The Quiet in the Land is a series of community-based art and education projects initiated by the contemporary art curator and historian France Morin in 1995, in a search for a way of working that would reaffirm the potential of contemporary artists as catalysts of positive change. This new way would possibly open up a new language for speaking about the relationship between art and life, in which the standard definitions of such terms as artist, community, and work of art would perhaps no longer be adequate.
By creating situations in which artists and communities may work together to perceive both the differences that separate them and the similarities that connect them, these projects strive to activate the "space between" groups and individuals as a zone of potentiality, in which the relationship between contemporary art and life may be renegotiated. Fundamental to each project is a conception of art rooted in the cultivation of the creative spirit that lies within everyone as a powerful agent of both personal and social transformation.
Each project is structured in order to frame the experience, but the structure is flexible enough to bend as the respective project unfolds. For each project, artists work, or live and work, with a community, which may be defined as an individual, a family, an organization, a neighborhood, a city, or even a nation, for an extended period of time. In many cases, both the artists and the communities anticipate the beginning of the project in which they will be involved with a measure of uncertainty, for they know that their preconceived ideas about art, life, and the relationship between the two will be challenged as a result of the experience. During the initial period of working together, the artists begin to think about and in most cases produce a work of art, either in collaboration with the community or on their own (sometimes, however, they may not produce the actual work until they return home). The works may not always be traditional art objects, although many are. By transforming ordinary practices, habits, or objects, these works make the familiar seem strange, thus encouraging one to look at and understand everyday life differently.
The title The Quiet in the Land is an homage to the composer Glenn Gould (1932-1982), who produced a series of three sound portraits in the form of radio documentaries, titled The Solitude Trilogy, for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The first installment is titled The Idea of North (1967); the second, The Latecomers (1969); and the third, The Quiet in the Land (1977). These documentaries explore the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the state of isolation, which Gould believed nurtured the creative spirit. The trilogy's third installment is a documentary in five parts, connected through the structure of a worship service, focusing on an isolated community of Mennonites in the Red River Valley in Manitoba, Canada—a community that is in the world but not of the world and that is struggling to adapt to the encroachment of modern society. This documentary exemplifies The Quiet in the Land's belief that sometimes it is necessary to retreat in order to resist: by removing the making and experiencing of art from the confines of the art world, is it possible to forge a new path that will lead back into this world, but also point to the broader world of possibilities that lie outside of it?