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’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…)
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.
Tomorrow artist panel with artists Jeff Thomas, Rosalie Favell and filmmaker Isabella-Rose Weetaluktuk speaking on activating the archives.
“The panel of artists includes Onondaga photographer and curator, Jeff Thomas; Métis artist, Rosalie Favell; and Inuk filmmaker, Isabella-Rose Weetaluktuk. All three use archival images in their innovative artistic practice, and will discuss the ways in which they are reclaiming and re-telling their histories and stories. All guests are encouraged to participate in the discussion.”
WHEN: Registration opens @ 9:30 am & panel begins at 10:30 am WHERE: Library and Archives Canada (Pellan Room 2nd Floor), 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa
“Project Naming enables Indigenous peoples to engage in the identification of photographs from Library and Archives Canada. LAC hopes that members of the public will share their knowledge. If you know the names of people depicted in our photographs or have information about an activity, event or place, LAC would love to hear from you. The majority of individuals depicted in the images in LAC’s collections were never identified. Many archival descriptions relating to events or activities are absent or have dated information (e.g. place names, band names or terminology). Or information is based on original inscriptions and captions found on the records, and hence reflects the biases and attitudes of non-Aboriginal society at the time.”
Denesuline and Saulteaux artist Alex Janvier’s paintings depict vibrant worlds.
I believe we are all given moments in life where if we pause to be still and present we will know that we have witnessed something truly extraordinary. In the expansive space of the Great Hall of the National Gallery of Canada last night, those of us that were there had the opportunity to feel the burden of history momentarily lifted by the presence of someone who has dedicated his body, mind and soul to beauty and to the upholding of his culture.
The crowd that came out was as expansive as the space. NGC Director Marc Mayer said that he had never seen the place so full for any previous opening. The turnout illustrated how well respected this internationally known artist is and affirmed the place that Indigenous artists hold in the consciousness of the Canadian public.
At 81 years of age, Alex Janvier is a living legend. His paintings are vibrant expressions of dark emotions transformed via vivid memories of his culture that stayed located inside him despite being sent away to residential school. He spoke of his memories of women doing quill work and beading and the “special Friday from 2 to 4” where at school the children were given a few hours to paint. “It was the only time I could express what was down deep within and go back to the creator I believe in…go back to the inside of the little boy…where I wasn’t scared.” He went on to say that in his paintings “you will see what I talked about [the experience of residential school] but also the liberation from it.”
He shared these words on the same day as the US celebrate the arrival of the pilgrims on Plymouth Rock. On thanksgiving eve, in the twilight of the night fall, the backdrop of the American Embassy and Canada’s Parliament Hill was lit up and seen through the glass enclosure of the Great Hall. Ministers and MPs came out to express their admiration. An honouring song was sung. Dances performed. The word reconciliation uttered on more than one occasion.
Has Canada arrived at a new place in time? Has something changed? Perhaps reconciliation is less about a future moment to arrive at and more about a process to begin at.
Last night what we witnessed was the spiritual tenacity that comes from thousands of years of culture stretching back farther than the concept of ‘the West.’ Alex has spent his life time tapping into that “source” as he calls it. What he gave to us all was a gift, pointing to an imagined future in these troubled times. “I believe that this moment is meant for all of us to be here.”
If we accepted his gift, we experienced grace – one moment in a lifetime that has the possibility to change us all.
The exhibit runs through until April 17, 2017. More info on the Alex Janvier exhibit here.
Join curator Greg Hill in conversation with Alex Janvier Saturday, November 25 at 2 pm at the National Gallery of Canada. More info on the Facebook Event Page. Admission is FREE for all.
This expansive thematic show that uses House music as both an allegory and an art form ends this weekend. It’s worth spending time moving back and forth through the rooms to hear, or rather feel, how the soundscape informs works that are deceptively benign but loaded with signifiers of oppression / liberation creating intersections where labour meets love.
Today, Saturday, October 29 Toronto talent Esie Mensah will be performing between 2 – 4 pm.
“Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates takes over the fifth floor of the AGO’s Contemporary Tower with an immersive exhibition exploring the potential of the house museum—historically important landmarks that have been transformed into legacy sites. Gates proposes new ways of honouring and remembering Black experience and explores the potential of these spaces through music, dance, video, sculpture and painting.”
This week Gord Downie premieres his project The Secret Path at the National Arts Centre and on CBC
I had the opportunity to attend the premiere of The Secret Path this past Tuesday at the National Arts Centre. It was not an easy event to get through. Gord Downie along with illustrator Jeff Lemire have created a work that invokes discomfort and deep pain – as it should.
Chanie (Charlie) Wenjack was a young Anishinaabe boy from Marten Falls First Nation. He was only one of 150,000 children that were taken from their parents and placed into residential schools often thousands of kilometres away. Far in physical and emotional distance, a large percentage of these children, an estimated 6000, never returned home.
The Wenjack family was present at the NAC and has been a part of this project to bring awareness not only to the past but also to the present – many Indigenous teenagers must leave their community to attend high school. Having high schools on all reserves would allow for kids to stay in their home communities. This is part of the message of Pearl Wenjack, Chanie’s sister, who shared with the audience at the NAC her memories of her little brother and her hope for his legacy.
Along with the production of The Secret Path video and album a foundation (The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Foundation) has also been established to raise money for projects that promote opportunities for cross-cultural dialogue between Non-Indigenous and Indigenous communities. In the spirit of reconciliation, as Gord Downie says “It’s time to get started folks, we had the last 150 years, now we have the next.”
As a teenager, I was saving my grocery store pay cheque to get to concerts like Fishbone and Red Hot Chilli Peppers at venues such as the Concert Hall in Toronto. I remember seeing The Tragically Hip around the same time. A friend, an early and super enthusiastic fan, convinced me to go a with her. It was a local venue (The Highlands in Cambridge, Ontario) and the ticket price was dirt cheap. If I recall, it was 1989. They had just come out with their album Up to Here and were gaining lots of buzz in alternative music circles. There probably wasn’t more than 300 people in the bar that night but they played as tight as they did in Kingston at their final concert and Gord Downie moved around on stage like his pants were on fire. I was impressed. This band had presence for sure and you could tell they were about to get big. At the time, The Hip wasn’t necessarily my kind of music but I came to realize Gord Downie was my kind of man – a solid, compassionate and politically astute person who stands behind his convictions. And so, because I am a big fan of the person he is, I tuned into CBC to participate, along with so many others across the country, in witnessing an act of grace.
Last night people experienced the stellar human being Gord is. His affection and love for his band mates came through with the closeness of their body language – the way they embraced each other at the end of each set and before yet another encore. By the end of the night it was clear to everyone, if you didn’t already know, that the Hip’s frontman is an exceptional storyteller. Sometimes cryptic, other times unconcealed, whether he takes his audience deep into a mystery or documents a moment in history his songwriting sets up a scene for the listener. All can enter in and feel the emotion he evokes with words and notes. And those emotions he sings of are complex filled with longing, doubt, courage, truth, frustration as well as joy.
And so it was fitting and symbolic that this man who has protested against corporate energy giant Enbridge (Rock the Line), donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to environmental organizations (WaterKeeper) and performed in support of an Indigenous community in crisis (Attawapiskat First Nation) would confront his audience with the complicated, emotionally loaded story of Canada at a historical moment when so much anger, confusion and shame is rising to the surface. Along with those darker emotions we are also seeing goodwill and empathy. Hearts are opening.
Online, in real time, I watched my Facebook start to percolate with feeds of friends thankful that he took this very heightened and intense moment to drop a truth bomb onto the crowd.
Dr. Kahente Horn-Miller is one of those friends. A proud Kanien’kéha (Mohawk) woman from Kahnawà:ke she teaches at Carleton University in Ottawa introducing students to the concepts of Indigenous Governance. She is also a performer who re-enacts the Haudenosaunee creation story of Sky Woman. She “re-matriates” the ethnographic accounts of Sky Woman written down by white men recording what they believed to be a dying culture. She revives the story of Sky Woman by weaving in the reflections of contemporary Haudenosaunee women who use it as a guiding force for their lives asserting spiritual sovereignty. She shares:
His words connected us to the moment. All of us watching across the internet and television screens, the Indigenous and non-indigenous people who grew up loving the music, he brought us together. His last words to us mean so much. He knew the numbers of people that would be watching world wide and used that as a gift to bring his message home. “There are problems in this country…” he said. “The people way up north, that we were trained our entire lives to ignore,trained our entire lives to hear not a word on what’s going on up there. What’s going on up there ain’t good, maybe worse than it’s ever been…. We’re going to get it fixed.” I think he may be right.
Originally from Wasauksing First Nation, Anishinaabe writer and CBC journalist Waubgeshig Rice is now based in Ottawa and was fortunate to see the second-to-last Hip show here at The Canadian Tire Centre. Although he didn’t view CBC’s livestream of the final performance he caught up with the news and comments online after the show.
It’s very heartwarming to know that with an audience of millions during what could be his last public performance, Gord Downie chose to put the spotlight on the plight of Indigenous people and the government’s responsibility to address the issues. He made few other statements or proclamations during the show, so the fact he spoke about the need to pay attention to Indigenous communities during his limited time was very moving. Hopefully Canadian leaders heed his words, and Canadian fans follow his example.
We need a different kind of land.
We need different kinds of cultural expressions and relationships to this land. So if you are a Hip fan who hasn’t considered how our environment is negatively impacted by corporate / government entanglement around natural resources or considered Canada’s complicated and hurtful relationships with Indigenous folks and the intersection where these problems all meet consider the legacy Gord Downie handed off to the audience last night.
Change lies in the hands of Canadians.
This is serious stuff. If this world has a hope in hell of surviving the climate change tipping point we have arrived at it will be because the Inuit elders in the Arctic are heard and consulted. It will be because Canadians decide that a road blockade that asserts First Nations governance isn’t an inconvenience. Rather, these kinds of actions will be understood as the original custodians of the land offering protection for natural resources. Canadians will be able to see that in the long term these actions benefit everyone living here as well as ensure the survival of the entire planet.
Protection of water, trees, and air is the most critical issue at this moment.
Gord Downie gets that. It’s why he has contributed his time and talent as well as put his money where his mouth is. It’s why he’s been a strong ally in support of Idle No Moreraising awareness about Canada’s involvement / non-involvement with issues facing Indigenous people living within the political boundaries of Canada. It’s why he is vocal about Canada’s not-so-pleasant past and the current realities faced by everyone living within these borders.
I would not want any part in propagating, galvanizing or burnishing some of the stupid mythology in this country – that we are this clean pristine place, that we got it all figured out, that we know best for the world, that there is nothing anyone can teach us…these things I write about…the Canada I know…I wouldn’t do it if I thought I just was propping up an old stupid mythology. (Q Interview 2012)
Last night this man who has given much to Canada in terms of fleshing out Canadian identity cautioned about the nostalgic trap ‘Canada the Good’ will land this Nation in if Canadians decide to remain comfortable in this narrative. In his role as a storyteller he summoned his audience to critique as well as re-vision what Canadian identity means. Does being a Canadian include consideration of Indigenous sovereignty and support of those working towards environmental equity? He called out his audience as well as Prime Minister Justin Trudeauto be on the right side of history, to push for change.
As a fan, where on this land do you stand?
“ABOUT THIS MAP” by the Tragically Hip
About this map, here we are, here See, this is us, the exit is here, and We’ve come too far, to just feel like this, yeah We’ve come too far, to be feeling like this
Certain, certain You want to, want to Certain, certain You want to, want to
About this map, it’s a bit out of date, yeah Territories shifted, and things get renamed There’s coups, revolutions, and boundaries blur Volcanoes and earthquakes turn words into birds
It’s certain, certain You want to, want to Certain, certain You want to, want to, want to
But, oh, about this map It goes beyond, beyond And, oh about this map About this map
About this map, here we are, here See, this is me, and there you are, there, and There’s got to be more than just to despair There’s got to be more than just to despair
I’m certain, certain I want to, want to You’re certain, certain You want to, want to, want to
And, oh, about this map It goes beyond, beyond Forget about this map About this map
And, oh, about this map We don’t live in our heads Forget about this map About this map About this map About this map About this map
Asinabka Film and Media Arts Festival returns to Ottawa for another year of unique programming.
This year Ottawa’s locally minded but internationally connected Film and Media Arts Festival, Asinabka, turns five. I have been attending this annual festival for the last 3 years and I am looking forward to my 4th year. I have seen it mature and grow its audience while still maintaining an important discourse with the local community of Ottawa especially regarding issues impacting Indigenous communities here on Algonquin Territory. Co-Director / Programmer Howard Adler shares that as “Asinabka Festival returns for our 5th year we couldn’t be more excited about our programming and our local and international partnerships.”
Each year the festival opens on Victoria Island at the site of Aboriginal Experiences, a beautiful location that foregrounds the Indigenous opening night film against the background of Parliament Hill and the Supreme Court of Canada – a highly symbolic vista. This year’s festival opens with Fire Song (Director Adam Garnet Jones), a film about youth suicide, sexuality, family obligations and future options.
Prior to the screening Indigenous Walks will be giving a tour that will begin at the Human Rights Monument (Elgin Street by City Hall) and end at the island where there will be a feast provided to the festival goers to share before the screening begins. Regarding the 2016 Festival programming “this is no doubt our most ambitious festival yet, showcasing more Indigenous film, media art, music, and performance than ever before, utilizing two of Ottawa’s best artist-run Centre’s for our Gallery Crawl (Gallery 101 & SAW), and continuing with our stunning traditional opening night welcome and outdoor film screening on Victoria Island!” states Howard. “There will be more delegates, filmmakers, and guests attending our festival than ever before, and there’s not enough room here to express how excited and thankful we are to host and present so much amazing art! Chi-Miigwech to everyone involved and to our faithful audience who return every year.“
Work by Geronimo Inutiq. Image provided by Asinabka.
Also this year Inuk media artist Geronimo Inutiq will have a solo show (ᐃᓱᒪᒋᓇᒍ – isumaginagu – don’t think anything of it) opening at Gallery 101 (51 Young St. Suite B). Regarding his contribution and involvement Geronimo says that Asinabka “gives us an opportunity to show and see contemporary original art works in a context that goes beyond inter-national boundaries. I am grateful and honoured to exhibit my work with video and images, and – with the Festival – help push the boundaries of what indigenous and Inuit media and art can be today.”
A little bit about the show:
How do you feel? Have you listened to your instinct today? What is your gut telling you? All the combined fields of natural and social sciences have elucidated great intellectual theories as to the nature and function of what we do and the reasons and functionality behind it. To Geronimo Inutiq, the process of artistic expression is an alternative language to all that. Guided by some sort of arbitrary intuition and abstract sense of aesthetics, he produces cultural artefacts that have been shown in galleries and museums in the context of contemporary indigenous and Inuit art exhibits and performance – both nationally and internationally. read more…
“Cowboys N’ Indians” by Alison Bremner in “Neon NDN.” Image provided by Asinabka.
“Urban Inuk” Jocelyn Piirainen is an “emerging curator with a growing interest in indigenous contemporary art. Her entry into the curatorial world began in with the first ever Indigenous Curatorial Incubator program, where she put together the “UnMENtionables” screening program and helped coordinate the “Memories of the Future” exhibition for the 2015 Asinabka Film and Media Arts Festival.” This year Jocelyn returns to Asinabka to curate Neon NDN: Indigenous Pop-Art Exhibition at SAW Gallery (Arts Court Building, 67 Nicolas St.).
From her curatorial statement:
In an article titled “Is There an Indigenous Way to Write about Indigenous Art?”, Richard William Hill recently contemplated “in purely practical terms, how would you bracket off Indigenous culture? Where do you draw the line? No more pop culture?”Had certain Indigenous artists bracketed off pop culture, Neon NDN would have been something quite different. In this Information Age, pop culture is everywhere and it’s not surprising many contemporary Indigenous artists engage with popular characters from film, television, video games, comic books, even corporate symbols and brand names. Through interacting with, reclaiming, and repurposing popular culture, Indigenous artists challenge a number of stereotypes and Hollywood tropes that have been set against Indigenous people and culture.read more…
Jocelyn states that “for this show, I really just wanted to create a sense of fun and bring in lots of colour. The theme is pop art – and for Indigenous artists, this theme isn’t quite so new as one might think.”
Both shows open on Saturday, August 13 and their will be Gallery Crawl with a FREE Shuttle bus provided. The bus will leave SAW Gallery after the 3 pm screening (OKA Legacy) wraps up. The bus will leave Gallery 101 to head back to SAW after the opening of Geronimo’s show that also includes a FREE BBQ. Neon NDN‘s vernissage will begin at 7:30 pm. Stay for the Music Night that will start at 9 pm.
From the Opening Night at Victoria Island to the closing party at Kinki Lounge (41 York St. in the Byward Market) you can find the best in contemporary Indigenous film, media and visual arts at multiple venues across the city from Wednesday, August 10 to Sunday, August 14, 2016.
“Like Gravel’s previous works, Usually Beauty Fails was created in close collaboration with the dancers and musicians of Grouped’ArtGravelArtGroup. In this surrealist and unbridled metaphor on our relation to beauty, Gravel creates an intensely physical exploration of everyday movement. The dancer’s combinations of physical restraint and furious motion collide with their charming sweetness and casual bravado to produce an invigorating work that challenges our perspectives on dance, beauty and society itself.”
Esmeralda Enrique will perform as part of Saturday’s Older & Reckless
Tomorrow night the Festival closes with Older & Reckless at the Arts Court Theatre.
“Making its Canada Dance Festival debut, Older & Reckless is an acclaimed dance series gaining notoriety for its celebration of mature dance artists and their tenacious life-long pursuit of physical expression. Appealing not only to a senior audience, but to all generations, Older & Reckless shines a light on those Canadian dance artists who have dared to approach mastery in their art form.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau begins Pride Month by raising the Flag on Parliament Hill
Yesterday marked the first time the Pride Flag was raised on a Parliament Hill. A large crowd gathered on the greens for the 3:15 Flag Raising that included an address from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. As one speaker said “inclusion is the hallmark of our values.” The moment symbolized that “now matter who you are you are valued and loved.”
The weather was one of those gorgeous sunny days where clouds rolled across a big sky. What I love about Ottawa are the views from the Hill as you look out across the river – the expansive horizons that make you believe that everything is possible. It felt good to be there not to protest but to celebrate. A new day!