Lalakenis All Directions Feast

On the 15th of January I had the honour of attending the Lalakenis All Directions Feast, hosted by Beau Dick at the AMS Nest. In addition to my involvement as a witness, I had been asked to involve myself as an organizer, participated in the Pipe Ceremony, and last minute danced a mask (Bakwus).

Beau Dick or Walas Gway’um is a hereditary chief, artist, carver, and teacher of the Kwakwaka’wakw people specifically from Alert Bay. Beau hosted this feast to serve many purposes; as a call to action to all peoples of North, Central, and South America to acknowledge violence perpetrated by the government to Indigenous peoples (and to begin to undo the hurts caused by this violence), as a means of sharing spiritual and physical wealth, to honour and open the way for the Lalakenis All Directions exhibition that was to open the next day at the Belkin Art Gallery, and to provide a spotlight for those in the community doing art and engaging in activism to share with us all.

Because the event lasted an entire day, it would be an absurd undertaking for me to try to describe it all here. The particular events that I will elaborate on in brief here are the sharing of a smallpox song by Lorne, Jeneen Frei-Njootli’s performance piece, and the Pipe Ceremony.

Lorne (from Montana, I do not know his full name or nation), early in the event shared a smallpox song and detailed how it came to him. He described a time in his tribe’s history when smallpox was ravaging the community. He said that one family afflicted with the disease cloistered themselves away in a cave to prevent the smallpox from spreading to others. He said that their voices found him, passed along the song, and asked that he not forget about them.

Tearfully, he shared the song with us. I think it’s safe to say that no one in the room was left with dry eyes. I could help but link this performance to Yvette Nolan’s notions of survivance and remembrance. Lorne strongly acknowledged his love, connection, and gratitude to his ancestors, and in that moment we were all able to share in that gratitude and connection. The tremendous love between they and him filled the room and asserted the intentionality and radical decolonial love underlining Indigenous survival and thriving.

The Pipe Ceremony, which happened earlier in the event, was hosted by Gyaauustees, the pipe keeper and carver, to provide the opportunity for Beau’s grandson, Gavin, to receive a pipe. The ceremony was also an opportunity for many of us who had been through trauma or who had lost loved ones recently to receive support and healing.

I myself had lost my grandmother a few weeks prior to the event and entered into the ceremony with a heavy heart. It was transformative, and deeply moving to have been able to be a part of Gavin’s entrance into his community as a man, in a sense, imbued with new spiritual purpose and responsibility, bestowed upon him by his elder’s deep love for him.

Finally, Jeneen Frei-Njootli performed a unique piece by playing a caribou antler manipulated with her hands and breath, and played percussively. The sounds the antler produced were reminiscent of the landscape that raised her- the Canadian north, traditional territory of her Gwi’chin people. I couldn’t help but think of the significance of the use of the caribou, an animal strongly connected to Gwi’chin spirituality, cultural expression, and material survival, and how perfectly it recreated the experience of its and her homeland.

I feel as though each of these acts was an act of love, forgiveness, an underscoring of Indigenous presence and thriving, and of course, acts of ceremony. Additionally, in Lorne’s song and in the Pipe Ceremony in a more private sense, there were elements of “poison exposed” referring to the release and exposure of negative or traumatic incidents for the purpose of lifted the weight of colonial trauma. This exposed poison was then soothed by the day’s ceremonies and the sharing of openness and love.

 

I would like to leave you all with the following question regarding this notion of poison exposed: Is there sense in exposing poison simply for the outcome of personal release, or must this exposure be paired with ceremony or structure in order to leave the individual exposing this poison in a better state than they began in?

Lalakenis Feast hosted by Beau Dick

On January 15, Beau Dick (Walas Gwa’yam) hosted the Lalakenis Feast in the AMS Great Hall at UBC. Beau is a Kwakwaka’wakw hereditary chief, a renowned artist, and cultural leader. The Lalakenis Feast was a celebration for the opening of Beau’s Lalakenis/ All Directions: A Journey of Truth and Unity exhibit that opened the following day at the Belkin Gallery. This exhibit is in response to and in conversation with Awalaskenis II: Journey of Truth and Unity, a journey that Beau and others took from UBC to Ottawa to enact a copper breaking ceremony. The Lalakenis Feast was a day-long event and had a long list of presenters and performers, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, from a diverse array of artistic traditions.

The Lalakenis Feast brought together a diverse community of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. It was a profound opportunity for relationship building and bridging understanding between all those that participated in the event. Beau’s vision of creating a space of unity resonated powerfully with the speakers, dancers, and singers that presented their work.

Chief Robert Joseph reflected upon the concept of relationship building as reflected in the Kwak’wala word “Namwayut”. He stressed that reconciliation requires more than dialogue, it requires repairing and strengthening relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. I think that artistic collaborations are an integral component of the broader process of reconciliation, as they epitomize the practice of relationship building. In the words of Anishinaabe artist Emilie Monet,

“Collaborations are entities of their own, that move and evolve as projects unfold and individuals transform. Artistic collaborations nourish inspire and help push boundaries further. They allow space for growth, for new knowledge to be acquired and for new friendships to be born. They can bring people together to collectively envision a different world.”

These endeavors are incredibly complex for they bring together a multitude of people from a diverse range of communities, families and backgrounds each with their own unique set of values, experiences, teachings, and worldviews. Accordingly, collaborations are quite difficult to accomplish as they require the individuals involved to overcome any personal barriers that they may have that inhibit the necessary compassion and understanding as well as the broader societal structures that divide communities to be addressed. In this way, collaboration is a decolonizing act, for the task of working collaboratively necessitates that the parties involved overcome the divisions that colonial violence has torn into our lives. The multiple realities that collaborators weave together have the power to create dialogue and hopefully bring meaningful change and understanding to all those who witness it. Collaborators weave together histories, erase boundaries, and ask witnesses to see connections that may not be obvious. For example, at Lalakenis, Beau and his brother, Gyauustees, worked side by side to host the event, even though they came from very different backgrounds. Gyauustees comes from a background of sundance and Beau comes from a background of potlatches.

My hands go up to Beau, his family, friends, and community that work tirelessly and generously with the utmost humility to host such events with the intention of creating unity among all people.

Negotiating Protocols Within vs without Indigenous Communities

The Lalakenis Feast, 15 January 2016

Before the Lalakenis Feast, I had heard some people refer to it as a potlatch. “Potlatch” is a chinook jargon word, which is used to describe a ceremony where gifts are given. Yet it means something very different depending on where you come from. A Kwakwaka’wakw potlatch follows a strict set of protocols. Every person who attends one must be aware of, and respect the protocol and usually the only people who may attend the potlatch are those who are invited, and most are from the Kwakwaka’wakw tribes. Songs and dances can only be sung and danced by the families who have the hereditary right to them, or whom have been granted permission to use them.

The Lalakenis Feast was not a potlatch and was never called one by the hosts. Yet, there were many elements of a potlatch in it. Initially I felt concern that some Kwakwaka’wakw protocols were being broken. For example, in Kwakwaka’wakw culture it is common for someone to pass on their Kwakwaka’wakw name to a baby, but this is done so with much deliberation and consideration, because the name that goes to that child is their responsibility. Yet at the feast many children were given names, without knowing the child. Another example is that on the tentative schedule that we were sent before the feast the “hamatsa dancers” were listed. This concerned me because the hamatsa ceremony happens during the Tseka ( or Cedarbark ceremony) part of the potlatch, this is considered a very spiritually charged part of the potlatch. This dance cannot be performed outside of the potlatch and should stay within the bighouse. However, the Hamatsa dancers were not part of the feast.

The event was in the AMS Student Nest not a bighouse. It was an open invitation event so many in attendance didn’t know Kwakwaka’wakw protocols. Moreover, Beau involved many other indigenous and non-indigenous ceremonies and presenters in the event. My initial concern about protocol is a result of growing up in a Kwakwaka’wakw community, and having these protocols instilled in me from a young age. Yet, when I moved passed my concern, I was very aware of the uplifting and healing nature of the event.

I moved to Vancouver from my small Kwakwaka’wakw community on northern Vancouver Island to study at UBC. In my two years here, It’s become apparent to me that there is a privileging of western knowledge over indigenous knowledge systems within the institution. Beau’s feast made space for our Kwakwaka’wakw knowledge systems as well as other indigenous ways of knowing. These ways of knowing value relationships, between each other and the natural world.

I think perhaps we need to consider that events that happen within our Indigenous communities for our communities specifically, will have a different set of protocols, or will negotiate protocols differently than an event that is for those from outside communities. So how do we negotiate this respectfully and without creating conflict?

For more information about the feast check out the presentation:

Lalakenis Group Presentation Slides

You can also read Eliana’s blog post on Beau Dick and the Lalakenis feast here:

Eliana’s Post

 

 

 

Rainbow Creek Dancers (Haida)

On January 17 2016, I attended a performance at the Vancouver Art Gallery. The performers were the Rainbow Creek Dancers (Haida), led by Robert Davidson. The group is named after a creek that runs behind Masset, Haida Gwaii and was founded 1980 by Robert and Reg Davidson. In addition to founding and leading the Rainbow Creek Dancers, Robert Davidson is a highly acclaimed visual artist who produces the dance group’s regalia and masks. His art has been exhibited in many public and private exhibitions and he became a master carver at an early age.

Before the performance began, Musqueam elder Debra Sparrow welcomed the performers and the audience to her territory and discussed. She briefly touched on the ancestral and historical connection to the Vancouver city space, and stated: “the city of glass was once a city of forest”.  

Following Sparrow’s words, one of the museum curators introduced Robert Davidson as a visual artist, detailing the collection of masks that reside in the Vancouver Art Gallery itself, that would be danced to life throughout the performance. After finishing her introduction the Rainbow Creek dancers entered and Robert Davidson made his introduction. He began by giving thanks to the Musqueam, and then proceeded to explain that the performance would be a fusion of both traditional and newly choreographed or altered traditional songs and dances. He then announced the healing song and contextualized it’s need – to heal the traumas of colonialism. Following this sombre performance the group went on to perform a series of dances, each introduced by Davidson. The context of the dance, what the dance was depicting, whether the song and choreography was new or had been passed down for generation, was all re-stated at the beginning of every number. As Dr. Dangeli pointed out in lecture, Davidson’s recurring introductions to performance pieces were not meant to be a translation but an oral history, a strategy to situate Haida culture in the past and present.

There were a few aspects of the Rainbow Creek Dancer’s performance that I especially took note of. Firstly, the majority of their dancers involved them depicting animals that had specific cultural significance and meaning. Secondly, every member of the dance group played a role in every single song. Whether that would be to hold a sheet of fabric to camouflage dancers, drumming, singing or dancing – the performance was the result of a collective effort and all members contributed to the final product. Another notable aspect of the performance was the large age range of the dance group, from elders to toddlers, a community formed on stage that truly emphasized kinship and teaching, or more specifically, the passing on of tradition.

Watching the Rainbow Creek Dancers I began to reconceptualize what it means to be ‘professional’. Though many interruptions (such as a child crying and running off stage) took place throughout the performance and a relaxed atmosphere was seemingly encouraged, the performance group was undoubtedly professional and were clearly extremely practiced and poised, able to share themselves and their culture with immense feeling and precision. Throughout the performance I began to understand how conceptions of professionalism are incredibly linked to victorian colonial standards and how the Rainbow Creek Dancers exemplify what decolonial professionalism can look like.    

“People might pay attention and hear our message”

While on this day we invoke our culture bringing forward a copper ritual, seldom seen outside of our homelands. We bring this copper from the great Pacific where it was washed and touched by people of the ocean and then in a journey across this land touched by elders and children, washed in the rivers and lakes, blessed in Sundance and ceremonies, carried by Powwow dancers, and touched again by the people of the land. It has been cleansed with smoke and brought here to be broken. This is our wealth of place, of culture and everything that is dear to us including life itself and all that the great nature provides. We name the copper Taaw in respect for the great life-giving oolichan oil, in contrast to the poison from the Oilsands. With this in mind we break this copper. We break it at the doorstep of the Government of Canada with a great sense of celebration. We break this copper not as a slight to Canada or an insult to Canadians who have shown us nothing but support and encouragement. In breaking this copper we confront the tyranny and oppression of a government who has forsaken human rights and turned its back on nature in the interests of the almighty dollar, and we act in accordance with our laws.” –Guujaaw, prayer from Parliament Hill quoted in the Lalakenis/All Directions: A Journey of Truth and Unity exhibition brochure, pg. 21

“Beau thinks that traditional indigenous culture is something we can all learn from as a way of being with, dealing with, and dialoging with nature that would lead us away from resource extraction and domination model.” –Scott Watson, quoted in the Vancouver Sun article “Lalakenis recounts indigenous journey that shamed the federal government”, published the 14 January 2016, http://blogs.vancouversun.com/2016/01/14/lalakenis-recounts-indigenous-journey-that-shamed-the-federal-government/

“Of course, being Beau Dick is an advantage sometimes! Being a well-known artist as well as Hereditary Chief meant that people might pay attention and hear our message.” -Beau Dick, Lalakenis/All Directions: A Journey of Truth and Unity exhibition brochure, pg. 8

Beau Dick/ Walas Gwy Um

Beau Dick (Walas Gwy Um) is a Kwakwaka’wakw Hereditary Chief and artist. He was born on Village Island, Kingcome Inlet, BC and raised speaking only Kwakwala. When he was six years old, Beau was relocated to Vancouver where he spent the rest of his childhood. Beau began carving at an early age under the tutelage of his father (Benjamin Dick) and his grandfather (James Dick). Beau later studied under the renowned artists Henry Hunt and Doug Cranmer. He now resides and works in Alert Bay, and is currently in his third year of residency at UBC.

Beau’s work is known for its power, emotion, originality, and creativity. He not only explores traditional Kwakwaka’wakw artistic styles, but he also incorporates a wealth of other Indigenous and Western practices and media. In 2012 Beau received the Jack and Doris Shadbolt Foundation’s VIVA Award for Visual Arts, and his work is exhibited in numerous museums and galleries around the world including the Canadian Museum of Civilization (Gatineau, QC), the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, and the Vancouver Art Gallery.

In 2013, Beau and an entourage comprising his daughters Linnea and Geraldine and other community members walked from Quatsino, BC down Vancouver Island to Victoria in order to break a copper (named Nunmgala) on the steps of Parliament. In 2014 they magnified their previous journey and travelled cross-country to break the copper Taaw, made by Haida carver and former president of the Haida Nation Giindajin Haawasti Guujaw, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. They thereby conducted traditional copper-breaking ceremonies, “marking a ruptured relationship in need of repair [in this case, between the government and the First Nations of Canada], and passing the burden of wrongs done to First Nations people from them to the Government of Canada” (Watson, Lalakenis/All Directions: A Journey of Truth and Unity exhibition brochure, pg. 3).

Now is an exciting time for First Nations of the Northwest Coast. Through media coverage and a new exhibition at the Belkin Art Gallery at UBC, Beau Dick’s journeys to Victoria and Ottawa are just now being published and spread in order to raise awareness about the vast range of injustices committed by Parliament to the Indigenous Peoples of Canada. As a part of this awareness-raising, Beau decided to host a public feast on the 15 January to honour the opening of Lalakenis/All Directions, the premiering of the Great Hall at the new UBC Student Nest, and the third year of his residency, and to spread a strong message about the current state of Canada and the necessity for change.

 

The Lalakenis Feast, 15 January 2016

I am trying to think of how to write a short blog post about a feast that lasted for at least 12 hours and that incorporated a plethora of presenters, speakers, ceremonies, dance and music, food, and community engagement, in addition to profound silence, tears, laughter, love, meditation, self-reflection, and a tremendous sense of communal support. Because there were so many individual elements of the feast that merit their own blog post, I will focus for now on the overarching message that the event sought to spread.

I was volunteering to help prepare food (“for 1000 people”, we were told two nights prior to the event), and I came out of the kitchen in the middle of the pipe ceremony conducted by Gyaaustees. Although my seat toward the back corner of the hall prohibited me from viewing what was happening within the circle of participants around the central altar (which displayed belongings that Beau and his entourage had taken with them to Ottawa, in addition to the coppers and other ceremonial items), I nevertheless felt the silence and the overbearing emotion of the participants. This testified to the pipe ceremony’s ability to heal individuals and to bring together communities through the sharing of both sacred tobacco (as Yvette Nolan discusses in Medicine Shows, pages 2 and 61) and profound communal experiences and understanding. The sense of community that was thus established served as a basis for the rest of the evening’s events as we welcomed guest speakers, dance groups, and music performances and enjoyed food and drink, a fashion show, photography, and the Grand Finale.

Some of my favourite portions of the event included the Fancy Dances performed by Rebecca and her family, during which one could observe how their regalia were designed to be danced. The Haida Procession was also fantastic with their dramatic entrance, their incredible masks and regalia, their animated movements embodying the characters of the masks, and the confidence, heavy footsteps, and powerful eye contact of each member of the group. The Grand Finale was enormous—with the amount of beautifully-crafted masks (more than $2 million worth, as Gyaaustees had informed me earlier in the evening), the number of participants who took part in embodying and displaying the masks to the witnesses, and the energy involved both within and leading up to this moment— and was well worth the wait until the end of the feast.

The range of speakers at the event included Jasmin Starrchild (who spoke emotionally about world peace), David Suzuki, guests from the Oceans and Fisheries Research Centre and Greenpeace promoting sustainable resource extraction practices, the curators of the Belkin Art Gallery, Chief Bob Joseph on his work as part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the planned TRC research centre, and Dr. Mique’l Dangeli. As one of the last speakers, Dr. Dangeli stated that when she first saw the feast’s proposed schedule, she could not see the through line between the different elements and topics covered by the presenters and performers. However, now that the event was drawing to a close, we all understood the message implied in the links between the artists, dancers and musicians, lawyers, activists, and leaders in environmental science and policy. Dr. Suzuki seemed to have summed it up well when he stated that the lifestyles that settler colonialism has attempted to eradicate are actually those that we must assume for the sake of sustaining our planet and supporting ourselves. Yet every speaker, performer, dancer, artist, helper, participant, and witness contributed to the grand message of the evening, reinforced by the ongoing support of the community and finally heard (judging by the amount of witnesses in attendance at the feast) by the wider public: We must stop the mass exploitation of the earth’s resources and the abuse of Indigenous peoples!

Transcendence Space in Dana Claxton: Made To Be Ready Exhibition

Claxton

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.

Dana Claxton: Performing with ‘Indigenous Motion’

A bit about Dana Claxton from her opening of Made To Be Ready:

Dana Claxton is a Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux performance artist, photographer, and filmmaker from the Wood Mountain reserve in Southwest Saskatchewan. Through her practice which she situates within a contemporary art framework, she critiques the representation of Indigenous people within Western anthropology, art, and entertainment. In particular, she is interested in exploring notions of Indigenous womanhood, beauty, and sovereignty. During her remarks at the opening of her exhibition Made To Be Ready at SFU Audain Gallery, she acknowledged the Coast Salish peoples for having shared their knowledge of the land with her and for the welcoming she has received from them to have pursued her practice here for over 30 years. She thanked the woman who has been working with her for over 25 years as the performer who often appears in her film and photographic work, as well as curator Amy Kazymerchyk for working closely alongside her with this exhibition.

read her exhibition statement here

Uplifting, 2015, digital video

Photo from CBC review: http://www.cbc.ca/beta/arts/dana-claxton-wants-to-change-the-way-you-think-about-indigenous-women-1.3403600
Uplifting, 2015, Photo from CBC review: http://www.cbc.ca/beta/arts/dana-claxton-wants-to-change-the-way-you-think-about-indigenous-women-1.3403600

In particular, I discussed my experience of her film performance Uplifting, which I found to have had quite a resonating effect for me through the motions made by the Indigenous woman performing in it. The film was set up next to the entrance of the gallery and featured a spotlight cutting across the screen horizontally in the center. A woman dressed in a red jumpsuit appeared from the left side, slowly crawling in on her hands and knees. She moved in a pattern of putting her left hand down, then pulling her right knee forward, lifting up her right hand and placing it down on the ground, followed by her left leg dragging in from behind. The whole time she moved, she appeared to be struggling and in pain, but she seemed empowered by a determination to keep going despite her weakness. Her movement can be related to Karyn Recollet’s notion of the ‘in between spaces’ and ‘Indigenous Motion’ that she describes in our readings “For Sisters” and “Dancing ‘Between the Break Beats’: Contemporary Indigenous Thought and Cultural Expression Through Hip-Hop”, of which she states as spaces that are “linked to an impulse that forms the base of all movement and creation” as a way to release the weight of colonialism felt within one’s body (420). The slow pauses of the woman picking her body back up into motion between her sudden dropping of hands and legs back onto the ground as she completes each step seems to illustrate this idea.

As the woman reached the end of the right side of the screen, she collapsed down from her hand and knees onto her stomach, rolling over on her side into a fetal position. She turned over onto her back, breathing heavily, and started tugging at the red jumpsuit material on her chest. Her pulling of the fabric became more aggressive, acting as a moment of climax within the performance, until she suddenly was able to use this force to sit right up into a V-shape position with her legs pointing outwards. She paused to catch her breath, and then slowly starts pulling out a cultural belonging that appeared to be a neck piece of a fringed pouch out of her chest. She slowly rolled up to stand with the neck piece, until she became grounded in her stance as she raised it above her head. This journey the woman undertook and her moment of overcoming her struggle seems to further illustrate Recollet’s explanation of ‘Indigenous motion’, which she views as the idea that there are portals into other worlds where one can connect with to undergo a transformation of self-identity (418).

 

Dirt Worshipper, 2015

Dirt Worshipper, 2015, Photo: Rebecca Ou
Dirt Worshipper, 2015, Photo: Rebecca Ou

As another performance example of Claxton’s work apart from her Made To Be Ready exhibition, I introduced Dirt Worshipper, a live performance I got to see at the Slippery Terms faculty exhibition held at the AHVA Gallery on campus last September 2015. In this work, Claxton performed repetitive actions of ripping the fabric of a large printed sign that read ‘Dirt Worshipper’ in bold purple letters with a vibrant teal background up on the wall at the back of the gallery. She progressed in a linear direction from left to right, ripping a strip of the fabric in intervals of eight with her hands. It made a tearing sound that seems to resonate as another form of pulsation with the ‘in between beats’ that Recollet discussed taking place. In keep with her practice, this work was an act of engaging with cultural racism and the releasing of terms such as ‘Dirt Worshipper’ that have been imposed as stereotypes onto Indigenous peoples.

 

Thinking about digital media, performance, and cultural belongings:

How might the use of mediation in Claxton’s exhibition through the projected video, illuminated lightboxes, and theatrical lighting in the exhibition space extend or diminish the performativity and liveliness of the cultural belongings? Since this was not a live performance, how might this alter or affect our experience of the cultural belongings as a ‘lived force’?