Spur Guelph: A National Festival of Art, Politics, & Ideas

Presented by Musagetes, the Eramosa Institute, and the University of Guelph

*Spur Guelph is now known as the ArtsEverywhere Festival


Each of us experiences the world differently. But what connects us all is language—a complex, inadequate system of communication that dazzles and frustrates us with its many forms. All our ways of being in, thinking about, and knowing the world around us depend on our use and understanding of language. Our cultures are shaped by the relationships we find in words written, spoken and sung.

Over three days, the Spur Guelph Festival offers lectures, conversations, musical performances, literary readings, film screenings and city walks that will consider how we can imagine new possibilities for the world beyond the status quo.

Jaron Lanier, a pioneer of virtual reality, will speak about new horizons for the internet age. Eminent cosmologist Lee Smolin will join Lanier in conversation about the power of imaginative thinking in their work and the inspiration they find in the arts. Lee Maracle will read the latest writing that she conjured while in residence at a nature reserve. Wanda Nanibush, Adrian Stimson, Tim Lilburn and Philip Kevin Paul will imagine together what possible indigenous futures can be realized. Croatian artists Nadija Mustapić and Toni Meštrović will present a video installation that documents the demise of a way of life in Rijeka, Croatia, during the economic crisis—even while the collapse offers glimpses of hope and renewal. The program of Spur Guelph offers many musical, artistic, philosophical and pragmatic interpretations of the theme, Possibility and Imagination.

Spur Guelph invites us to pause and to think together poetically as we imagine our futures—and then go out into the world to bring them into reality.


Thursday, November 12, 2015, 7:00pm

Friday, November 13, 2015, 3:00-4:30pm

  • Imagination & Possibility: A Conversation with Lee Smolin, Jaron Lanier, & Madhur Anand

Friday, November 13, 2015, 7:00pm

Saturday, November 14, 2015, 10:00am

  • In Conversation with Emerging Scholars

Saturday, November 14, 2015, 7:00pm

  • Imagining Futures: A Conversation & Musical Performance



November 12, 2015, 7:00pm

Big Ideas in Art & Culture: Lecture by Croatian artists Nadija Mustapić & Toni Meštrović

Location: Bookshelf Cinema, 41 Quebec Street (Please note this venue is not wheelchair accessible.)

Get your FREE tickets here.

Over the past 20 years, Rijeka’s port, railway and ship-building industry have been undergoing a slow and difficult process. Many citizens have lost their jobs at the remaining factories—those that weren’t closed down in the war-torn period of the 1990s.

Croatian artists Nadija Mustapić and Toni Meštrović will discuss their media-based practice and present their recent audio/video work called A Waiting Room for People, Machines and the City. This artwork provides a poetic documentary look at an important historic site in Rijeka that is undergoing a transition: the train station and port area that houses the shipbuilding industry. This work was commissioned by Musagetes for the railway station waiting room in Rijeka.

The story of the railway and port is a powerful metaphor for the narrative of Croatia itself, which has seen great success, crushing failure and drastic change over time. This work asks us to contemplate how history informs the present and to imagine possible futures for cities like Rijeka.


November 13, 2015, 3:00-4:30pm

Imagination & Possibility: A Conversation with Lee Smolin and Jaron Lanier

Location: Peter Clark Hall in the University Centre at the University of Guelph

Get your FREE tickets here.

  • Lee Smolin, theoretical physicist and philosopher at the Perimeter Institute
  • Jaron Lanier, scientist, musician, visual artist and author
  • Madhur Anand, poet & ecologist, University of Guelph

Imaginative thinking is central to the practice of every person working in the scientific, creative and humanistic fields and disciplines—in every aspect of human endeavour. Philosopher Roberto Mangabeira Unger wrote that the “imagination is the scout of the will, anticipating how we might get to the there—or to different theres—from here.” This conversation between a theoretical physicist, a technology pioneer and musician, and a literary writer will explore the role of the imagination in their diverse practices. How does this capacity enable them to see and to reveal new possibilities for the world?

This conversation is presented and hosted by the President’s Office of the University of Guelph.


November 13, 2015, 7:00pm

The Guelph Lecture—On Being Canadian

Presented by the Eramosa Institute

Location: River Run Centre, 35 Woolwich Street

Tickets: $20 adult/$15 students. Get your tickets here.

  • Keynote Speaker: Jaron Lanier, scientist, musician, visual artist and author
  • Literary Guest: Lee Maracle, author, teacher and historian
  • With a performance by the Penderecki String Quartet, DJ Cyclist and Peter Hatch (composer)

The Guelph Lecture—On Being Canadian continues to promote public dialogue on, and greater understanding of, ideas and issues of concern. The event brings together a cast of some of the most innovative, imaginative and inspiring thinkers and performers, who engage audience members with an array of ideas not just for Canadians, but for all.

Now in its 11th year, the Guelph Lecture presents Jaron Lanier as the Keynote Speaker. An accomplished technological innovator, philosopher and writer, Lanier will speak about humanity’s complex, often conflictual, relationship with digital technology and virtual reality, particularly the internet. Lee Maracle, our literary guest, will read new work that she wrote during her Eastern Comma residency in Cambridge, ON, while living at North House, a high-tech house of the future. In an extraordinary collaboration, the Penderecki String Quartet and DJ Cyclist will perform the world premiere of a new composition by Peter Hatch, who will join them on stage.


November 14, 2015, 10:00am

In Conversation with Emerging Scholars

Walks in the City or Café Chats

Many of the speakers participating in Spur Guelph will host a conversation on a topic of their choice with Emerging Scholars—while walking in the city or chatting at a café. The Scholars will be selected undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Guelph, the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University.


November 14, 2015, 7:00pm

Imagining Futures: A Conversation & Musical Performance

Location: River Run Centre, 35 Woolwich Street

Tickets: $15 adults/ $10 students. Get your tickets here.

  • Shawn Van Sluys, moderator
  • Tim Lilburn, poet
  • Wanda Nanibush, artist and curator
  • Philip Kevin Paul, poet
  • Adrian Stimson, artist
  • Music by Digging Roots

Titled Imagining Futures, this conversation will focus on the possibility of futures that draw from indigenous and artistic ways of knowing and shaping the world.

We think and speak in metaphors. Language first came to be through our observation of the natural world—so many of our most fundamental metaphors relate to phenomena in nature: heat rising, things falling, solids containing, liquids flowing and so on. As we became more sophisticated creatures over millennia, up to our current highly technological moment, many of our societies and cultures have lost that early connection to nature, to the land, giving rise to the dominant, oppressive, colonial and authoritative metaphors that led us to today’s entrenched social injustices.

How can the imagining of indigenous futures offer new or revised institutional, relational, and spatial forms and metaphors that centralize our relationships to the land and to each other? How do we radically resist dominant cultural constructs through our use of language and performance?