Category Archives: Uncategorized

Conversation on Contemporary Indigenous Art, 25 June @ CUAG

I’m thrilled to be participating in the Conversation on Contemporary Indigenous Art held in conjunction with the Carleton University Art Gallery‘s opening of Rebecca Belmore‘s solo show What Is Said and What Is Done and The Past Is Present, and the National Gallery of Canada’s Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art. I will be in conversation with Rebecca Belmore, Ursula Johnson, and moderator Heather Anderson.

Taken from CUAG:

Conversation on Contemporary Indigenous Art

Tuesday, 25 June 2013, 7:00 p.m.

Heather Anderson will moderate a conversation with Rebecca Belmore (Winnipeg), Ursula Johnson (Cape Breton), and Melody McKiver (Ottawa), in conjunction with Rebecca Belmore | What Is Said and What Is Done. Belmore is renowned for powerful works in performance, sculpture, photography, and video that through spare and exacting means examine sites of historical and contemporary trauma and injustices, in particular those resulting from history of contact between European settler and Indigenous populations.

In recognition of Belmore’s path-breaking work, and on the occasion of the National Gallery of Canada’s landmark Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art, we’re broadening the conversation, inviting two rising Indigenous rising artists to join Belmore in conversation. Ursula Johnson, a Mi’kmaw artist currently residing on the Eskasoni Reserve in Cape Breton, creates performances and sculptures that frequently incorporate and transform the traditional basket weaving she learned from her great grandmother, artist Caroline Gould. Ottawa-based Anishinaabe Melody McKiver is a musician and media artist. The conversation will take each artist’s practice as a point of departure and reflect upon what it means to be a contemporary Indigenous artist today.

Artist Bios
Rebecca Belmore was born in Upsala, Ontario, and lives in Winnipeg. She represented Canada at the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005, the first Indigenous woman to do so. The Anishinaabe artist’s work has been included in important exhibitions including Close Encounters (2011), Global Feminisms (2007), the Biennale of Sydney (2006), Land, Spirit, Power (1992), and the IV Havana Biennial (1991). The Vancouver Art Gallery mounted a major survey Rebecca Belmore: Rising to the Occasion in 2008. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2009 Hnatyshyn Award and a 2013 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.

Ursula Johnson has a BFA (2006) from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where she studied photography, drawing, and textiles. Johnson descends from a long line of Mi’kmaw Artists, including her late great grandmother, Caroline Gould, from whom she learned basket making. In 2010 she curated Klokowej: A 30-Year Retrospective commemorating Gould’s contribution to the evolution of Mi’kmaw basketry. Several of her performances, including Elmiet(2010), Basket Weaving (2011), and L’nuwelti (We Are Indian) (2012), incorporate basketry as a key element, and draw on her studies in theatre. Recent exhibitions include Basket Weaving, Planet IndigenUS Festival and Material Wealth: Revealing Landscape at Harbourfront Centre (2012), and L’nuk (In Collaboration with Jordan A. Bennett), Anna Leonowens Gallery, Halifax (2012) and The Other Gallery, Banff AB (2010). Johnson lives on the Eskasoni First Nation on Cape Breton Island.

Melody McKiver is an Anishinaabe multi-instrumentalist, improviser, interdisciplinary media artist and researcher. As a solo performer, she explores the range of the viola’s possibilities, from minimalist to danceable, often incorporating laptop processing and looping. Within media arts, she works with digital video and photography to capture images of Indigenous resurgence, and uses this footage both editorially and within video and sound art. McKiver is affiliated with Tribal Spirit Music and plays drums with Toronto’s Indigenous hip-hop fusion band Red Slam Collective. She also records and produces digital media under the pseudonym Gitochige. McKiver is currently completing a MA in Ethnomusicology at Memorial University of Newfoundland.  She holds a BFA Honours Major in Music, Minor in Race, Ethnicity & Indigeneity from York University (2010). She currently splits her time between Ottawa and Toronto.

(Mis)representation Nation: Exploring Aboriginal Identity Through Art

Last week I had the opportunity to talk on the phone with Stephanie Cram from McGill’s campus station CKUT about Idle No More, my artistic practice, and influences. The story, “Multi-instrumentalist Melody McKiver on new music” is part of a larger series titled (Mis)representation Nation: Exploring Aboriginal Identity Through Art, and includes interviews from some of my favourite Indigenous artists such as Bear Witness of A Tribe Called Red and poet Moe Clark.

Critical Blogging Residence – Artengine and Apartment613

I’m happy to announce that I am beginning a year-long residency with Artengine and Apartment613 as Critical Blogging Resident. I’m excited to begin this partnership with a trip to the Elektra Festival in Montreal from May 1-5, and will be using the blogs throughout the next year as creative spaces for critical discourse around the media arts and creative technological expression.

http://www.artengine.ca/news/2013/melody-mckiver-en.phpMovie Carol (2015)

Jan. 5 – Chief Spence camp benefit, Ottawa ON

Tonight, I’ll be playing a solo set at Zaphod’s as part of efforts to raise money for the continued maintenance of Chief Spence’s camp on Victoria Island, and supplies for her helpers. I wrote this track, which debuted on January 4 on CBC Radio Ottawa’s All In A Day. 

The lineup for tonight’s show was put together by Six Nation’s incredible guitarist, Derek MillerDigging Roots and Jasper are the other musicians, and there will be a stand up performance by comedian Don Kelly. It’s a wonderful lineup for a great cause! Doors are at 8 at Zaphod’s, and cover is $20 with all proceeds going to the camp.

Benefit details.
Fundraiser details

Canadian Museum of History and Reconciliation

Posting the screen shot of my brief appearance on CBC Ottawa’s television news on October 27 seems to have struck a chord (thanks!) so I would like to elaborate on my thoughts. First of all, a huge chi-miigwetch to my friends Jocelyn and Andrea. Jocelyn, whose comments can be read in the initial story on CBC news, got us all together to go visit the public consultation at the Museum of Civilization, and Andrea graciously drove us all to the museum. Unfortunately, Andrea’s interview was edited out of the final piece that appeared on the news, but we all shared equal camera time.

To place this discussion in context, the Canadian Museum of Civilization recently announced that its name and mandate would change to become the Canadian Museum of History. This was an announcement that has taken many people by surprise, and many are concerned that this is a ploy to whitewash Canadian history. Shortly after the announcement of the name change, My History Museum was launched. This website invites interaction from the Canadian public, and asks “What would you put in your national history museum? What stories would you tell? How would you reach Canadians across the country?”

Viewing the website, we noticed many major omissions. As Jocelyn states in the CBC article,

“I looked at this page and immediately I didn’t really see a whole lot of diverse representation … of Canadian history. I saw there were I think about 15 faces or so on the site. I think there were about four or five women on there, one indigenous person, and the rest of them seemed be sort of middle-aged white guys. I didn’t see any people of colour, I didn’t see anybody with disabilities, and I just think that’s so disappointing when I know that there’s such a fuller, more diverse history of Canada that could be represented, and people to represent those communities.”

If it were up to me, this new institution would not be the Canadian Museum of History, but a museum which attempts to portray an (in)complete history of the land upon which we all reside. I introduced myself to the CBC not as a Canadian, but as an Anishinaabe, and I far too frequently see the hundreds of Indigenous Nations which exist within the Canadian nation-state refered to in an assimilate manner as “Aboriginal” or, slightly better, “First Nations”. A history that only portrays the Canadian settler colonial nation-state is wildly inaccurate, and only a miniscule sampling of the histories and cultural achievements exist upon this land – Turtle Island, if you will – upon which we all reside.

The initial attempt at a portrayal of “Canadian” history betrays the intentions of the Museum, and starts its online timeline with “1608: Samuel de Champlain Founds Quebec City”. At the Museum of Civilization, the display of the timeline began with 1670: Establishment of the Hudson’s Bay Company. I don’t have the space here to begin to describe what a sanitized version this account of the founding of the Hudson’s Bay Company is, which stole millions of acres of unceded Indigenous land in the name of King Charles, but Andrea and I accepted their invitation to add to the timeline:

historytimeline

To me, the tactic of beginning Canadian history in the 17th century is completely bewildering. I can’t say I was too optimistic about a nuanced portrayal of pre-colonial Indigenous history – but the omission of well-known prior “explorers” – colonizers, if you will – such as John Cabot, is simply confounding.

Now, where would I like to see the timeline start? Broad, in-depth consultation with Indigenous elders is a must, but the 796AD formation of the Council of Three Fires (the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi Nations) may be a good start. So would the The Great Law of Peace – the founding of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy of the Mohawk, Onedia, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca Nations is estimated by some as dating to the 12th century.

EDIT to add: In the comments, Dr. Alex Wilson made an excellent suggestion to begin a telling of history with creation stories. From a Nishnaabeg perspective, I love Leanne Simpson’s telling. Watch from about 9:30 onwards:

In my comments to the CBC that did not make the news cut, I expressed my deep concern that when Canada is in the midst of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), public understanding of history is vital for any meaningful reconciliation to take place. On June 11, 2008, the Canadian government issued a Statement of Apology for the Indian Residential Schools system. Prime Minister Stephen Harper concluded this apology stating,

“A cornerstone of the Settlement Agreement is the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This Commission presents a unique opportunity to educate all Canadians on the Indian Residential Schools system. It will be a positive step in forging a new relationship between Aboriginal peoples and other Canadians, a relationship based on the knowledge of our shared history, a respect for each other and a desire to move forward together with a renewed understanding that strong families, strong communities and vibrant cultures and traditions will contribute to a stronger Canada for all of us.” (my emphasis added)

Most telling to me was that to date, all material presented by the Canadian Museum of History omits any mention of this major point of Canadian-Indigenous relations. Within the mandate of the TRC, one of the stated goals is to 1 (d) Promote awareness and public education of Canadians about the IRS system and its impacts;

When the Indian Residential School system is completely omitted in a public outreach campaign conducted by a Crown Corporation, how can there be any meaningful reconciliation process?

Miigwetch.