Funding helps professors follow their muse

A filmmaker and a musician have both received federal research funding that will allow them to follow their individual creative inspirations and each others' at the same time.

Kim Nelson is a professor in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and a documentary filmmaker. Brent Lee is a musician and FASS professor, a composer and member of Noiseborder, a group of experimental musicians and artists who perform, teach and conduct research while emphasizing diverse styles of music, emerging technology and new performance practices.

Both recently learned they received sizable grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). Nelson got $205,592 for a project called The Docum’istory Project , a unique reworking of the historical documentary that will be experimental in content and method, and include a web-based instructional model to expose students and others to how history is structured and meaning is created.

Dr. Lee received $190,198 for a three-year project called Integrating Sound and Image in Multimedia Performance, which will result in “artistic work, scholarly presentations and publications, and new conceptual and technological tools for multimedia performing artists.” Both are listed as collaborators on each others' grants and both hope their work will contribute to the cultural landscape of their community and their country.

While Lee will contribute to Nelson’s documentary, Nelson will pitch in on Lee’s project by filming and documenting one of Noiseborder’s multimedia performances

“It’s very hard to get documentation that really captures what we’re doing live,” said Nick Papador, one of Lee’s two co-applicants (the other is Visual Art professor Sigi Torinus).  “We’ve sort of called in to question all the barriers we’ve faced as musicians.”

“We work really well together and complement one another,” Lee said of his working relationship with Nelson. He’ll travel to Germany next summer to begin work on her new project, a documentary on how Canada and Germany colonized their borderland spaces. Historical expertise for the project will be provided by Rob Nelson, Kim’s co-applicant and spouse and a professor in the History department. Professor Min Bae will be the cinematographer while the web-based concept and platform will be designed and implemented by collaborator Justin Langlois.

“I’m trying to find a new way of making a historical documentary that’s more reflective of how academic history is done and how we create meaning in the present from the past,” said Nelson. She collaborated with Lee on her last two documentaries, but both times he began his work after all the original footage had been shot. This time, he’ll be involved from the inception.

“I was talking a lot to Brent while I was formulating my ideas,” said Nelson, who spent most of the summer in Germany doing pre-production work on the film. “I thought it would be great to start much earlier in the process. Now we’ll be able to think about music and how to use technology to get the sounds we want before we shoot.”

Read a news release about SSHRC’s $116 million funding announcement