Transcendence Space in Dana Claxton: Made To Be Ready Exhibition


Claxton was born in Yorkton Saskatchewan and comes from the Lakota Heritage- Wood Mountain reserve. Most of her practice works in film, video, photography, and single multi channel video installation and performance art. Claxton investigates beauty, the body, the socio-political and the spiritual. She is well known as her works have been shown internationally. Claxton currently lives and works in Vancouver, where she is an Associate Professor in the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory at the University of British Columbia.

Made To Be Ready

The exhibition composes a total of four works that includes photographs and a video work focusing on indigenous womanhood and sovereignty. The subject of these pieces includes indigenous women “[captivating] the life force of Lakota cultural belongings that are actively used in domestic work, warfare, social space, ritual and the ritual.”

Prior to entering the gallery space, I was huddled amongst other visitors at the foyer of the building where the opening reception was held. The reception began as the curator, Amy Kazymerchyk, introduced and welcomed visitors. Next, Claxton spoke but before she briefly explained the exhibition and expressed her thanks, she first acknowledged that we were on unceded territory of the Coast-Salish people. After the opening remarks, viewers entered the gallery space.

Inside the gallery space, the lights were turned down low as the only lights visible were from the displayed works.

‘Uplifting’ is a digital video that stretches across the one whole wall in the gallery space. It is a silent piece. The video contains one light source coming from the right side diminishing towards the opposite side, creating an even line of light. The other spaces are dark making it hard to determine where the surfaces start and end. It was interesting to where this particular piece was placed within the gallery, as visitors too would enter from the right side of the gallery where the main light source space was lit.

An Indigenous woman enters the scene from the right slowly crawling towards the left wearing a bright red jumpsuit. She crawls slowly in a pattern, one hand in front of the other and one knee at a time. As she reaches the opposite side, she gradually stands on her feet while struggling to pull out something from her jumpsuit. What is eventually revealed is a cultural belonging of hers. The regalia what is known to be a necklace, hangs around her neck as it has long beads. Shortly after she stands, she quickly disappears and the video restarts.

Cultural Belongings 96 x 72 inches, LED light box

An Indigenous woman makes way to lit light with a wooden rattle. There seems to be a division or a clashing as she wears traditional regalia, like the intricate headpiece with assortment of beading and the cape but, also wears modernized fashion pieces like high heals and a beige cocktail dress. Behind her, there is a trail of cultural belongings scattered on the ground. It is hard to tell if she is leaving these belongings behind or if she is hauling them with her.

Headdress 32 x 48 inches, LED light box

The image is of the same woman from ‘Cultural Belongings’ wearing her headdress. Her face is not visible as the colourful beads cover her face. The main focus is on details of the intricate assortment of beading. Personally, I saw this image of a self- portrait of the woman, the regalia, and or her Indigeneity.

The placement of  both ‘Cultural Belongings’ and ‘Headdress’ are hung across from one another. This display works well as it creates a sense of dialogue between the woman and the regalia.

Buffalo woman 1 and 2, 108 x 42 inches, ink on silk windbox

Two 108 x 42 inches of silk hang from the ceiling as a woman is imprinted on both of them. The same woman wears a blue dress but posses differently in the two images. In one posture she holds what is believed to be a skull of buffalo close to her as her eyes are closed. The other is her holding the skull up high as she looks up into the distance. It is hard to determine which position comes first as the artwork moves depending on where the viewer observes it from.

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