OBORO GALLERY, MONTREAL
Recent exhibitions, books, films and more
Skawennati, a Kanien’kehá:ka new-media artist, is transforming the definition of modern Indigenous artwork. In She Falls for Ages (2017), part of her recent exhibition “Tomorrow People,” she retells a Haudenosaunee creation story through a sci-fi, feminist lens, using the online virtual world Second Life as her medium. The creation story belongs to the beginning of time, but Skawennati’s version incorporates a futuristic aesthetic, using sleek graphics and vibrant colours. The storyline integrates notions of community as well as humour, both very important aspects of Indigenous culture. Skawennati modernizes ancient mythologies in a way that is accessible, educational and visually pleasing.
In the video work Words Before All Else Part 1 (2017), positioned at the beginning of the exhibition to welcome visitors, an avatar recites a Haudenosaunee prayer. It acts as an acknowledgement of the natural world we possess, and is spoken in English, French and Kanien’kéha. Lining the walls are stills from
She Falls for Ages, as well as images of an avatar that Skawennati created of herself. She dismantles the stereotypes of Indigenous portrayal by presenting herself in modern attire while capturing elements of traditional garb. In one image, she has on a futuristic ribbon shirt. In another, she wears a headset and has a smartphone in hand, demonstrating her focus on technology while deconstructing preconceived notions of traditional Indigenous culture. Generations of Play (2017) displays three Skawennati avatar dolls made of different materials: corn husk, a Barbie doll and a 3-D printed figurine. This new-media piece is a commentary on past, present and future notions of self-representation and Indigeneity.
“Tomorrow People” introduces a year of Indigenous programming at Oboro for Montreal’s 375th-anniversary and Canada’s 150th-anniversary celebrations. It dismantles conventional views on contemporary Indigenous art, challenges colonial myths and creates a new narrative for our evolving culture. The exhibition proves that we are not the people of the past but, in fact, the people of the future. We are “Tomorrow People.” —ADRIENNE HUARD
Skawennati Celestial Tree (from the series She Falls for Ages) 2017 Machinimagraph ink-jet print 1.18 x 1.18 m BOTH COURTESY ELLEPHANT
OPPOSITE: Skawennati Falling, Asleep (from the series She Falls for Ages) 2017 Machinimagraph ink-jet print 85.7 cm x 1.52 m