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.

 

LOOK WHO’S MORPHING: Tom Cho’s Book Launch at Venus Envy, Ottawa

Book cover with asian male with pompadour hairstyle and slash on his face

“Collection of micro-fictions that explore the slipperiness of identity, race, and gender.”

Did you know Ottawa’s friendly neighbourhood sex store on Bank also has book launches? Well, consider yourself informed!

Venus Envy has books launches, art opens and of course much, much more. This Thursday Asian-Australian authour Tom Cho will be launching his book Look Who’s Morphing.

“First published to great acclaim in Australia, writer Tom Cho’s Look Who’s Morphing is a fresh, hilarious, and dazzlingly contemporary collection of micro-fictions that explore the slipperiness of identity, race, and gender.

Like a mad-cap version of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis set against the last
40 years of pop culture, each story in the collection features Cho’s narrator
morphing into various familiar and iconic cultural figures from sitcoms,
Hollywood movies, anime, music videos, Saturday-morning cartoons,
daytime TV talk shows, Nintendo games, and literature.

We follow Cho’s shape-shifting narrator on hilarious and surreal
adventures, which include dirty dancing with Johnny Castle, a
rambunctious encounter with TV’s Dr Phil, a job as Whitney Houston’s
bodyguard and another as a Muppet, a period in service with The Sound
of Music’s Von Trapp family, a totally destructive outing as Godzilla, and a
high octane performance as a Gulliver-sized cock rock singer, complete
with a cohort of tiny adoring girls. As these fantasies of identity, sexuality,
and power unfold, the narrator, their family, and everything around them,
morph and change up to — and including — the moment when the
collection reaches its climax

Look Who’s Morphing is a funny, stylish, and highly entertaining literary
debut.”

OTTAWA READING:
Thurs. May 15 @ 7:30pm.
Venus Envy
226 Bank St
Ottawa

This is a FREE event so you will have lots of money left over to buy yourself a copy of the book and maybe something else ;)!

 

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LOUIS RIEL DAY: Featuring Cree Métis Visual Artist Jason Baerg

pixelated image of a portrait of Louis Riel

Honouring the spirit of Louis Riel and cultural resiliency.

Today, Manitobans are celebrating Louis Riel Day in remembrance of Riel’s political and social impact for the province of Manitoba. “Louis Riel was the driving force behind Manitoba becoming Canada’s fifth province. His dream of a province that embraces all cultures is still shared by Manitobans today.” (sited from Government of Manitoba’s website)

But Riel’s impact was larger than the locality of the battles fought in the late 1800s and his vision is  still relevant in contemporary times. As a leader who fought for the rights and cultural sovereignty of the Métis people Riel has become for many (even non-Métis people) an icon of resistance. He understood the fissures that occur in the dried up riverbeds that lie between culture and geopolitics. Today many are still praying for rain and fighting the same battle.

Riel also believed in the power of artists. He is quoted as saying “My people will sleep for one hundred years, but when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back.”

In this spirit MIXED BAG MAG celebrates Louis Riel Day with a feature on Cree Métis artist Jason Baerg. Jason’s current show at Urban Shaman in Winnipeg, Manitoba features his work from his series Nomadic Bounce. The work for Nomadic Bounce was produced as part of a residency in Australia RMIT School of Art and is about (re/dis)location. Nomadic Bounce points to the fact that whether we are near or far from ‘home’, it is an ever present concept we return to even when our feelings around home are ambiguous, even tenuous.

Brightly painted wood in the shape of thunderbolts
Detail shot of Nomadic Bounce series at Urban Shaman. Image provided by the artist.

Jason has called many places home. Born in Sarnia, Ontario Jason was young when he moved with his mother and siblings to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan to be closer to his Aboriginal family. As a teenager he ‘bounced’ back to Sarnia, Ontario where he lived with his Mennonite father. Soon after he moved to Kitchener-Waterloo to finish high school. Then there was Montreal for university, Toronto for college and art residencies in New York, Santa Fe and Australia.

Asbtract wood pieces assembled on the wall of a gallery and on the floor on a mirror

“Home is a headspace”

But like a bird, Jason always circles back to where his migration route began. For Jason home base is located in the power of Indigenous Knowledge, both the spiritual concepts and the potent visuals that speak through the language of symbols. This is what grounds Nomadic Bounce but like much of Jason’s work, with this project, he also chose to take a investigative journey around innovative techniques.

Two Abstract paintings on a wall

Nomadic Bounce was an exploration into what happens when you take traditional painting then utilize ‘cutting edge’ technologies to intervene and agitate perceptions of what painting / sculpture / installation can be.

The paintings were based on seven 33 second video clips Jason made of poignant moments he experienced at home / abroad / in transit. Two mirror sets of paintings were created: one set remained as traditional paintings that could be fixed to a wall; the other set was laser cut into shapes and intended to be used for site specific installations. A shape that is ubiquitous in this series is the thunderbolt. Jason explains that he uses the thunderbolt often as it is affirms change but not just any type of change – it is the type of change that is “dramatic, immediate, rapid.” When he brings this symbol into his work it is about shifting energy.

The original intent of the body of work was to re-assemble it each time it changed location as the idea of a journey was the core conceptual premise of the series. In Australia the laser cuts were assembled into mandalas, powerful circles that establish a sacred space and represent the cosmos. Jason imagined that the next manifestation of the work would be something similar but then the work took on a life (or lives) of its own when it disembarked at each new destination.

In Prince Albert the work configured to resemble the cityscape Jason grew up with and the view of the buildings as seen from across the river divide. In Edmonton, as Idle No More gained momentum and the Journey of the Nishiyuu topped the headlines, the pieces were assembled into four jack rabbits that were inspired by the cunning abilities of the trickster when opposing the status quo.


Nomadic Bounce installed at Strathcona County Art Gallery, Edmonton. Image provided by the artist.

The Battle of Batoche in 1885 was a defeat for the Métis people that led to the surrender and eventual execution of Louis Riel. When Jason’s work arrived at The Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon the Battle combined with the impact of the railway on Indigenous people was the spirit that moved the work to configure into an empty train car modeled on the post-modern solar-powered speed trains of Japan. Jason says this form was about “an act of reclamation, giving the power back to the People.”


Performance with Jason Baerg, Adrian Stimson & JS Gauthier at the Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon. Image provided by the artist.

Now at Urban Shaman the work has emerged as two wolves, both in a strong stance, reflecting their gaze upon each other. Jason sees the wolf as an innovator who leaves the pack to find new knowledge that is brought back to fuel resiliency. “The wolf is looking into the future, the past, into the community and at itself, concurrently.”

The beauty is that this series of work that began as a meditation on home has become fluid, adaptable to place and flexible – changing shape without compromising the original sum of its parts.

FYI – Jason’s show RETURNING closes this weekend at Urban Shaman so if you are in the Winnipeg area this would be a great show to check out!

Artist: Jason Baerg
Dates: January 17 to February 22, 2014
Opening reception on January 17 | Artist Talk at 9pm
Location: Urban Shaman’s Main and Marvin Francis Media Art Galleries
In partnership with Art City Youth Exhibition, Urban Shaman’s AND Gallery

More details on Urban Shaman’s website.
Also follow Urban Shaman on Facebook and on twitter @UrbanShamanInc.



Above images of Nomadic Bounce at Urban Shaman, Winnipeg. Images provided by the artist.