Dear Animal responds to an invitation by incoming Artistic Director, Barbara Adler, to outgoing Artistic Director and co-founder of The Only Animal, Kendra Fanconi, to document a year of falling in love with a new landscape. Kendra’s story tracks her move from the lush, sea-level rainforest of her adopted homeland on the traditional, ancient and unceded territory of the shíshálh Nation and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw, also known as the Sunshine Coast of BC, to the arid, high mountainscape of Sunshine, Colorado, USA, on the territories of the Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ and Hinono’eino Nations.
Over the course of twelve letters accompanied by photography, we learn that it’s a long way from one Sunshine to the other – or, in Kendra’s words, “1500 miles, which is about sixhundredmillionkilometres. Give or take.”
Kendra came to Canada 25 years ago as an immigrant and emerging site-specific artist. The Only Animal was based on her theatrical urge to create a deep engagement with place, for her audience, but also for herself. In her first pieces, she was either buried up to her neck, up to her armpits, or waist-high in the earth. Since then, her work has always been intimately about the land and the stories it wanted to tell. Now, in Dear Animal, Kendra courts Sunshine, Colorado as a creative partner, making overtures to neighbours of all stripes who could help her build a Theatre of the New.
“How does one fall in love with a new landscape? The stakes are high when the theatre you make is reliant on that love, and the place proves…um…difficult? “ – Kendra Fanconi
For the many who have been moved to action by Kendra’s tireless efforts for art and climate, Dear Animal may be a revelation. In her inimitable fashion, she offers good humour, hot tips from her therapist, house cows, family shenanigans and even the key to a gold mine. But the undercurrents of this new work are wild and unresolved; the grief and uncertainty are real and scary, especially from an artist who has always shared so much hope. These hard contradictions are what make the letters essential reading for environmental artists and activists of all kinds. Our culture calls us to be unceasingly upbeat, and so it is exhausting and isolating when we fail. Kendra’s story offers an authentic account of pulling love from grief, of facing up to endings, and saying ‘onwards’.
You can read from the beginning, or jump in at any time, but we suggest that you start with the first letter, here: