Points of Re­turn: A Con­ver­sa­tion with Kablu­siak and Jesse Tungi­lik

Inuit Art Quarterly - - CONTENTS - by Clay­ton Win­datt

In the sum­mer of 2018, the TD North South Artist Ex­change pro­vided two cus­tom res­i­dency op­por­tu­ni­ties for one artist liv­ing in South­ern Canada and another liv­ing in the North. In this in­ter­view, the re­cip­i­ents dis­cuss their re­spec­tive res­i­den­cies as well as shared re­turns to places and bod­ies of work.

Points of Re­turn: A Con­ver­sa­tion with Kablu­siak and Jesse Tungi­lik

CLAY­TON WIN­DATT: The first thing that I’d like to ask is since for each of you the TD North South Artist Ex­change was a re­turn—a re­turn home or a re­turn to a pre­vi­ous site of work—why did you choose to com­plete the res­i­dency in these spe­cific places? Why Inu­vik and why Banff?

KABLU­SIAK: I wanted to go to Inu­vik be­cause it was a place, a home, that I haven’t been back to in 20 years. I went up dur­ing the Great North­ern Arts Fes­ti­val [GNAF], so I was able to catch more peo­ple and be more in­volved in the art scene in Inu­vik while I was there.

JESSE TUNGI­LIK: I chose Banff be­cause the Banff Cen­tre had the creative spa­ces, stu­dio spa­ces and the spe­cial­ized equip­ment and tech­ni­cians that I needed and don’t usu­ally have ac­cess to and which I re­quired for the projects that I wanted to do. CW: Could you dis­cuss the par­tic­u­lar projects you each worked on? JT: I mainly fo­cused on con­tem­po­rary sculp­ture. I did a sec­ond com­pan­ion piece to my as­sem­blage Nu­nav­ice Flag (2013), which is a recre­ation of the Nu­navut flag us­ing found ob­jects. This time around I used choco­late bar wrap­pers, pop cases and chip bags for Pop, Chip, Kukuk (2018). I also worked on a se­ries where I 3D printed and bronze cast a fig­ure of an Inuk man and sus­pended him in clear resin in­side of a bot­tle. And I also did a lit­tle bit of ceramic work. I started my artis­tic prac­tice as a ceramic artist at the Match­box stu­dio in Kangiqliniq (Rankin In­let), NU, when I was a child. It was pretty fun to get back to some fa­mil­iar work in ceramic and then try some new things with the 3D printer and bronze cast­ing. Over­all, I had a re­ally fan­tas­tic time. K: While I was in Inu­vik, I made four new carv­ings for the se­ries Uyarak//Stone, and I was also able to con­tinue Un­ti­tled (That’s A-Mori), a photo se­ries of my­self in a ghost cos­tume. It was pretty straight­for­ward. It felt sat­is­fy­ing just to be able to add more to those two projects. CW: As both of you re­vis­ited your spe­cific bod­ies of work dur­ing the res­i­dency, what new things have you been able to ac­com­plish in a dif­fer­ent phys­i­cal place? And what do these res­i­den­cies mean for your prac­tices?

K: I think just be­ing in Inu­vik was re­ally im­por­tant be­cause of the time and the space to make the work. I don’t re­ally have those op­por­tu­ni­ties in Cal­gary, just with stu­dio rentals and the is­sues re­gard­ing air qual­ity that come with carv­ing. And then, with the pho­tos, the land­scape was re­ally im­por­tant for that se­ries in this it­er­a­tion of it.

JT: Well, like I men­tioned ear­lier, the Banff Cen­tre has re­ally ex­cel­lent artist stu­dios that just don’t re­ally ex­ist here in Nu­navut. It’s re­ally a big prob­lem for artists that do not have the proper space to work in or the re­quired spe­cial­ized tools and im­ple­ments, so be­ing able to take ad­van­tage of all that was pretty amaz­ing for me, and re­ally makes me wish we had ac­cess to that lo­cally. It re­ally helped me bring my artis­tic prac­tice to the next level.

It was a re­ally big deal to have ac­cess to 12 labs. As well, the lo­ca­tion of the Banff Cen­tre is pretty spe­cial. It’s in a kind of bub­ble of its own. Be­ing able to focus solely on the work was so use­ful to be­ing able to get it done. Plus, Banff is beau­ti­ful, so it was pretty ideal.

K: I think the sup­port, not only from the folks who helped out when I was in Inu­vik, but even from the Cana­dian Art Foun­da­tion and the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee for the res­i­dency, that sup­port to cre­ate is re­ally help­ful to be­ing able to con­tinue your prac­tice. 1

It was hard for me af­ter ACAD [Al­berta Col­lege of Art and De­sign] to find the time and space where you’re not ex­hausted from work­ing your jobs and try­ing to ex­ist as a per­son as well as an artist. I think mostly the time and the space was re­ally ben­e­fi­cial. CW: How did see­ing or en­gag­ing with other artists dur­ing the Great North­ern Arts Fes­ti­val and with those com­plet­ing other res­i­den­cies at the Banff Cen­tre af­fect you? K: It was kind of funny work­ing at the carv­ing tent area at the GNAF, as it was mostly folks from one fam­ily. I be­lieve they were from Tuk­toy­ak­tuk, NT. Most of their carv­ings were tra­di­tional carv­ings you would see in any shop that sold Inuit art. There were re­ally beau­ti­ful carv­ings of bears and wolves and other north­ern an­i­mals. They saw what I was work­ing on—at that point, I was mak­ing the Lis­ter­ine bot­tle—and they would be like, “Oh, what are you work­ing on?” Then they would just start laugh­ing when they re­al­ized what that shape was. It was jar­ring for ev­ery­body to be like, “Wow, this per­son is mak­ing such dif­fer­ent art­work.” Even though they were gig­gling at my Lis­ter­ine bot­tle, they were all re­ally sup­port­ive— lend­ing me tools, help­ing me get set up with ev­ery­thing and find­ing me a space. I think it was more of a DIY-type sit­u­a­tion.

JT: The at­mos­phere at the Banff Cen­tre is al­ways so busy. There’s such a large num­ber of peo­ple com­ing and go­ing from so many dif­fer­ent back­grounds. Dur­ing my res­i­dency, there was also a co­hort of Out­door School res­i­dents that I spoke to. The artists there were from all over the world and work­ing in all sorts of dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines. It made for a re­ally cool, creative at­mos­phere, where ev­ery­one was just kind of hang­ing out and try­ing out new things with each other, which was pretty neat. I wanted to focus on very con­tem­po­rary things and play around with new ma­te­ri­als and tech­niques. That was great. CW: How do you think the res­i­dency im­pacted your work, par­tic­u­larly con­cern­ing the skills you de­vel­oped through the res­i­dency? K: Skills-wise, just be­ing able to do more carv­ing. Def­i­nitely, the more you do some­thing, the bet­ter you get at it. That was a good time to hone my carv­ing skills. The way it has im­pacted my prac­tice? I think just be­ing in Inu­vik made me think about the way I’ve been fram­ing my work for the past cou­ple years or so. I usu­ally frame it as a loss or di­as­poric feel­ing of be­ing in cul­tural limbo. I’m think­ing that post-Inu­vik, I owe it to my­self, and my prac­tice, to frame things in a dif­fer­ent way. More of a re­claim­ing of some­thing, rather than a loss of some­thing.

JT: In terms of new skills, I’d never done any 3D print­ing or bronze cast­ing be­fore, so that was new ter­ri­tory for me. Both of those are things that I’ve been want­ing to try for quite a long time but haven’t had the op­por­tu­nity to here in Nu­navut, so that im­pacted the work that I was able to do. Mov­ing for­ward, I’d like to con­tinue to make a con­tem­po­rary and con­tex­tual sculp­ture us­ing a num­ber of dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als. It was re­ally im­por­tant for the devel­op­ment of my work and my artis­tic ca­reer. CW: What would you like to say di­rectly to Inuit artists about why they should pur­sue res­i­dency op­por­tu­ni­ties? JT: I think res­i­den­cies are re­ally im­por­tant for Inuit artists who want to bring their artis­tic prac­tices to the next level and just be able to try new things and cre­ate a good net­work with other artists.

I’ve of­ten felt pres­sured by how of­ten and eas­ily Inuit art gets pi­geon­holed by peo­ple. I don’t re­ally agree with that. I think more artists, in my opin­ion, need to be go­ing out there and push­ing the bound­aries of what art is. I think res­i­den­cies are im­por­tant for that.

K: I feel ex­actly the same way. I think it’s good for not only the artist, who’s hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to work on their prac­tice and build those con­nec­tions, but also for the peo­ple host­ing the res­i­den­cies. Also, I don’t know if this is go­ing to sound harsh or what­ever, but I feel like it makes them look good to have Inuit present, be­cause I feel like our pres­ence is not nec­es­sar­ily as wide­spread.

CW: Well, that’s def­i­nitely some­thing that I think a lot of peo­ple think about. I’ve been asked a lot, lately, about what a de­col­o­nized ex­hi­bi­tion space or art space looks like. And I’ve been re­ally in­ter­ested

LEFT In­stal­la­tion view of work by Jesse Tungi­lik dur­ing Open Stu­dios at the Banff Cen­tre, Au­gust 2018 PHOTO TABITHA RHYASON

BE­LOWJesse Tungi­lik dis­cussing work with artist Nicole Kelly West­man and Stride Gallery Di­rec­tor Areum Kim, 2018 PHOTO JES­SICA WITTMAN

RIGHTLis­ter­ine (from the se­ries Uyarak//Stone)2018Steatite and tung oil 17.8 × 8.9 × 4.5 cm

—BE­LOW Buttplug (from the se­ries Uyarak//Stone)2018Steatite and tung oil 12.1 × 5.7 cm

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