New Land­marks

Scott Be­n­e­si­inaa­ban­dan trans­forms colo­nial mon­u­ments into con­tem­po­rary art

The Walrus - - CON­TENTS - by Amy van den Berg

New Land­marks Scott Be­n­e­si­inaa­ban­dan trans­forms colo­nial mon­u­ments into con­tem­po­rary art

In the cen­tre of Mon­treal’s Place d’armes Square stands a mon­u­ment to the city’s founder, Paul de Chomedey de Maison­neuve. Be­neath him sit four fig­ures that are meant to rep­re­sent the his­tor­i­cal roots of the city: three named Eu­ro­peans and a name­less Iro­quois man. In an im­age near the base of the statue, Maison­neuve is de­picted point­ing a pis­tol at an­other Iro­quois man wear­ing a head­dress. Anishi­naabe artist Scott Be­n­e­si­inaa­ban­dan has of­ten walked past this me­mo­rial and oth­ers in the his­toric dis­trict of Old Mon­treal. The stat­ues tend to com­mem­o­rate mil­i­tary bat­tles and cel­e­brate colo­nial lead­ers for con­quer­ing In­dige­nous peo­ples. Like so many other his­tor­i­cal mon­u­ments across the coun­try, they are re­minders that Canada’s of­fi­cial his­to­ries con­tinue to glo­rify its colo­nial past. “They stay up there, and af­ter a few months of walk­ing by, you no longer no­tice,” Be­n­e­si­inaa­ban­dan says. “Once these his­to­ries be­come psy­cho­log­i­cal back­ground noise, they be­come more dan­ger­ous.” Be­n­e­si­inaa­ban­dan, who grew up in Win­nipeg and Sault Ste. Marie, On­tario, came to Mon­treal for a year- long

res­i­dency through Abo­rig­i­nal Ter­ri­to­ries in Cy­berspace at Con­cor­dia Uni­ver­sity, where he is now work­ing on a mas­ter’s de­gree in fine arts. One of his re­cent projects, mon­u­men­talisms, con­fronts the in­flu­ence of colo­nial mon­u­ments. Be­n­e­si­inaa­ban­dan cre­ated 3D-printed sculp­tures, dig­i­tal prints, and a vir­tual-re­al­ity in­stal­la­tion us­ing more than 600 pho­to­graphs of three mon­u­ment sites: Place d’armes Square, a statue of Jac­ques Cartier in Saint Henri Square, and a John Cabot statue in Cabot Square. The pho­tos were dis­torted and com­bined into ab­stract im­agery, al­ter­ing a viewer’s sense of re­al­ity. “It sort of cre­ates this sur­real reimag­ined land­scape, or a psy­chic land­scape, of what these mon­u­ments are ac­tu­ally hid­ing or im­pos­ing on us as we walk by ev­ery day,” he says. He used sim­i­lar meth­ods in new­lan­dia: de­baabam­i­naag­wad, an out­door in­stal­la­tion at Toronto’s Ry­er­son Uni­ver­sity. He pro­cessed over 100 im­ages of a statue of Eger­ton Ry­er­son, the uni­ver­sity’s name­sake, and four flags: the Mo­hawk Unity Flag and three oth­ers, rep­re­sent­ing the Anishin­abek Na­tion, the Mis­sis­saugas of the New Credit First Na­tion, and the Two Row Wam­pum treaty. For about a month this past spring, pedes­tri­ans walked over a dis­torted, mul­ti­coloured “shadow” of Ry­er­son, who was in­stru­men­tal in the de­vel­op­ment of the res­i­den­tial-school sys­tem. Ex­tend­ing from the base of the statue onto the road, the photo-vinyl im­print was grad­u­ally worn away by foot traf­fic and spring rains. And that was the point. By plac­ing the shadow in the di­rect path of passersby, they be­came “im­pli­cated within these his­to­ries,” which fade over time but may re­main hid­den in the sub­con­scious.

far left, left new­lan­dia: de­baabam­i­naag­wad, in­stal­la­tion view, 2018

above, op­po­site mon­u­men­talisms, de­tail view, 2017

Be­n­e­si­inaa­ban­dan in­stalled pat­terns on an­cient boul­ders just me­tres away from the statue of Eger­ton Ry­er­son.

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