Reconstructing Resilience

Elyse Portal


Invested in ecological materials, Portal produced daylighting following walks to Queens Park, where she discovered a light-fast source of pigment from an Indigenous tree: common black walnut (Juglans nigra). En route from her studio near Spadina and College to the park, she also began to notice subtle changes in the land. She learned that these undulations were traces of the longest downtown watershed in Toronto: Taddle Creek. Daylighting, a term which describes waterways that are restored to their natural state, was produced in response to Portal’s awareness of this buried waterway.

During her inquiry into the history of the creek, Portal was struck by the attitudes held toward water by the men that established the city of Toronto. After becoming contaminated by human mismanagement, a waterway once home to salmon, was simply considered a nuisance and covered over.

With a deep concern for the continued erosion of life sustaining ecologies, Portal is interested in how worldviews that hold long-term vision can help to reconstruct resilience. What could urban planning look like if interdependency was intrinsically understood and felt? If climate change is a reciprocal function based on human over nature principles, how (individually and collectively) can this perspective shift to encourage generative life sustaining cultures, economies, and governance?


Daylighting is a two-part installation consisting of a light box and solar panel. The light box was handmade by Portal’s husband and is covered with batiked cotton, using hand-made walnut dye.

The solar panel charges a portable battery that powers the light box.


Photo Credit: Komal Faiz






Images courtesy of the artist.