists and scholars; the result of this collaboration was an exhibition in Cuenca, Ecuador in February 2016. A second exhibition is confirmed for June 2016 in Quito, Ecuador. A third exhibition and an interdisciplinary conference will take place in London, Ontario in November 2016, and will be hosted by the Visual Arts Department at Western, the institution where MRWE was conceived and organized. The exhibition will have two main goals: firstly, to give artists, scholars, and the general public the opportunity to experience artwork by six contemporary artists from Canada and Ecuador based on research on the  historical, social, and environmental effects of mining in a region of Ecuador. Secondly, the exhibition will act as a catalyst for the conference, to stimulate discussions about the role that socially engaged art can play.

A major goal for MRWE is to foster collaborations between artists and scholars whose research explores current and historical issues related to mining, labour, and the environment. This is important because collaborations between the arts and the social sciences are scarce, even in the face of common interests –for example, environmental sustainability or intercultural communication. It is in the spirit of encouraging collaboration that the invited presenters at the conference reflect a diversity of themes and voices that will make for rich discussions. For example, Kim Clark is a Professor of Anthropology at Western and has done extensive research on social inclusion and exclusion in Ecuador; Amanda Grzyb, Associate Professor in Media Information and Technoculture (Western), is currently pursuing research on community resistance to large-scale mining in El Salvador; and Gu Xiong, an artist and Professor in the Department of Art History, Visual Art, and Theory at the University of British Columbia, has produced a large body of work exploring histories that involve migration, labour, identity, and territory.

We expect the conference will be stimulating, creative, and productive, and that it will establish the conditions for future collaborations that address the research potential of socially and environmentally engaged art.


Patrick Mahon

Patrick Mahon is an artist, curator and teacher/academic; he has been a faculty member in Visual Arts at Western University, London, ON, since 1995. He was Chair of the Department from 2000 to 2010. His work includes print-based projects that engage with historical and contemporary aspects of print culture, and involves responding to gallery and museum collections as well as establishing community-based art initiatives. Mahon’s artwork has been exhibited widely including, in Canada, at Museum London, The Art Gallery of Hamilton, the Southern Alberta Art Gallery and Kamloops Art Gallery, and internationally at the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in Chongqing, China, in 2005, and in Barthète (Toulouse), France in 2011. The SSHRC-funded project, Art and Cold Cash, which involved Mahon and other artists from southern Canada and Baker Lake, Nunavut, was produced and exhibited between 2004 and 2010 (MOCCA, Toronto; McLaren Arts Centre, Barrie; Platform, Winnipeg: Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina), and a book was published by YYZ in 2010. Patrick’s collaborative SSHRC project, Immersion Emergencies and Possible Worlds, on the theme of water, began in 2010 and included a residency in Niagara Falls and at the Banff Centre. A related group exhibition, The Source: Rethinking Water through Contemporary Art, opened at Rodman Hall in May 2014. Recent exhibitions include McMaster Museum of Art (2013); Robert Langen Gallery, Wilfred Laurier University (2013); Gallery 1C03, University of Winnipeg (2014).. Patrick lives in London, Ontario, and is represented by Katzman Contemporary, Toronto.


Gu Xiong

A multi-media artist from China who now lives in Canada, Xiong works with painting, sculpture, photography, video, digital imagery, performance art, and installation. He has exhibited in over 70 prominent national and international group exhibitions including the Shanghai Biennale (2004), the Kwangju Biennale (Korea, 1995); and the groundbreaking “China Avant-Garde” exhibition at the China National Museum of Fine Arts (Beijing, 1989).
Gu Xiong’s recent works deal with transnational migration along major waterways, and also with globalization and cultural hybridity. His water-related work offers a springboard to engage individual migrant stories along the Yangzi and Fraser Rivers through visual arts practices and migration research. A central question of that project is, how can the field of multimedia visual arts contribute to the spatial interpretation and theorization of global migration flows along major waterways?


Andres Villar

Co-curador de la exhibición Montañas y ríos sin fin Andrés Villar nació en Colombia y ha vivido en Canadá desde comienzos de los 90. Obtuvo un Ph.D. en Arte y Cultura Visual, una Maestría en Historia del Arte y una Licenciatura en Artes Visuales en Western University en London, Canadá. Actualmente dicta cursos sobre arte y cultura visual en Western University. Algunas de sus líneas de investigación son el arte y la cultura visual de las Américas, la antropología de la imagen, la construcción de modernismos y vanguardismos, espacio/arquitectura/lugar/paisaje y modernidad/colonialidad.


Ulises Unda

PhD(c) in Art and Visual Culture at the University of Western Ontario. Received a MFA in Electronic Integrated Arts at Alfred University, N.Y, USA; and a Master in Cultural Studies at the Andean University Simón Bolívar, Quito. Artist-in-Residency program at the Rijksacademie van Beeldenden Kunsten, Amsterdam, Holland. His artwork has been exhibited, both nationally and internationally, including, Loop Video Art Festival, Barcelona, Spain; Museum Lu Xun Academy of Fine Art, Shenyang, China; Queens Museum of Art, NY, EEUU; Center for the Development of the Visual Arts, Havana, Cuba; Museum of Contemporary Art of the University of Chile; International Biennale of Cuenca. Unda’s has taught at various universities in the city of Quito since 2001, and has been actively involved in the organization of international academic events and art workshops. Curator of the exhibition “Contemporary Art in Ecuador”, Museum Camilo Égas. Awarded the Ecuadorian national prize Mariano Aguilera Malta in 2002.



Andrea Carrión

Andrea Carrión (Ph.D. Geography, Carleton University). Her doctoral investigation explores the restructuring of resource regulation in Ecuador through an extended case study of the gold district of Zaruma-Portovelo, Ecuador, 1896-1998. She develops a scale-sensitive, ethnographic and historical approach to State theory that highlights the differential involvement of multiple actors and everyday processes shaping resource governance in mining regions. She gives emphasis to documenting ‘praxis’ and bringing to the debate voices that represent different positions and perspectives. Her professional practice and academic interests revolve around local governance, urban management, social production of habitat, public policies, and land use planning. Currently, she works as an academic advisor at the Instituto de Altos Estudios Nacionales, IAEN.


Jenny Jaramillo

Jenny Jaramillo (1966), estudió en la Facultad de Artes de la Universidad Central del Ecuador, donde obtuvo su licenciatura (1990), y su maestría en Antropológía Visual en la FLACSO Quito (2013); de 1998 al 2000 permaneció como artista residente en la  Rijsksakademie Van Beeldende Kunsten, gracias a una beca concedida por el  Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Holanda (BUZA/DCO/IC). También ha participado como artista residente en el “Institute for Electronic Arts”, Alfred N.Y, 2010; Programa Internacional RAIN PROJECT “Open Circle” en Mumbai India, 2000;  Museo Irlandés de Arte Moderno en Dublín, 1997; y, en el programa del “Fine Arts Work Center” Provincetown-EUA, 1994. Ha representado al Ecuador en la Bienal Internacional de Cuenca, 2004;  en la VI Bienal de La Habana, 1997 y en la Bienal Internacional de Estandartes “ES 2000”, Tijuana. Ha sido invitada a participar en importantes exposiciones y proyectos colectivos. Su producción artística se complementa con la labor en la enseñanza artística en Universidades ecuatorianas.


Esteban Ayala

Ha estudiado escultura en Italia y Alemania, y ha obtenido una especialización en diseño e investigación en artes visuales. En su obra se percibe su interés hacia los objetos y sus posibles combinaciones; trabaja de manera empírica ensamblando piezas de madera, metal, cemento y partes mecánicas para crear nuevas estructuras y mecanismos con un nuevo significado. Vive y trabaja entre Ecuador e Italia.


Gautam Garoo

A native of Kashmir, India, Garoo’s repetitive actions present an emptiness that is emulated on the surface of the work. Of interest to him is the past resurfacing in the present. Gautam Garoo has received his Master of Fine Arts Degree from University of Western Ontario, London, Canada and his Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in sculpture from Delhi University, New Delhi, India. He currently resides in Canada.