MAKE YOUR WORDS AS SWEET AS STRAWBERRIES: And Other Great Work at The ImagineNATIVE Art Crawl

Screen capture of thumbnail size images Âhasiw Maskegon-Iskwew, isi-pîkiskwêwin-ayapihkêsîsak (Speaking the Language of Spiders), Website, 1994, screen capture courtesy of ImagineNATIVE.

It’s a great feeling to be in a crowded room and seeing that you are surrounded by people whose passion is making this world a more equitable and empathetic place. This is the first year that ImagineNATIVE has included an Art Crawl as part of its programming and judging by the large turnout it was a good call! Partnering with some of the galleries and artist-run-centres at 401 Richmond (also where ImagineNATIVE is located) Friday’s event was about “featuring contemporary Aboriginal new media art, commissions and retrospectives and artist talks by curators and attending artists.”

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On left, curator Jimmy Elwood. On right, Executive Director of ImagineNATIVE Jason Ryle.

Love Sick Child at A Space

The crawl began at A Space with Love Sick Child curated by Jimmy Elwood and featuring the work of ÂhasiwMaskegon-Iskwew along with Cheryl L’Hirondelle, Adrian Stimson and Leslie McCue. Leslie’s work was particularly poignant. She explains that the piece was based around an Anishinaabe saying “Make your words as sweet as strawberries.” Poised above a rock secured behind plexi-glass is a funnel of strawberry juice that slowly drips over the stone the duration of the exhibit causing it to become the colour of berries / the colour of blood. The audience is invited to talk into a microphone and speak words to the rock. The words can be thoughtful or thoughtless, kind or angry. Leslie explains that the rock, like our bones, forever holds the energetic vibrations of the words. When asked how one can tell if people are speaking positive or negative words to the rock she says you can’t. The blood red juice drips regardless and like verbal abuse one won’t see the direct impact of the words.

Artist Leslie McCue in front of her work.

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Photography by Tyler Hagan courtesy of ImagineNATIVE.

In The Similkameen / Similkameen Crossroads at Gallery 44

Another moving work is “In The Similkameen / Similkameen Crossroads” by Tyler Hagen at Gallery 44. This exhibit is part of an NFB web documentary which can be viewed at nfb.ca/crossroads.

“It’s a highly personal undertaking for Hagan, who, since obtaining his Métis citizenship, has struggled to reconcile his suburban Christian upbringing with the blighted history of the church in Indigenous communities.”

Left to right artist Tyler Hagan, Noa Bronstein of Gallery 44 and Daniel Northway-Frank of ImagineNATIVE.

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Photography by Nigit’stil Norbert courtesy of ImagineNATIVE.

Trade Marks at Prefix

The show at Prefix is “Trade Marks” and includes more photographic and new media work by Keesic Douglas, Meryl McMaster, Nigit’stil Norbert and Bear Witness, curated by Betty Julian.

“Trade Marks presents a new generation of Indigenous artists who, through newly commissioned photographic, video and audio works, challenge working assumptions of who they are. The exhibition contributes to the recently revived conversation on what it is to be Indigenous in Canada today. It also considers how these artists have responded to the imposition of Western systems of classification on non-Western arts and how their artistic practices have been informed by methodologies of decolonization.”

Top image: artist Keesic Douglas speaking about his work. Bottom images: Curator Julie Nagam and artist Lisa Reihana. Artist Bear Witness at Prefix Gallery.

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Lisa Reihana speaking about her work “in Pursuit of Venus” at A Space Gallery.

in The Pursuit of Venus back at A Space

The finale of the Art Crawl was the incredible work “in Pursuit of Venus” by Maori artist Lisa Reihana and curated by Julie Nagam.

“The video is inspired by the colonial 19thcentury panoramic wallpaper Les sauvages de la merPacifique(1804­05) which features European impressions of Indigenous South Pacific Islanders from accounts from Captain Cook’s and Louis de Bougainville’s journals, and reworked engravings by Webber and Hodges. Reihana explains that Les sauvages claims to be historical and is presented as such, when in actuality the wallpaper’s creators harvested information from different historical moments and relocated the bodies into a fictional Tahitian landscape, removing these Pacific people from their cultural, historical and political reality. In this work Reihana has re­staged, re­imagined and reclaimed the panoramic wallpaper by altering its original presentation of print form to live­action video. She has brought each character alive with breathtaking precision of Maori and Pacific cultural practices and embodied knowledge. Each person on the screen resists the colonial misrepresentations of the past and present encounters with Indigenous people across the globe. Reihana’sin Pursuit of Venus is a live-action masterwork that unbinds the shackles of colonialism by producing a highly refined and dynamic video that brings forth visual poetics of Maori and Pacific cultures and knowledge.”


“in Pursuit of Venus” by Lisa Reihana courtesy of ImagineNATIVE.

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If you missed out on last night you can still see these important shows tomorrow, ImagineNATIVE’s last day as well as in the weeks to come.

Love Sick Child @ A Space
Exhibition runs until October 26

In The Similkameen / Similkameen Crossroads @ Gallery 44
Exhibition runs until November 23

Trade Marks @ Prefix
Exhibition runs until November 23

in Pursuit of Venus @ A Space
Exhibition runs until October 24

Banner for ImagineNATIVE film festival done in comic book style

Click here for ImagineNATIVE’s Full 2013 Programming Schedule

You can also follow along on their Facebook Page or Twitter @imagineNATIVE.

Unless otherwise noted all above images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.