JENEEN FREI NJOOTLI
A member of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation in the Yukon, Jeneen Frei Njootli is an interdisciplinary artist currently living in Vancouver. Her recent series of performances, installations and sculptures, LUX | MAM (2016–17), stem from being unable to pull-start a ski-doo with her aunt when she visited her Yukon home. Upon moving to Vancouver, Frei Njootli found that her physical strength, and the knowledge inherent in that strength gained from living on the land, waned as she spent more time with books by Gramsci and others. And so Frei Njootli activates composite exercise equipment—a beaded skipping rope in a Gwitchin mitt string pattern, exercise mats—to examine the hegemony of Western knowledge systems and the scholarly theorizing of labour. By using this equipment in front of an audience—and leaving behind ephemera—frei Njootli points to the fetishization of Indigenous labour and knowledge. Collaboration is also key. Her performance with Tsema Igharas (see pages 77 and 86) explores the relationship between Indigenous communities and industry through the motif of the braid. Frei Njootli and Igharas braid their hair together with strands of rope and neon flagging tape, creating two umbilical cord–like jump ropes that speak to the inoculating influence of kinship against resource extraction in Indigenous communities.
Jeneen Frei Njootli LUX | MAM I 2016 Red latex and caribou antler 25.4 x 55.9 x 2.5 cm COURTESY MACAULAY AND CO. FINE ART PHOTO BARB CHOIT