Re­views

OBORO GALLERY, MON­TREAL

Canadian Art - - Contents -

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

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