Canadian Art - - Reviews -

Treaties are a con­tentious topic. Talk­ing Treaties, a par­tic­i­pa­tory per­for­mance project made by Ange Loft, to­gether with Jum­blies Theatre, the Nag­amo Col­lec­tive and First Story Toronto, takes on the sub­ject through an em­bod­ied and col­lab­o­ra­tive process, us­ing in­ter­views, au­dio re­sponses and sym­bolic ref­er­ences to con­nect the dots. Loft de­scribes it as a “hu­mon­gous in­stal­la­tion that moves the way a giant pup­pet show would, with prom­e­nade-style stag­ing.” “This project is an ex­per­i­ment in get­ting peo­ple to talk about treaty with­out hav­ing to have all the words,” says Loft, who works along­side com­mu­ni­ties in her non-stan­dard theatre-mak­ing prac­tice.

Talk­ing Treaties uses au­dio in­ter­views as a base to get peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate in quick-cre­ation per­for­mance work­shops. To pre­pare these in­ter­views, the team worked with First Story Toronto, an Aboriginal or­ga­ni­za­tion and app. They in­ter­viewed seven (mostly In­dige­nous) artists and aca­demics about over­ar­ch­ing themes in treaty and their un­der­stand­ing of such themes. Au­dio artists—in­clud­ing Alaska B, Adri­enne Mar­cus Raja and the band Lal—went through the col­lected in­ter­views to make four five-minute­long au­dio gal­leries. Loft then col­lected a sec­ond set of in­ter­views with for­mer Toronto mayor David Miller and the Mis­sis­saugas of the New Credit, who were in­volved in a 2010 land-claims set­tle­ment.

Loft says that a treaty can be a “pre-con­tact ver­bal agree­ment with some sort of mnemonic de­vice” or, “think­ing of the Treaty of Ni­a­gara and the Royal Procla­ma­tion, it can be an at­tempt by an English gen­eral to bring some In­dige­nous prac­tice into shar­ing a procla­ma­tion from the Crown.” She ex­plains, “We’re spin­ning some­thing from English lan­guage into sym­bols, with the un­der­stand­ing that we have to come back to pol­ish this chain.”

The four au­dio pieces have been tour­ing aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions. “Ev­ery word and im­age we get back in re­sponse to these au­dio pieces,” says Loft, “be­come ac­tive parts in the con­tin­u­a­tion of process. We string to­gether nar­ra­tives from in­ter­view au­dio and those feed into the scripts for the next group.”

This it­er­a­tive re­search feeds into the many the­atri­cal work­shops, which, in turn, will cul­mi­nate in a mas­sive spec­ta­cle—with live per­form­ers and pup­pets—set to premiere at His­toric Fort York in late June. Loft ad­mits that it took more than three years be­fore she her­self was com­fort­able voic­ing some of the project’s short nar­ra­tives. Of her aims for Talk­ing Treaties she says, “I am not help­ing peo­ple be lit­er­ate in

treaty. What I am do­ing is pro­vid­ing them an­other plat­form for speak­ing about these things. We are edg­ing peo­ple in through soft-re­sponse ac­tiv­i­ties, us­ing lit­tle ways to start from your own po­si­tion, not from as­sum­ing some­one else’s po­si­tion, then work­ing out from there to ad­dress un­com­fort­able is­sues.” —MOE CLARK

Au­dio gallery at Ge­orge Brown Col­lege as part of Ange Loft’s Talk­ing Treaties, 2015 COUR­TESY JUM­BLIES THEATRE PHOTO LIAM COO

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