Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Chart continues

Here is the updated chart. Not too much has changed, but we have met new people and added them. When making the chart Jessie and I had to decide on some parameters, if you're curious about your place in the universe here is what we decided. We are limiting the chart to people that we have "met" at Close Encounters. We are defining "met" as some exchange of names and conversation. I have generally connected people to Jessie and myself by who introduced us. Some people we already knew and some we took the bold gesture of introducing ourselves to. Originally we wanted Jimmie Durham to be at the centre because of his sculpture titled Pole to Mark the Centre of the World (at Winnipeg), inspite of the fact that he is not physically present.


Charting the course

Last night we attended the dinner for artists and participants of Close Encounters at Urban Shaman. Rosalie Favell was taking portraits of Aboriginal artists at the dinner for her Facing the Camera series. I had previously seen a handful of these photos last year in a hallway at The Banff Centre. I wandered into the room where she was taking the portraits to ask her a bit about them. Rosalie told me she was attempting to make a collection of 100 Aboriginal artists, in order to document the community. She asked if I would like to have my picture taken and I agreed. I noticed, when signing the release form that the stated intent of her goal in this work is to document this small, but growing, community. It was then that I realized how Rosalie's had informed my own desire to document an integral part of the same group of people while in Winnipeg. On my part, this was the impetus for creating the chart, a sort of "people map" with Vanessa. I want to take note of the important work that Rosalie is doing, on a much larger scale, of creating this record.


Panel discussions at the WAG: Close Encounters of the Sculptural Kind.

The day started with two panel discussions at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG). The panelists in the first discussion, moderated by Candice Hopkins, were Mary-Anne Barkhouse, Nadia Myre and Faye HeavyShield. It was a well curated event. Each artist's practice was very unique and their talks flowed neatly from one person to the next. The audience seemed equally inspired by the presenters and the curator's insightful questions.

We took a break for lunch after the discussion, and many people headed to the Paddle House Restaurant, a quasi-mythical Winnipeg eatery on the top floor of the Hudson's Bay Company. Here Vanessa and I discovered yet another reason for disliking HBC .

After lunch, we returned to the WAG for the second session. A discussion between Rebecca Belmore and Lee-Ann Martin gave a brief retrospective of Rebecca's work. The talk, Lee-Ann noted, had been unofficially titled "out in the cold" by the pair. It was equally well-attended and the audience responded with a myriad of questions regarding Rebecca's work.

For reasons beyond our control, the sole camera we had between the two of us has decided not to work. I (Jessie) did some drawings to provide a visual record of the event. I (Jessie) would like to think that these are somewhat inspired by the Ledger drawings that many artists have referenced, although I cannot help but notice a similarity to Canadian court room drawings. This was not intentional.

"I'm not really interested in people's stories. I'm interested in transformation."

I picked out this Quote from Nadia Myre because I thought it was one of the most pognant things she said in her talk. At First it seems a little funny and out of place considering that two of Myre’s larger projects, The Scar Project and TheForgiveness Project (Pardoner Moi) are both based around people telling personal narratives. However I think it makes perfect sense. Personal stories can be interesting and reveling, they can move the reader; they are a window into another person. But I believe that we can never really know, never really understand other peoples experiences. Sharing is grate but one person can only understand someone else story from there own perspective. They will never really know it. The work is not about story it’s about what happens to us when we tell a story.

"My materials are the boss. I'm not the boss."

I think that everyone can relate to this comment, we are constantly
bested by the materials in our lives. Whether you’re slicing bred and
can only get your slices so thin (and in wedges), or you’re waiting
for your car windshield to defrost in the cold, our material

environment dictates our actions. However, I think many artist work
against their materials manipulating them with their hands and tools
they become the boss, letting their desires lead the process and the
forum of the work follow. In her talk HeavyShield spoke of both the
paper and the river as a material that dictated the forum of her
commissioned work Silvers 2010. Her statement I am not the boss, is
revealing of her artistic process.

"How do we co-exist with the beavers?"

In Marry-Ann Barkhouse’s work the viewer encounters a world of animals. Beavers, horses and donkeys are the main players. Barkhouse represents the contrary by having the people curiously absent from her installations. The viewer questions, where do I fit into this world of
animals? In her work The Four Horses of the Apocalypse and the Donkey of Eternal Salvation (2008), which is on display at 109 Pacific Ave, viewers negotiate the space between, around, and on four coin operated toy horses and a toy donkey. For only a quarter you can ride one of
the horses. I could not help but want to be part of their world where smoothly painted surfaces and silk banners are irresistible. I took an exhilarating ride on Pestilence learning that the more one pulls on the rains the faster she runs.

*all drawings by Jessie Short, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

Blogging in the unknown: Scott Benesiinaabandan’s unSacred and the Windigokaan at Gallery 1C03, University of Winnipeg

Jessie: I’ve always been nervous about revealing myself to other people. That’s part of the reason why I dropped out of art school. I wasn’t comfortable with being critiqued, especially when it came to my work. It felt too personal, too close to home. It has taken me a long time to feel comfortable showing my work to others. Learning that this blog is actually being forwarded around the Aboriginal arts group, and read (?) is both exciting and terrifying.

Vanessa: Being engaged and having an exchange with your group or community is scary. One of the reasons is, for me the fear of being judged. But when I’m nervous about doing something, I like to know that there are people who are going to be looking for it. I feel like I have a sense of responsibility towards them, and my work will be better. Also, I know when I’m scared or nervous, it’s probably because I’m about to learn something.

Jessie: Yes. It’s like the Windigokaan, it is the unknown, which is the thing that scares many people the most. I don’t just want to repeat what I’ve seen and heard here. I want to show an engagement with the work, but there is the fear of people disagreeing with what I have said.

Vanessa: I only want to speak about what I know. The artists, curators and viewer in the exhibitions have their knowledge and perspectives. But people will always disagree.

Jessie: I feel that this relates back to Scott Benesiinaabandan’s exhibition, but I can’t quite articulate it.

Vanessa: It is related. As Scott explained in his talk today, the image (un)sacred clown (2010) is a mirror. You’ll see in it your fear, what scares you. In that way, it’s a reflection of yourself and everyone sees something different.

Jessie: My view of this image is of a solitary figure. It’s the focus of everyone’s attention, it is exposed.

Vanessa: The figure looks very confined. It has this mask that it looks like it can See, but can’t Speak.

Jessie: You know, I realize that when I’m scared of something, it’s never as bad as I expect it to be. The Windigokaan challenges us to move beyond those fears, those self-imposed limitations.

Vanessa: It’s not just about fear.

Jessie: It breaks us out of patterns.

Vanessa: The contrary is a way of making us more aware. By considering the contrary, it helps us think about other possible ways of being.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

First Encounter

We had a nice cold day in Winnipeg. We attended the Opening Reception of “unSacred” by Scott Benesiinaabandan at Gallery 1C03 and “The Forgiveness Project (Pardoner Moi)” by Nadia Myre at La Maison Des Artistes Visuels Francophones, as well as Rosalie Favell’s Curatorial Lecture about “Acting Up! Performing the Indian”. All these events were fabulous.
We met so many people that our heads were spinning. The following is a brief attempt to map out the connections between ourselves and the other people involved in Contemporary Indigenous art that we met, at these events. As artists and curators, we wanted to create a visual representation of our colleagues. The connections within and between our Aboriginal communities are reflective of those we have within this tight-knit arts community. The Chart is a work in progress, as are our growing relationships within this community.