Close Encounters: The Next 500 Years is a critical reader and exhibition catalogue that presents 33 international Indigenous artists from across Canada, the United States, South America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, including newly commissioned work from Rebecca Belmore, Faye HeavyShield, Kent Monkman, Edward Poitras and Jimmie Durham. Fourteen contributors present essays that map four distinct sub-themes of the exhibition related to the imagined future for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
By radically reconsidering encounter narratives between native and non-native people, Indigenous prophecies, possible utopias and apocalypses, this publication proposes intriguing possibilities for the next 500 years. We all in different measure have carved out the future, observes Hopi photographer and lmmaker, Victor Masayesva, in his book Husk of Time. We are all clairvoyants, soothsayers, prophets, knowingly assuming our predictions.
Featured artists: KC Adams, Maria Thereza Alves, Shuvinai Ashoona, Mary Anne Barkhouse, Michael Belmore, Rebecca Belmore, Colleen Cutschall, Wally Dion, Jimmie Durham, Rosalie Favell, Jeffrey Gibson, Brett Graham, Faye HeavyShield, Marja Helander, Jonathan Jones, Brian Jungen, James Luna, Kavavaow Mannomee, Tracey Moffatt, Kent Monkman, Reuben Paterson, Archer Pechawis, Edward Poitras, Postcommodity, Pudlo Pudlat, Lisa Reihana, Paul Anders Simma, Doug Smarch Jr., Skawennati, Christian Thompson, Marie Watt, Linus Woods, Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun
Curators: Candice Hopkins, Steve Loft, Lee-Ann Martin, Jenny Western
Contributors: Richard William Hill, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, Megan Tamati-Quennell, Joane Cardinal-Schubert, Edward Poitras, David Garneau, Jaimie Isaac, Victor Masayesva Jr., Loretta Todd
Editor: Sherry Farrell Racette
Designer: Sebastien Aubin
Published by Plug In Editions.
Presented by the Winnipeg Cultural Capital of Canada 2010.
Organized by Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art with The Winnipeg Art Gallery , Urban Shaman: Contemporary Aboriginal Art and partnering organizations
Hard cover, 224 pp, full colour
For bulk orders please contact our distributor ABC Art Books Canada.
Candice Hopkins is the Elizabeth Simonfay Curatorial Resident, Indigenous Art at the National Gallery of Canada and the former director and curator of exhibitions at the Western Front, Vancouver. She has an MA from the Center for Curatorial Studies and Art in Contemporary Culture, Bard College, New York, where she was awarded the Ramapo Curatorial Prize for the exhibition Every Stone Tells a Story: The Performance Work of David Hammons and Jimmie Durham (2004). Her writing has been published by Canadian Art, The Fillip Review, MIT Press, BlackDog Publishing, New York University, the Banff Centre Press, the Alberta Art Gallery, the Eiteljorg Museum, Revolver Press, and the National Museum of the American Indian among others. She has spoken at venues including the Witte de With, Tate Modern, Tate Britain, the Dakar Biennale, the Denver Art Museum, and the University of British Columbia. Her curatorial projects include Deeds/Nations for Urban Shaman: Contemporary Aboriginal Art in Winnipeg and Recipes for an Encounter, co-curated with Berin Golonu at the Dorsky Gallery in New York. Hopkins is co-editor, with Marisa Jahn and Berin Golonu, of Recipes for an Encounter published by the Western Front (2009) as well as The Second Particle Wave Theory: As Performed on the Banks of the River Wear, a Stone’s Throw from S’underland and the Durham Cathedral, an artist book by Jimmie Durham, co-edited with Robert Blackson (2005).
Curator, scholar, writer, and media artist Steven Loft is a Mohawk of the Six Nations. In 2010 he was named Trudeau National Visiting Fellow at Ryerson University in Toronto, where he continues his research and critical writing on Indigenous art and aesthetics. Formerly he was Curator In Residence, Indigenous Art at the National Gallery of Canada; Director/Curator of Urban Shaman: Contemporary Aboriginal Art, Canada’s largest Aboriginal artist-run public gallery; Aboriginal Curator at the Art Gallery of Hamilton; and Artistic Director of the Native Indian/Inuit Photographers’ Association. He has curated exhibitions both nationally and internationally and has written and lectured extensively on Indigenous art and cultural practice. Loft co-edited Transference, Technology, Tradition: Aboriginal Media and New Media Art, published by the Banff Centre Press in 2005. This book of essays by artists, curators, and scholars frames the landscape of contemporary Aboriginal media art, the influence of Western criticism and standards, and the liberating advent of technologies including video and online media.
Lee-Ann Martin is the Curator of Contemporary Canadian Aboriginal Art at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Québec and former Head Curator of the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan. She has curated, written, and lectured extensively on contemporary Aboriginal art both nationally and internationally over the past twenty-five years. Martin’s curatorial projects include Bob Boyer: His Life’s Work for the MacKenzie Art Gallery; Alex Janvier: His First Thirty Years, 1960-1990 for the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Thunder Bay, Ontario; and Au fil de mes Jours (In My Lifetime) for the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec in Québec City, all of which toured nationally. As Curatorial Fellow with the Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff, Alberta, she curated the exhibition Mapping Our Territories; co-organized Communion and other Conversations: A Thematic Residency for Indigenous Artists on Christianity and Colonialism; and co-organized the Aboriginal curatorial symposium Making a Noise whose publication she also edited. Martin has also co-curated several exhibitions that toured Canada, including The Powwow: An Art History with Bob Boyer; EXPOSED: The Aesthetics of Aboriginal Art with Morgan Wood; and INDIGENA: Perspectives of Indigenous Peoples on 500 Years—which also toured internationally—with Gerald McMaster. Her writing has been published by Oxford University Press, the University of Washington Press, the Banff Centre Press, and the National Museum of the American Indian, among others.
Winnipeg-based Jenny Western is a curator, writer, and educator. She holds an undergraduate degree in History from the University of Winnipeg and a Masters in Art History and Curatorial Practice from York University in Toronto. While completing her graduate studies, she accepted a position at the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba in Brandon where she was Curator of Contemporary/Aboriginal Art for two years. She has curated exhibitions for Urban Shaman: Contemporary Aboriginal Art, the Portage and District Arts Centre, aceartinc., the Manitoba Crafts Council, and the Costume Museum of Canada. Western has held positions as Aboriginal Curator in Residence with Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art and Urban Shaman, Adjunct Curator at the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba, and mentor in the Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art’s 2010/2011 Foundation Mentorship Program. As a scholar, her research interests include museological and collection practices, identity and representation, and rural and urban landscapes. Western is a participating member of The Ephemerals, an all-female collective of Indigenous artists and curators.
Sébastien Aubin is a proud member of the Opaskwayak Cree nation. Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, he moved to Aylmer, Québec, at the age of three. After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts, with a focus on graphic design, from the University of Québec in 2003, he began his career with Kolegram, a graphic design studio in Gatineau. Aubin has since made his mark as a freelance graphic artist designing catalogues and publications for artists and art galleries in Winnipeg, Montréal, and Ottawa. His design and print work engages and challenges stereotypical Aboriginal imagery and symbolism. Sébastien Aubin lives in Winnipeg where he is a member of ITWÉ, a collective dedicated to research, creation, production, and education in the field of Aboriginal digital culture.
Interdisciplinary scholar Sherry Farrell Racette maintains an active art and curatorial practice. She holds a BFA from the University of Manitoba, an MEd in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Regina, and an Interdisciplinary PhD from the University of Manitoba. Farrell Racette was the 2009–2010 Anne Ray Fellow at the School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and is currently teaching at the University of Manitoba in the departments of Native Studies and Women and Gender Studies.
Lin Gibson is a Toronto artist, writer, and freelance editor whose client roster includes the Justine M. Barnicke and Gendai galleries, both in Toronto, the Leonard & Bina Ellen Gallery in Montréal and the magazine esse arts + opinions/revue d’art actuel. She is the editor of afterthoughts published by YYZ Books and Gordon Lebredt: Nonworks 1975–2008 co-published in 2011 by Plug In (ICA) and the Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art. Gibson holds a BA from the University of Manitoba and did her graduate work in the Sociology and Equity Studies department at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto.
Born in Red Deer, Alberta, Joane Cardinal-Schubert (Blood) attended the Alberta College of Art and Design and the University of Calgary. She was an important senior artist and arts activist whose contributions were key to the evolution of contemporary Canadian Aboriginal art. She was inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy (RCA) in 1985, received the Commemorative Medal of Canada in 1993, the Queen’s Jubilee Medal in 2002, and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Calgary in 2003. A twenty-year retrospective of her work, which toured nationally for three years, was organized by Calgary’s Muttart Art Gallery in 1997. “Flying with Louis” is an excerpt from a keynote address delivered by Joane Cardinal-Schubert at the 2003 Aboriginal Curatorial Symposium at the Banff Centre.
Born in Regina and raised in Edmonton, David Garneau is Associate Professor of Visual Arts at the University of Regina. He earned a BFA in Painting and Drawing and an MA in English Literature from the University of Calgary. Prior to moving to Regina in 1999 he taught at the Alberta College of Art and Design. His practice includes painting, drawing, curating, and critical writing and frequently engages with issues of nature, history, masculinity, and Aboriginal identity. His solo exhibition Cowboys and Indians (and Métis?) toured Canada from 2003 to 2007. Road Kill, also a solo exhibition, travelled throughout Saskatchewan in 2011. Garneau’s paintings are in the collections of the Parliament of Canada, the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, the Mackenzie Art Gallery in Regina, the Saskatchewan Arts Board, and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, as well as the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Indian and Inuit Art Centre, both in Gatineau, Québec. He has curated several large group exhibitions: The End of the World (as we know it), Picture Windows: New Abstraction, Transcendent Squares, Sophisticated Folk, Contested Histories, Graphic Visions, TEXTiles, and Making it Like a Man! Garneau was a co-founder and co-editor of Artichoke and Cameo magazines.
Richard William Hill is a curator, critic, and art historian of Cree heritage. His areas of interest include museums, curation, contemporary art, Indigenous North American art, and the history of Canadian and American art. As a curator at the Art Gallery of Ontario he oversaw the first significant effort to include North American Aboriginal art and ideas in the permanent collection galleries. In 2004 he curated Kazuo Nakamura: A Human Measure at the AGO and in 2005 he co-curated, with Jimmie Durham, The American West at Compton Verney in the UK. His curatorial project The World Upside Down originated at the Walter Philips Gallery at the Banff Centre and travelled to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in 2009 and the Musée d’art de Joliette in 2010. Hill’s essays have appeared in numerous books, exhibition catalogues, and periodicals. He has a long association with the art magazine Fuse, where he was a member of the board and editorial committee and remains a contributing editor. He is currently writing a book on the problem of agency in the art of Jimmie Durham, the subject of his PhD thesis.
Winnipeg-based Jaimie Isaac, a member of Sagkeeng First Nation, is a writer, curator, artist, and arts administrator. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and an Arts and Cultural Management Certificate from the University of Winnipeg and is pursuing a graduate degree in Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of British Columbia (Okanagan). In 2010 she was the visual arts coordinator for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s inaugural national event in Winnipeg. Previously she held the position of Aboriginal Programs and Outreach Manager with the Arts and Cultural Industries Association (Manitoba). Isaac has worked with boards, collectives, juries, and artist-run centres at both the local and national level. She is a founding member of The Ephemerals, a female artist/curatorial collective in Winnipeg and volunteers with both the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective and the Aboriginal Manitoba Music board of directors. Her writing has been published in newspaper columns, exhibition catalogues, and on online.
Hopi photographer and videomaker Victor Masayesva Jr. holds a BA in Literature from Princeton University and teaches visual arts in Hotevilla, Arizona. Masayesva began working with video in 1980, initially teaching high school students how to document the oral histories of Hotevilla elders. He is known for his expressive and experimental style and was selected for a Media Arts Fellowship in 1988, the year the fellowships were founded by the Rockefeller Foundation. He received funding for his film Imagining Indians during the first Open Call of ITVS in 1991 and has also been funded by the Ford Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1995 Masayesva won the American Film Institute’s Maya Deren Award for Independent Film and Video Artists. His work has been widely exhibited at museums such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Northern Arizona, and the Whitney Museum of Art. His book Husk of Time: The Photographs of Victor Masayesva was published in 2006 by the University of Arizona press and he is the co-editor of the earlier Hopi Photographers/Hopi Images.
Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair’s critical and creative work has been translated into several languages and can be found in publications as diverse as Prairie Fire, Canadian Dimension, and the Winnipeg Free Press. In 2009 he co-edited, with Renate Eigenbrod, a double issue of the Canadian Journal of Native Studies (Volume 29, 1 and 2) focused on responsible, ethical, and Indigenous-centred literary criticism of Indigenous literature. Other short stories and essays have appeared in Tales from Moccasin Avenue, Across Cultures/Across Borders: Canadian Aboriginal and Native American Literatures, Stories Through Theories/Theories Through Stories: North American Indian Writing, Storytelling, and Critique, and Troubling Tricksters: Revisioning Critical Conversations. His writing can also be found in The Exile Book of Native Canadian Fiction and Drama published in 2011. Originally from St. Peter’s (Little Peguis) First Nation in Manitoba, Canada, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair now lives in Winnipeg.
A curator of much repute, Megan Tamati-Quennell (Te Atiawa, Ngati Mutunga, Ngai Tahu, Kati Mamoe) has been at the forefront of developments in contemporary Māori and Indigenous art in New Zealand for more than two decades. One of the first curators of contemporary Māori art, she began her practice in 1990 at the National Art Gallery of New Zealand. She has also worked within the context of an Iwi, as Arts Development Facilitator for one of her tribes. She curated the first major survey of Ngai Tahu taonga (cultural treasures) and art—Mo Tatou, The Ngai Tahu Whanui exhibition—which was shown at Te Papa from 2006 to 2009 and subsequently travelled to venues on New Zealand’s South Island. In 2008 she commissioned Ko te aroha, mai i te aroha, a large-scale installation work by Māori artist Lisa Reihana, for Te Papa and in 2009 curated Urban (Almost) Rituals for One Day Sculpture, a series of temporal exhibition projects that occurred in different locations throughout the country over the span of one year. She was a guest speaker at the opening week forum of the 2010 Sydney Biennale and in 2011 was a contributor to the Adelaide exhibition Stop(the)Gap/Mind(the)Gap: International Indigenous art in motion, which included twenty artists from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the United States. Megan Tamati-Quennell lives in Wellington.
Writer, director, producer Loretta Sarah Todd self-identifies as a Cree/Métis/White woman. She has attended the Screenwriters Lab at the Sundance Institute, presented her films at numerous festivals, and been the recipient of many awards. Known for her lyrical, expressionistic imagery combined with strong storytelling skills and talents, Todd tells truths that are haunting, funny, and real. She created, developed, and serves as creative producer on, Tansi! Nehiyawetan, a children’s series that combines animation, storytelling, music videos, games, and adventures—all in the service of learning the Cree language. Tansi! Nehiyawetan is in its third season with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. Todd is also developing a drama series, Skye and Chang, as well as her first feature, Monkey Beach, based on the novel by Eden Robinson.
Winnipeg, September 2011
Several years ago I was fortunate to interview the Pulitzer-prize winning author and artist N. Scott Momaday. His novel House Made of Dawn tells the story of Abel, a Native American who moves from reserve to urban life and back again following the Second World War. The Devils Tower, a monolithic intrusion of volcanic rock in the Black Hills of Wyoming, figures prominently in Momaday’s narrative. Tribes including the Arapaho, Crow, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Lakota, and Shoshone had cultural and geographical ties to the monolith before European and early American immigrants reached Wyoming. Their names for the monolith include Aloft on a Rock (Kiowa), Bear’s House (Cheyenne, Crow), Bear's Lair (Cheyenne, Crow), Bear's Lodge (Cheyenne, Lakota), Bear’s Lodge Butte (Lakota), Bear’s Tipi (Arapaho, Cheyenne), Tree Rock (Kiowa), and Grizzly Bear Lodge (Lakota).
The monolith is featured in Close Encounters: The Next 500 Hundred Years in a painting by Colleen Cutschall entitled The Androgynous Landscape. The Bear Lodge also featured prominently in Steven Spielberg’s 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In that film the aliens’ massive mother ship famously hovers over the monument, a juxtaposition of the technological sublime with the natural sublime at the climax of the movie. The monument acted as a kind of indexical key to the point of contact as the film’s characters carved it in mashed potatoes, and other mediums, initially oblivious to the identity or location of this sub-conscious visual obsession.
I asked Momaday what he thought about the use of Devils Tower in the film.
(In real life, the monolith, sacred as it is to several Plains tribes, has been
contested as a site of recreational use by mountain climbers. As well, in 2005
a proposal to recognize several
ties through the additional designation of Bear Lodge National Historic Landmark
met with opposition, the argument being that a name change would harm the tourist
trade and bring economic hardship to communities in the area.) Momaday’s response
was that the Tower’s depiction in the film made perfect sense. (It seemed to
me that he really enjoyed the film.) If we were going to be visited by aliens,
he argued, this location was certainly a fitting, perhaps obvious, location.
The Tower’s iconic status visually, spiritually, and historically accumulates
signification, and it was as much this inter-textual association of references,
as the Hollywood film that spoke to the selection of our exhibition’s title. It remains a site of close encounters to this day.
One could argue that Spielberg’s film (and particularly the special effects work of Douglas Trumbull) operates in the tradition of nineteenth-century monumental American landscape paintings by the likes of Albert Bierstadt and Edwin Church by creating a rhetoric of the sublime, one that is both natural and technological.1
In a studio visit with Linus Woods, he described to us his use of “special effects” in his paintings. This is particularly appropriate considering the scale of his canvases in these newly commissioned works and his use of bold painterly experiments. This harks back again to the “special effects” unleashed by nineteenth-century landscape painters depicting twilight skies and volcanic eruptions that were the result of new technologies in cadmium-based pigment production.2
Kent Monkman explores the visual rhetoric of American landscape painting in his work, as seen in Close Encounters with The Collapsing of Time and Space in an Ever Expanding Universe (2011), an installation which features a Monkman landscape painting depicting a horseback-riding Miss Chief Eagle Testickle experiencing the splendors of the natural sublime. The installation also features a life-like sculptural mannequin of Eagle Testickle, this time ensconced in her Parisian apartment gazing at the painting amid the technological pleasures of twentieth-century life (Vuitton valises, a phonograph, and disco albums).
This back and forth in time, space, technology, nature, the ersatz, and the “real” accumulate throughout Close Encounters: The Next 500 Hundred Years, making the exhibition title particularly apropos, building an ever-expanding universe of inter-textual references, stories, and play.
The project was instigated by Carol Phillips, Executive Director of the Winnipeg Arts Council, who headed the Cultural Capital 2010 project, and first proposed the idea of a citywide Aboriginal visual arts exhibition as the cornerstone of the year’s programs. In turn, she approached me, and Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art, to conceive, develop, and implement the project based on this initial premise.
There are numerous people, partners, institutions, and funders who made this project not only possible, but an immense success. At the risk of omitting some of those deserving recognition, I feel that I must mention a few here by name, while further acknowledging any who may be unintentionally absent from this brief and imperfect list. Everyone’s contributions remain within our hearts and minds as valued and appreciated.
The staff of Winnipeg Arts Council and the ARTS FOR ALL Cultural Capital project facilitated and made everything possible. Thank you to Carol, Dominic Lloyd, and Alix Sobler in particular for your support. The curators of the exhibition—Lee-Ann, Candice, Jenny and Steve—brought such innovation, spirit, and fun to the project that I remain forever in awe of their bright enthusiasm and intelligence. The staff and board of Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art bravely undertook this exhibition, the largest in the Institute’s history, and as far as we know, the largest exhibition of contemporary Indigenous art ever undertaken anywhere, during the same period that we built and moved into a new custom-built arts facility in the heart of downtown Winnipeg. My sincere thanks and congratulations go out to everyone involved. Liz Barron, who managed the project with resilience and vision and the team that installed the exhibition in the late days of December 2010 through January 2011, including Aston Coles and Richard Dyck, were outstanding.
Our primary partners included Urban Shaman: Contemporary Aboriginal Art, and I wish to acknowledge Director Amber-Dawn Bear Robe for her engagement and enthusiasm. At the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Executive Director Stephen Borys and Curator of Contemporary Art Mary Reid were crucial to the project’s success and scope in the community.
All the participating partners made this project truly unprecedented in terms of the number and scope of Aboriginal programs occurring simultaneously in the city, and I believe set a new standard internationally.
The production of this publication was thanks to the work of several key contributors. Sébastien Aubin contributed not only a visionary design but a new original font(!) called Three Sisters to the book, as well as being responsible for the overall design of the project’s graphics and identity. Sherry Farrell Racette did a wonderful job of editing the publication and Lin Gibson put in countless hours with great professionalism. Curatorial Assistants Jaya Beange and Shoshanna Paul made sure that the project kept moving forward by minding countless details, both large and small, and Jaya contributed her meticulous proofreading skills as we readied the book for publication.
Several sponsors made great contributions to the project including the Department of Canadian Heritage, Winnipeg Arts Council, the Winnipeg Foundation, Manitoba Hydro and Creative New Zealand. Additionally, numerous lenders and galleries made the exhibition possible through the loan of artworks and cooperation.
Finally, and most importantly, on behalf of all the partners, curators, staff, and supporters I want to acknowledge and thank the thirty-three artists who presented work in the exhibition. It must be noted that through Close Encounters we were able to commission new works by twelve of the artists and exhibit them for the first time ever. Congratulations and our sincerest thanks to all the artists in the exhibition for your outstanding work!
A note about community: Throughout the year leading up to the project, we enjoyed visits by several of the artists who came to Winnipeg to plan the works for the exhibition, and often, to collaborate with partners and organizations. For example, Postcommodity spent several weeks as faculty for Plug In’s Summer Institute, working with numerous artists in the city on various projects. It is difficult to measure the impact of these kinds of interactions, but I know that they can be, and have been, life-changing in scope and impact, and are a crucial part of the research and creation of art, beyond what appears on gallery walls. Art is an essential and critical contributor to well-being and quality of life in our communities.
It is our hope that the importance and quality of the work undertaken in this project will live on through this handsome publication and that it inspires future artists, researchers, and art lovers over the next 500 years and beyond!
Carol A. Phillips
Programs/Arts Development Manager
Communications/Resource Development Manager
The Canada Council for the Arts
The Winnipeg Foundation
Creative New Zealand
Sherry Farrell Racette
Copy Editor and Publication Coordinator
Scott Benesiinaabandan (except where noted)
Printed in Manitoba, Canada
Close encounters: the next 500 years : international exhibition of contemporary
indigenous art / edited Sherry Farrell Racette. Accompanies the exhibition "Close
Encounters: the Next 500 Years" held at various venues in Winnipeg, Man., Jan.
22, 2011-May 8, 2011.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. Indigenous art--Exhibitions.
2. Indigenous peoples in art--Exhibitions.
3. Art, Modern--21st century--Exhibitions.
I. Racette, Sherry Farrell
N6351.2.I53C66 2011 704.03'970074712743C2011-904336-X
The Winnipeg Art Gallery
Urban Shaman: Contemporary Aboriginal Art
PLATFORM centre for photographic + digital arts
Gallery 1C03, University of Winnipeg
The Manitoba Museum
La Maison des artistes visuels francophones
The North End Arts Centre
Graffiti Art Programming Inc.
Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art
Plug In Editions/Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art
Unit 1 – 460 Portage Avenue
Close Encounters: The Next 500 Years was organized by Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) on behalf of the Winnipeg Arts Council and the Cultural Capital of Canada 2010 program under the theme ARTS FOR ALL. Plug In Editions is the publishing arm of Plug in Institute of Contemporary Art. Plug In ICA is a laboratory for research and the presentation of art that confronts the ideas and issues affecting today’s societies.
PLUG IN INSTITUTE OF CONTEMPORARY ART
Plug In gratefully acknowledges the ongoing support of the Manitoba Arts Council, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Winnipeg Arts Council, the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Province of Manitoba, the Winnipeg Foundation, the WH & SE Loewen Foundation, our donors, members and volunteers.
Executive Director/Artistic Director
Michelle Pichette Breault
Director of Development
C. Graham Asmundson
Although there were a great many people who helped make this monumental project possible, the Curatorial Collective has attempted a list of names of a few people who require special recognition:
Candice Hopkins would like to thank the National Gallery of Canada, Barbara MacLean and Raven Chacon.
Steve Loft would like to thank his son Tyler, his partner, Rachelle, and Ryerson University.
Lee-Ann Martin would like to thank her son Joel A. Konrad, her husband, Paul Hudy, all of her family, and both the Canadian Museum of Civilization and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
Jenny Western would like to thank her husband Ben Borley.
Special gratitude goes to Anthony Kiendl and Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art for inviting the curatorial collective to work with Plug In on this seemingly impossible venture and to project manager Liz Barron, curatorial assistants Jaya Beange and Shoshanna Paul as well as technicians Daniel Ellingsen, Richard Dyck, Aston Coles and the indefatigable spirit of the whole preparatorial team for making this exhibition possible.
The curatorial collective is enormously indebted to Megan Tamati-Quennell,
Curator of Contemporary Māori Indigenous Art, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa
Tongarewa, Wellington, whose invaluable assistance and advice were vital to
the participation of the Māori artists.
Several months ago I looked out of my third-storey living room window and saw a man looking back at me. On Broadway Avenue, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on the top floor of the Tweedsmuir apartment building, it is certainly not a common occurrence to glance amid the canopy of trees and see a human face. And so for a moment I was arrested in wonder at this hovering character. My mind raced to rationalize his presence and came up with some fantastic explanations—in the truest form of the word fantastic. Perhaps he was a flying rocketman from the future? Or was he a ghostly spectre swept up by the apocalypse? Maybe he was even a profound vision of a past tenant sent to deliver a message of caution and concern about the yearly rent increase? In reality, he was a man in a basket-crane hanging banners from the lamppost next to our building. What was mystical and curious about his presence was the banner itself. It read: “Winnipeg 2010: Cultural Capital of Canada.”
The downtrodden, the dispossessed, political radicals, and theological revolutionaries are often drawn together by their desire for a different world, whether this desire is apocalyptic, utopian, or somewhere in-between. Apocalyptic movements are often met with hostility: they are a threat to the powers that be, and their leaders, the prophets and self-proclaimed messiahs, are considered revolutionaries (think of Louis Riel). Although one is an idealized place, and the other signifies the end, utopian and apocalyptic visions are not all that far apart; often a new world can only emerge out of the ruins of the former. Both have played a role in Indigenous communities around the globe and both are driven by a desire for social revolution, certainly an idea that has gripped Indigenous people since the first moments of colonization. For many, having suffered cultural near-genocide, there is so much to gain from imagining life in a different way. As artist Jimmie Durham suggests, the first act might begin with marking (if only temporarily) the centre of the world at Winnipeg to make this city a site for Indigenous artists and thinkers to come together and envision the future. What this future holds is yet to be seen. In the meantime, we can imagine.
On February 20, 1909, the Italian Futurists, led by F.T Marinetti, published their Manifeste du futurisme in Le Figaro. Known for its “purple prose” and romantic ebullience, it is nonetheless a poetic and impassioned document. It began, “We had stayed up all night, my friends and I, under hanging mosque lamps with domes of filigreed brass, domes starred like our spirits, shining like them with the prisoned radiance of electric hearts.”2 The manifesto went on to enunciate the beginning and the doctrine of a new art movement passionate in its hatred of the past and espousal of the superiority of technological advancements over nature.
Referencing them in this context might seem paradoxical, but reading their manifesto, feeling the energy and passion embraced in their call for cultural evolution, made me think of the Close Encounters project in new ways. Indigenous concepts of the future and our relationship with technology, nature, and the role of humanity with it, is a wholly different proposition from that of Marinetti and the Futurists. But the idea of imagining and living a future of possibility settled on me like an epiphany.
Why the future and why now? Close Encounters: The Next 500 Years reveals diverse and complex narratives. Collectively, the works represent an ideological construct of identity, sovereignty, and customary practices. Until now, speculations on the future have not included Indigenous thought, image, and word. We know much about the past; it is a history that Indigenous peoples—and many non-Indigenous academics—throughout the world have analyzed, interpreted, and attempted to reconcile. Anishinaabe writer Drew Hayden Taylor notes:
It’s been my experience—rightly or wrongly—that First Nations people in general tend to view the world through the past. There are always discussions over what we’ve lost, what we are trying to get back, the way things used to be, and what would have happened if only the colonizers hadn’t been so horrible to our ancestors.
He continues optimistically, “We have survived what the future threw at us in the past, and for the first time in a long time, we actually have a say in what the future may offer. Hope is the sole resident of the future.”