TODAY 4 #CANADASCENE: #Indigenous & #Canadian #artists at AXENÉO7 reflecting on #land & #relationships for “À perte de vue / Endless Landscape” exhibit

Image the Fonderie (www.axeneo7.com)

AXENÉO7 is an artist-run-centre in Gatineau, Quebec that features the work of leading contemporary visual, performance and media artists. The artists who show at Axe are often working from the space of art-as-social-practice producing provocative work that challenges societal norms. For this latest initiative Axe is collaborating with DAÏMÔN, Galerie UQO, and the National Arts Centre’s Canada Scene to present À perte de vue / Endless Landscape a “major visual arts event in Gatineau’s historic La Fonderie building.”

From the National Arts Centre’s website: 

Measuring over 58,000 square feet, La Fonderie is one of the few remaining vestiges of Gatineau’s industrial heritage and is an inspiring place for the creation and elaboration of large-scale installations. To encourage a wide range of proposals demonstrating the multifarious approaches to interventionist and in situ work, AXENÉO7 sought, from all regions of Canada, visual artists who have experience working in installation. These selected artists have produced new, monumental works that bring artists, thinkers, and audiences together to reflect upon the intricate relationship Canadians and First Peoples maintain with the land. (read more…)

The featured artists are:

The Vernissage / Opening for À perte de vue / Endless Landscape is tonight!

WHEN: Wednesday, June 28 from 6 – 9 pm
WHERE: La Fonderie (Centre multisport de Gatineau), 211 Montcalm Street, Gatineau
Access: STO Montcalm station and free parking

And don’t forget the After Party back at Axe!

WHEN: Wednesday, June 28 9 pm til late
WHERE: AXENÉO7 (La Filature), 80, Hanson Street, Gatineau

The exhibit will continue through to August 30th. Hours of operation are Thursday to Sunday noon to 6pm and Wednesdays from noon to 10pm.

OPENING TOMORROW @ CENTRAL ART GARAGE: For NAC’s #CanadaScene the 007 Collective of #Ottawa based #Indigenous #artists responds to #Canada150


“It’s Complicated” artists portraits by Rosalie Favell.

IT’S COMPLICATED – Indigenous artists respond to Canada’s Sesquicentennial.

I have been looking forward to this show ever since I first heard the rumour it was going to be happening! Ottawa is home to a great community of Indigenous artists and as part of the National Arts Centre’s Canada Scene the 007 (Ottawa Ontario 7) will be showing at Central Art Garage, a small but mighty gallery located in Chinatown.

This is not the first show for 007. Artist Barry Ace started the collective as a way to create shows that were not curator focused but driven by the decisions and the desires of the artists.

The Ottawa Ontario 7 (OO7) are a group of Ottawa-based emerging, mid-career, and established artists who have come together as a collective for the sole purpose of presenting new work outside of the established curatorial practice and traditional institution art venues. The collective’s philosophy is unrestricted and provides each artist with the freedom and flexibility to take risks, experiment, or present works that are an extension of their current body of work. (read more…)

This year is the collective’s 5th year anniversary. Over the last 5 years 007 has shown in various venues in Ottawa but also at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto as well as Five Myles Gallery in Brooklyn, New York. Each location the artist list changes to include Indigenous artists practicing in that particular city.  And at each show new artists are given the role of “special agent.” This year the role goes to Barry Pottle, Joi T. Arcand and Meryl McMaster. The other artists featured:


Joi Arcand, kiyām, neon chanel sign, 40.5 x 18, 2017 (www.centralartgarage.com)

This year’s show is in response to #Canada150. Along with the opening there will be a panel discussion and film screening. The panel “will reflect on the five-year anniversary of the OO7 Collective and Special Agents, including their formation and exhibition history. The artists will also share their personal views and response to Canada’s sesquicentennial celebrations in 2017 through a poignant discussion on their works of art in the Central Art Garage exhibition It’s Complicated.”

To Indigenous peoples of this land, from coast to coast to coast, 150 years represents a very minuscule passage of time, especially in terms of the longstanding presence and occupation of homeland territories. Yet this seemingly fleeting moment in time is monumental in its impact on Indigenous communities, culture, language, identity, rights, water, and land.

This exhibition by 10 Indigenous artists working in diverse artistic practices offers an alternative perspective to the widely propagated Canada 150 celebrations by revealing timely and poignant aspects of the convoluted historical and contemporary relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples. If there is any room for celebration in 2017 from an Indigenous perspective, it is a celebration of survivance, tenacity, and perseverance. It’s a complicated celebration. (read more…)

 

SCHEDULE: 

4 PM PANEL DISCUSSION

The panel will include artists Barry Ace, Howard Adler, Rosalie Favell, Meryl McMaster, Ron Noganosh, Frank Shebageget, and Leo Yerxa.

7-10 PM OPENING

Please join the artists for a sneak preview of the exhibition following the discussion. Food and beverages will be available for purchase, hosted by The Belmont restaurant.

9 PM SCREENING

Special Guest Outdoor Film Screening by Howard Adler (Co-director of Asinabka Film and Media Festival)

The exhibition opening will include a screening of a new film work by Howard Adler at 9:00 p.m.

Join the Facebook Event Page for more info.

Happening now: Installation of Barry Ace's Kitchi Zibi Omàmìwininì Anishinàbe. OO7 Collective, It's Complicated….

Posted by Central Art Garage on Tuesday, June 13, 2017

NATIONAL GALLERY OF CANADA SHOWS #ART #FREE ALL DAY: The new #Canadian and #Indigenous Galleries open at the NGC in #Ottawa

The National Gallery of Canada opens its doors to a changed story of Canada.

Last night the National Gallery of Canada previewed the new hanging of the Canadian and Indigenous Gallery to members. Today the gallery is open to the public and FREE for the full day. This is a great opportunity to see the NGC’s reinterpretation of their space.

FROM THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF CANADA:

In these transformed galleries, the remarkable stories that have shaped our land are told through art. Beginning with art from 2,000 years ago, and ending with abstract painting in 1960s Canada, this presentation features masterpieces of Canadian and Indigenous art. See renowned works by artists such as Tom Thomson, Emily Carr, Norval Morrisseau and Daphne Odjig, as well as new acquisitions, including works by James Wilson Morrice and the stunning Naskapi
Ceremonial Coat.

Also on view are thematic displays that explore the magnetic north, inhabited landscapes, Canadians abroad, and the emergence of Inuit art: a true testament to the rich and multifaceted Canadian experience. (read more…)

So much hard work and care has gone into these transformed spaces. Congratulations to everyone who was involved in an important conversation!

#OTTAWA TONIGHT: Mino Bimaadiiziwin (A Good Life) Art Show at SAW Gallery

Visual Arts created by our local Indigenous Artists.

Tonight starts the first of many art openings this month in Ottawa. SAW Gallery will host Mino Bimaadiiziwin (A Good Life) Art Show. The show is part of the Aboriginal Youth Arts Entrepreneurship Program.

WHEN: Friday, January 6, 2017 @ 7 – 10 pm
WHERE: SAW Gallery, 67 Nicholas Street, Ontario

Traditional appetizers will be served through the evening as well as entertainment by various talented singing artists throughout the event.  

Entrance Fee by Donation.

Come on out!

The Parfleche by David Charette, 16″ x 20″, acrylic paint.

SKETCH @ SAW: Friday Night Fundraiser at SAW Gallery Ottawa


Work by Kingmeata Etidlooie. Image provided by SAW Gallery.

Another year of SKETCH and raising money for local artist-run-centre Galerie SAW Gallery.

This year marks SAW‘s 12th edition of SKETCH, its annual fundraiser that draws an impressive crowd (along with bidding wars.) Always a fantastic event with art work available in everyone’s price range this night never disappoints.

WHEN: Friday, November 25
WHERE: SAW Gallery in the Arts Court building, 67 Nicholas St., Ottawa 

General admission: $15
VIP tickets: $20 (include access to VIP preview and reception)

VIP preview and reception: 5PM–7PM
Silent auction and sale: 7PM–10PM
After-party: 10PM–1AM

Music by The Vile Bodies (Ottawa) and DJs Michael Caffrey (Gatineau) and Chris International (Ottawa)

From the Facebook Event Page:

“Galerie SAW Gallery’s ever popular holiday fundraiser, with more than 150 participating artists!”

You won’t know what to choose from the hundreds of works available in every style imaginable! With many works priced affordably, starting at only $10, you have no excuse not to get your hands on one-of-a-kind treasures for your lovers, friends and family.

This year’s edition will include a spotlight on 1980s contemporary Inuit art, and signed photographic editions from Magnum Photos featuring artists from around the world.

All proceeds from this special edition of SKETCH will go toward Galerie SAW Gallery’s expansion within Arts Court in 2018. The new 15,000-square-foot SAW will include expanded galleries, a new international research and production space, a new archive and library, an expanded multidisciplinary venue and a renovated courtyard to accommodate festivals and screenings during the summer months. SKETCH will help kickstart our capital campaign for this transformative project!

Silent auction:

Pitseolak Ashoona, Alexis Boyle, David Barbour, Beaston (Graham Robinson), Natalie Bruvels, François Cambe, Robert Capa, Jackson Couse, Michael Davidge, Mario Doucette, Pat Durr, Kingmeata Etidlooie, nichola feldman-kiss, Melanie Garcia, Adrian Göllner, Greta Grip, Michael Harrington, Osheen Harruthoonyan, Pedro Isztin, David Kaarsemaker, Rolf Klausener, Charlene Lau Ahier, Jennifer Lefort, Alisdair MacRae, Steve McCurry, Scott McEwan, Susan Meiselas, Andrew Moncrief, Luke Norrad, Komi Olaf, Napachie Pootoogook, Barry Pottle, Oshoochiak Pudlat, Pudlo Pudlat, Raghu Rai, Dale Lancaster Ronson, Kakulu Saggiaktok, Andrew Smith, Anne Wanda Tessier, Amy Thompson, Cara Tierney, Larry Towell, Guillermo Trejo, Winnie Truong, Eric Walker, Owen Wandering, Tavi Weisz + Ambera Wellman

Art sale:

Howard Adler, David Anderson, Tiffany April, Stephany Bearskin, Danielle Beaulieu, Anne Bell, Paige Bultje, Sabastien Callender, David Cation, Jeanette Charron, Pamela Cockcroft-Lasserre, Patrick Cocklin, Kristina Corre, Cairn Cunnane, Shabnam Dastoornejad, Lougien Dawoudian, Krasi Dimtch, Danielle Doucet, Virginia Dupuis, eightyaday, Sarah Ewing, Jonathan Ferrabee, Charlotte Ford, Ioana Georgescu, Elena Gorlenko, Elliot Gould, Macarena Guerra-García, Kate Hanchuk, France Henault, Emily Hobson, Gillian Holt, Rachel Horan, Saghi Hossein, Aurelia Istinah, Olga Janina Chrzanowska, Anne Johnson, Sharon Katz, Manon Labrosse, Mariana Lafrance, LES666, Rachel Lin, Tara MacDonald, Jennifer Macklem, Alex Macneill, Sara Anne Mailhot, André Mantha, Martha Markowsky, Annegret Nill, Maria-Helena Pacelli, Geneviève Parenteau, Christina Petley, Isabelle Poirier, Judithe Poitras, John-David Powell, Rene Price, Yolaine Richards, Pierre Richardson, Ryan Richardson, Maureen Rooney Mitchell, Komi Seshie, Agamjot Singh, Alexander Snetsinger, Stéphanie St-Jean Aubre, Stefan St-Laurent, Jason St-Laurent, Talya Morgana Stein, Erik Stolpmann, Svetlana Swinimer, Justyna Szłuińska, Saranush Tchilingnan, Mai Lan Tom, France-Marie Trépanier, Maddison Trites, Vivien Tytor, Claudia Urbach, Sylvie Vaillancourt, Wendy Vance, Cosette Vandenberg, Truong Vo-Van, Vanessa Waller, Stephanie Wellman, Malika Welsh, Caroline Williams, Christopher Wong, Tanis Worme, Gillian Young, Melanie Yugo + Gabrielle Zimmerman

WHY BUY: Ottawa Art Gallery’s #lepARTy2016 & why buying art matters

Ottawa’s art auctions create opportunities to strengthen the arts community.

My first month living in Ottawa I made a small purchase – a tiny black and white painting of a woman who stared out from the frame with an ambiguous gaze. The artist had rendered her with no legs. She ended at her torso where the edges of her baggy shirt stopped abruptly on the paper. She represented my feeling of being truncated due to no roots in the city I unexpectedly had arrived in. Two years later that same painting sits on my desk as a reminder of how deep my roots have grown and that I have found myself located in a thriving arts community. I bought this piece at a fundraiser art auction. The purchase I made will always be linked to the memory of that night and the inspiration I received from being in a city that supports the arts.

That night became the first of many local art auctions I  found myself attending, including Ottawa Art Gallery’s Le pARTy. They have become annual traditions that I don’t want to miss. I watch friends get into hot bidding frenzies in order to expand their art collections. I like having my calendar year punctuated by celebratory moments of people purchasing art. I like seeing the exhilaration people get when they invest in something that moves them. Off the wall the work comes and into their home it goes along with the story of the where and the why on how they acquired the work.

But it’s more than just buying the work, it’s about the relationships that are formed around the event – the planning and the people who put those plans into action, the artists who donate, the collectors who buy and the organizations that reach out their audience. It’s a feedback loop that, when done well, has the potential to benefit everyone in the community – the artists, the art lovers and local galleries and artist-run-centres.

Last year, at Le pARTy I watched (with envy) as a beautiful work went home with a lucky couple. That couple, Bridget Thompson and Danny Hussey (Central Art Garage) are known around town for being the kind of people who actively walk the talk and participate in multiple ways to encourage a healthy art scene in Ottawa. Danny shared with me that “as collectors both Bridget and I see the auction as a chance to connect with and support artists. We look for work by regional and Ottawa artists that are interacting with the broader Canadian and international art scene. We never really know ahead of time what if anything we will buy. One of the best parts of the art auction is meeting the artists and getting to know more about them. Once you make that bond it becomes natural to follow their careers and to continue to support them.”

“Caitlin” from Second Self Series by Meryl McMaster

The artist whose work they purchased last year, Meryl McMaster, is currently exhibiting locally at Ottawa’s Carleton University Art Gallery (CUAG). Meryl is one of many Ottawa artists whose reach is branching out beyond Ottawa. Nationally, Meryl’s work belongs to collections at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria as well as internationally at The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian but despite her growing success home is where her heart still remains.

When I asked why she participates in OAG’s art auction she replied “I donate my work to Le pARTy primarily because I believe in the Ottawa Art Gallery is an important institution for Ottawa and I find it rewarding to support the work that they do, supporting local arts and bringing great artists to show in our city. Le pARTy is a good opportunity for artists to have their work viewed by a broad new audience and for art collectors to discover new artists that they are not familiar with. This all happens in a lively environment that allows artists to form new connections with people in their local community.”

At this year’s Le pARTy Danny isn’t just showing up as a collector, he is also playing an important role in the planning process of Thursday night’s now SOLD OUT event.

“From the administrative side, this year I am serving as Co-chair of the auction along with Hattie Klotz. There is so much that goes into the the event and such a long list of contributors. It would not be possible without the artists contributing work, the restaurants and caterers that donate their services and food, all of the corporate sponsors and dozens and dozens of volunteers. The staff at the OAG does a lot of the work behind the scenes and they should get a large share of the credit.”

Also lending a hand as well as adding a critical eye for
#lepARTy2016 is Vicki Heyman, wife of the US Ambassador to Canada. Known for the cultural tour de force she has brought to the Ottawa arts community with the Art in Embassies initiative including Contemporary Conversations at the National Gallery of Canada, Vicki is one of this year’s participating jurors.

“This is my third year attending Ottawa Art Gallery’s Le pARTy and my first time participating as a Critic. It was such an honor to be asked to participate in a deep way in Le pARTy – I feel strongly about supporting the OAG and the artist community here in Ottawa. The artists in the Ottawa area have such talent, and they are truly representative of the diverse narratives of Canadian stories, culture and heritage. It is always special to connect with and support local talent because you get the opportunity to experience the voice of the artist, not just the art, and develop rich relationships that often transcend the art itself. The Ottawa Art Gallery is a treasure in this city, and I am looking forward to the completion of the transformative expansion and redevelopment of the building and programming.”

As Ottawa gears up for the 2017 moment that includes the renovations of the Arts Court building and the Ottawa Art Gallery these events that bring us together grow in importance. And this Thursday, OAG’s Director Alexandra Bardak reminds us, “Le pARTy 2016 marks a special year for the Ottawa Art Gallery. This is both the 20th year of the event and the final year in our current spaces. Each of the art auctions over the past 20 years has been the result of our supportive community. The OAG is extremely thankful to all of our partners – from the artists who donate work, the guests who buy tickets and purchase artworks, the restaurants and caterers who supply food and drink, and the corporate and community partners who support the event. Many of these people have been with us from the beginning and we’re looking forward to celebrating with them on Thursday, June 9th.”
So why buy? Because along with a work you can love each day and a lasting memory of great event shared with friends you are also investing in the future of your community.It feels good to put your money where your heart (and your home) is.

Missed out on getting your Le pARTy ticket? You can attend the Pre Le pARTy event tomorrow night.

WHEN: Wednesday, June 8, 2016 Doors Open at 6 pm Panel begins at 6:30 pm
WHERE: Ottawa Art Gallery (2 Daly Ave)
TICKETS: Free! RSVP through Eventbrite

TOPIC: Where does photography fit within the contemporary art gallery?

“A panel discussion and Q&A with photo-based artists and photographers from Ottawa exploring the role of photography today both in and out of the public and private gallery space. An initiative started in conjunction with Le pARTy in 2014, Le pre pARTy consists of a lively panel, moderated this year by Michelle Gewurtz, Interim Senior Curator at Ottawa Art Gallery, followed by a Q&A and reception with music, mingling, hors d’oeuvres and beverages.

This free event also offers the opportunity to view the installed artworks available at Le pARTy in advance of the auction as well as the chance to purchase the Le pARTy Special Edition photograph portfolios a day early!”


Above images by Maija Hirsimaki courtesy of Ottawa Art Gallery.

MORE ART & RECONCILIATION AT THE NATIONAL ARTS CENTRE OTTAWA: Going Home Star, Florent Vollant, & 100 Years of Loss Exhibit closes a full month of Indigenous programming

TRC Commissioner Marie Wilson moderates a panel of cultural provocateurs speaking on Art & Reconciliation. 

“It’s time for the rest of Canada to do the heavy lifting” ~ I Lost My Talk composer John Estacio

On Thursday, January 14 the National Arts Centre hosted a panel discussion on ART & RECONCILIATION prior to the opening night of I Lost My Talk, a performance inspired by the poetry of Mi’kmaq elder and poet Rita Joe. The response to this event was tremendous. Hundreds of people swelled up the stairs from the lobby where the 100 Years of Loss exhibit on the impact of Residential Schools is installed until the end of this week. The event also drew political support. In attendance was the Prime Minister’s wife Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, the Governor General’s wife Sharon Johnston, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde and former Prime Minister The Right Honourable Joe Clark. I Lost My Talk was a commission by Clark’s family for his 75th birthday. A moving and lovely gift that we all got a chance to participate in and benefit from.

Canadian writer Joseph Boyden speaks on his commission to write the libretto for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Going Home Star. 

It’s encouraging to see a National cultural institution take such a leadership role in implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. It’s also poignantly symbolic to have a National cultural institution recognize, in the present moment, a fact that history has tried to obscure. Both the panel and the performance of I Lost My Talk opened with the National Arts Centre acknowledging that “we are on UNCEDED Algonquin territory.”

On the panel, along with Canadian writer Joseph Boyden and John Estacio, the composer for the musical score of I Lost My Talkwas Rachel Maza, “acclaimed Australian theatre director of Jack Charles V The Crown.”  I had the opportunity to attend this incredible play that delved into the impact of assimilation policies on Indigenous people in Australia. Over the course of 75 minutes Jack charmed us with his beautiful way of presenting his biography – a life full of identity confusion and much loss but also an amazing amount of grace due to Jack’s own incredible resilience. I left with many mixed emotions. Find out more about the play…

Jack Charles receives a standing ovation at the closing of his performance of Jack Charles V The Crown at the NAC. 

Going Home Star opens this week in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre.

As this month draws to a close the NAC is hosting Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s production of Going Home Star. 

“Going Home Star – Truth and Reconciliation is the brilliant result of a star-studded collaboration between the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, award-winning Canadian author Joseph Boyden, acclaimed choreographer Mark Godden, and renowned Canadian composer Christos Hatzis. Going Home Star was ten years in the making, first envisioned by late Cree elder/activist Mary Richard and RWB Artistic Director André Lewis. Searing and sensitive, this powerfully emotional classical ballet is the deeply resonant love story of Annie and Gordon, a pair of contemporary Aboriginal young people coming to terms with a souldestroying past. Hatzis’s multi-layered score incorporates music by Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq (winner of the 2014 Polaris Music Prize), Steve Wood, and the Northern Cree Singers.” Read more…

The creative team and performers of Going Home Star speak at the NAC about the ballet during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission gathering in May/June 2015

Going Home Star runs from Thursday, January 28 to Saturday, January 30 and then will continue its tour in Vancouver. Click here for performance dates and tickets. Tickets will be given to Residential School Survivors, more information can be found here.

Also, this weekend at the NAC is Innu author, composer and singer Florent Vollant performing on Saturday, January 30.

“born in Labrador in 1959 and grew up on a reserve named Maliotenam, east of Sept-Îles. He began his musical career in the middle of the 80s and helped to create the Festival Innu Nikamu, which, since its founding, has brought together many musicians and singers from various Amerindian nations.” read more…

And the National Arts Centre has more in store so be sure to follow along with their 2016 programming around Indigenous Storytelling on their website, Facebook  and Twitter @CanadasNAC.

Photography by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

 

C MAGAZINE REVIEW: Jolene Rickard speaks on Indigenous Cultural Resurgance and Wampum at the Creative Time Summit Venice Biennale

C Magazine looks at the curatorial presentation of the issue of Citizenship at the Venice Biennale.

The Winter edition of C Magazine is out. Inside the pages is a review I wrote on “Questioning Citizenship at the Venice Biennale.”  Here is a little sneak peek: 

I attended the Biennale this past August with The Power Plant’s delegation of artists and curators from Canada to take part in the Creative Time Summit (read CREATIVE TIME SUMMIT AT THE BIENNALE: Mixed Bag Mag arrives in Venice)It was an amazing time where we as creative professionals looked at ways we can critique and improve the Biennale culture from the inside. Along with the opportunity to meet other cultural provocateurs from around the world I also had the opportunity to meet Okwui Enwezor, the curator for the 2015 Biennale “All The World’s Futures.”

This edition of C Magazine is on Citizenship and features: 

“Derrick Chang, Victor Wang on the 12th Bienal de la Habana, Yaniya Lee on citizenship and Canadian art criticism, Krista Belle Stewart, Scott Benesiinaabandan, David Garneau and Cathy Busby responding to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, and Justin A. Langlois, Amanda Shore, Rinaldo Walcott, Leah Snyder, Elle Flanders, Tamira Sawatsky and Adrian Blackwell questioning citizenship at the Venice Biennale; plus an artist project by Tyler Coburn. Also included are reviews of exhibitions and books, as well as our regular sections On Writing by Critical Art Writing Ensemble, Inventory by Bambitchell and Artefact by acqueline Hoang Nguyen” Read more…

To purchase or download the digital version click here.

From the Creative Time Summit Venice 2015 website: 

“As the Director of the American Indian Program and Associate Professor in the History of Art and Art Departments at Cornell University, Jolene Rickard is primarily interested in issues of indigeneity within a global context. Her recent projects include serving as the advisor for “Sakahàn: 1st International Quinquennial of New Indigenous Art” at the National Gallery of Canada in 2013, conducting research through a Ford Foundation Research Grant in 2008-11, participating in New Zealand’s Te Tihi Scholar/Artist Gathering in 2010, and co-curating the inaugural exhibition for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. in 2004. She is from the Tuscarora Nation (Haudenosaunee). Her book,Visualizing Sovereignty will be published in 2016.”

Watch all the Creative Time Summit 2015 Venice presentations here.

 

SEWING CIRCLES & SOUNDSUITS: The Art in Embassies initiative connects social nexuses in Ottawa

Marie Watt’s sewing circle and Nick Cave’s SoundSuits provide ways to start discussions around challenging issues. 

As our long winter was on it’s way out and a new spring beginning an interesting initiative began here in Ottawa. Vicki Heyman, wife of US Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman, launched Art in Embassies, a project started by John F. Kennedy as way to share the talent of American artists abroad as well as “start cross-cultural dialogue“.

Maria Watt was the American artist chosen to open what has become a series of events focused on the role of art as a catalyst for social change. The timing seemed oddly predestined. Marie, a woman of mixed Settler / Indigenous heritage sat on the stage at the National Gallery of Canada speaking to Greg Hill (the NGC’s Audain Curator of Indigenous Art) about the connecting quality of her work.

“My work draws from my experience as a Scottish German Seneca person in the US growing up in Oregon…[I explore] Indigenous moments in history and European history – those nexuses.”  

This was on the eve of the Roundtable Discussion on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls that was also taking place in Ottawa that week. On the Friday, as Carleton University was hosting the National Roundtable, the Carleton University Art Gallery (CUAG), in collaboration with Art in Embassies, was holding a roundtable on Indigenizing the Gallery with Marie as the honoured guest participant. If a nexus “is a series of connections linking two more more things” than what was happening at that precise moment in Ottawa, in the social spaces where art, academia and politics converge, was a moment where Indigenous women’s voices were being prioritized.

One of Marie’s well known works is Blanket Stories: Seven Generations, Adawe, and Hearth. The piece was installed during the National Gallery of Canada’s Sakahàn: Indigenous International Art exhibit and true to Marie’s practice it involved sending a call out to participate. A request was made for anyone who wanted to contribute to drop off or mail out a wool or natural fiber blanket to the NGC. The original call out on the Sakàhan website describes how the installation:

“will highlight the rich history of commerce and trade in Ottawa. The word “Ottawa” comes from the Algonquin word adawe, which means “to trade.”

Along with their blankets participants were requested to write a story that illustrated the importance of that blanket to their family. The stories become the currency and their richness is revealed in their ability to criss-cross countries and cultures, span many generations and fuse past with present. With her works involving blankets Marie does what she can to have the stories available for audiences to read (view some of stories from the NGC install here). At her National Gallery talk she related a few of them to us. One story was Peter’s. The blanket he gave to Marie came from a concentration camp. If I remember correctly, it was his wife’s and it was all she had when she was liberated from the camp. Eventually that same blanket would be used to wrap and protect art work purchased by the couple in the life they created together. Marie feels that such a story flies in the face of Hitler’s denigration of art and is a perfect symbol of reclamation – a blanket’s meaning transformed by its new role.

The stories are also ways for people to enter into the intimate space of another. In this complex historical moment where we struggle to understand the meaning of words like reclamation and reconciliation sometimes the way of navigating that complexity is through the simple act of creating a space for people to share moments. This is the strength of the Art in Embassies initiative which has been infused by Vicki’s desire to explore art as social practice precisely because it can build bridges and foster understanding between disparate social circles. As a way of gathering a diverse group together for a common goal, another event that was held as part of Marie’s visit to Ottawa was a sewing circle. It was moving to see people of all backgrounds, ages, and genders stitching together in the Great Hall at the National Gallery. And the artist was present! Marie took the time to speak with people as well as listen to new stories being shared. For Marie, it’s about being affable in her process. As she says, a sewing circle is about “tucking yourself into something as humble and familiar as cloth. It’s a safe space that’s a much more informal space – getting together in a neighbourly way.”


In these informal spaces people can digest what they might otherwise feel challenged to confront. Marie’s work, although not overtly political, is charged by a political climate that does it best to ignore Indigenous rights and a national leader who publicly declared that the issue of #MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) as not “really high on our radar.” As a Seneca woman she uses her art as a way to generously share Indigenous teachings to a non-Indigenous audience.

The next artist speaking as part of the series is Nick Cave. Nick’s work is also about looking at social as well as disciplinary nexuses of art, dance and fashion. Like Marie, he uses the act of sewing and assemblage to move a challenging conversation forward. The intense subject of racial profiling prompted Nick to look at ways we disregard and denigrate. His first “soundsuit” was created by gathering discarded sticks and twigs, the things that surround us during our day that we ignore and allow to become invisible. The final product functioned as both apparel to be worn by a dancer during a performance and sculpture to be inserted into a gallery space. Whether still or animated by performers whose race and class are concealed inside the soundsuits, Nick’s work is meant to break open a space. They are impossible to ignore. As performers climb inside they have a chance to access the feeling of being connected with something seemingly foreign from their everyday but yet some of the materials that Nick utilizes, like Marie’s blankets, are humble ones that are familiar to all.

Again, the timing of this event is important. After months and months of the heaviness of how racial profiling is being executed – literally – by agents of power, we need to widen the discussion around race that has been split open by the murders of black men at the hands of the police. The problematics of race isn’t just an American issue. Here in Canada the erasure of Black bodies in cultural, academic and political institutions has the potential to fester and become a much deeper problem. We need to have the challenging conversations immediately and those conversations have to happen in places like the National Gallery of Canada, an institution where Black contribution to Canadian history and art has been close to absent. No time like the present.

I applaud the audacious spirit that Vicki has brought to the cultural table here in Ottawa and I look forward to participating in more of these types events that create a nexus for change by widening the circle of social influence.

You can follow the conversation at #artconvoAIE. More events will be coming up in 2015!

All images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag. 

CLOSING THIS WEEKEND: The Sahmat Collective – Art & Activism in India since 1989 at The Art Gallery of Mississauga

The Sahmat Collective is another great show at the AGM!

I recently had the chance to get in to the AGM to see this incredible show. The Art Gallery of Mississauga isn’t exactly small and it isn’t exactly large but it seems to be the optimal amount of space and it’s always beautifully utilized. The corridor that takes you into the main gallery feels like an intimate welcome that primes you for what lies ahead. There is also a cave-like alcove that works perfectly for video installations. Every time I see an exhibit here I am impressed!


Above images of gallery space courtesy Art Gallery of Mississauga.

The AGM is a gallery that is doing a tremendous job making their institution relevant to the broader community of Mississauga – one of the most culturally diverse in Canada. Their current exhibit The Sahmat Collective: Art & Activism in India since 1989 uses up almost every available surface in the gallery to create a time capsule of India at a moment in her history when culture clashes were reaching a boiling point.

“Since 1989, the influential Delhi based Sahmat Collective has offered a platform for artists, writers, poets, musicians, actors, and activists to create and present works of art that promote artistic freedom and celebrate secular, egalitarian values. The collective formed in the weeks after playwright, actor,and activist Safdar Hashmi was fatally attacked by political thugs while performing a street play. In the more than twenty years since, Sahmat has drawn on India’s secular heritage and an expansive group of collaborators to produce a series of projects that engage in important political and social debates through a mix of high art and street culture.” Read more…

I walked through the show with a friend who had grown up in Gujarat. As a Muslim she had memories of the religious conflicts. The exhibit timeline reached back to touch her early childhood. The Sahmat Collective was the result of a reaction to what was taking place around her, her family and others at this time.


Ways of Resisting
from Smart Museum of Art on Vimeo.

In urban settings where much of the population comes from abroad arts institutions can become midwives for the emergence of memories that provide a link to the motherland left behind. Galleries can give the members of their community an emotionally deep experience by participating with memory, not as nostalgia, but rather as place to locate dialogue that can impact social change here in Canada.

As part of the programming for The Sahmat Collective show the AGM did just that. “Thinking Globally, Acting Locally” was a panel discussion on “Art, Activism and Artist Collectives” that included Canadian artist duo Condé + Beveridge activists / artists whose careers stretch back even father than 1989. The panel posed the question:

“What is the role of the artist collective and what is the relationship between art and activism from both a global and local perspective?”

Galleries should also be looking at the spiritual topography that New Canadians layer onto the land as a way to be relevant to more diverse audiences. “Stories of our Landscape | Conversations after Sahmatwas an event that brought people out to ride along in the “Architecture Bus Tour” for “an introduction to the migration of various religious architectural traditions to the Mississauga cityscape.”

The exhibit curated by Jessica Moss and Ram Rahman and presented by University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art was

“animated by the urgent belief that art can propel change and that culture can reach across boundaries. Sahmat has offered a platform for an expansive group of artists and collaborators to present powerful works of art that defend freedom of expression and battle intolerance within India’s often divisive political landscape. Based out of Delhi, the Sahmat Collective uses a combination of high art and street art to resist forces that threaten the pluralist and democratic spirit of creative expression in India. In conjunction with this exhibition, the Art Gallery of Mississauga presents programming that interprets exhibition themes within the Canadian context to critically examine the role of the artist collective, the relationship between art and activism and the ways in which art has the capacity to make change.” Read more…

In plurality their is unity. With unity comes strength.

The Sahmat Collective: Art & Activism in India since 1989 closes this weekend October 19.
More info on AGM’s website as well as on Facebook and twitter @AGMengage.

To explore The Sahmat Collective further visit Vimeo for a selection of videos that give an informative background of their rich practice.

All above images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag unless otherwise noted.