The red shift : a contemporary Aboriginal curatorial praxis
Gay, Felicia Deirdre
The museum and the gallery are two sites in Canada that are instantly imagined as spaces that house the history and culture of the white man. This statement of course is a generalization. However, in my youth, this is how I visualized these particular sites of culture housed here in the west. I know now that there is a rich Indigenous counter-history within the still white spaces of the gallery and museum. My personal interest is with this Aboriginal narrative as it is voiced by artists, writers and curators whose work is tied to the gallery or museum space. This thesis is a reflection on my own praxis as a curator that has since 1997 taken me to both museum and gallery sites. The existence of Indigenous public institutions—such as an Aboriginal community museum or an Aboriginal contemporary art gallery—creates a red shift within a community’s cultural imaginary. In Canada, many Aboriginal artists, curators, scholars, educators and writers have engaged tirelessly for many decades in decolonizing cultural work that centers Aboriginal voice, history and collective memory. In my curatorial work as co-founder and director of The Red Shift Gallery: an aboriginal contemporary art space in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, I am indebted to, and inspired by, the experience, example, creativity and wisdom of these cultural workers who continue to forge the way: infiltrating, appropriating, and re-making existing institutions and discourses, as well as creating new Aboriginal-centred events, places, and images, they are shifting the boundaries of what is considered to be relevant both in art, in history, and in the present. In this thesis, I will discuss my emerging praxis as a curator. In the Introduction: Nachimowin-My Story, I reflect on my early life in Cumberland House, Saskatchewan and the cultural lessons I have retained from living with my Cree grandparents, Peter and Margaret Buck, and, the colonial lessons I have learnt in the wider community of Cumberland House. I also talk about the founding of the “Misti Saghikan Historical Committee” in Cumberland House, which is still to this day a fledgling project. In Chapter 1: Methodology in Motion, I examine how my thinking about curatorial work has been influenced by a number of Aboriginal educators and cultural theorists, including Marie Battiste, Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Graham Hingangaroa Smith, and the cultural workers who participated in the Making a Noise conference and publication, among others. In Chapter 2: The Red Shift, I talk about co-founding The Red Shift Gallery with Joi Arcand and I discuss selected exhibits that I have curated and programmed as director of this gallery and as an independent curator. In chapter 3: Othered Women, I discuss an exhibition I curated—Othered Women (2008)—that examine the discursive and material violence of imperialism and its impacts on the lives of Aboriginal women, past and present. In 2008, I was awarded a Canada Council for the Arts Aboriginal Curatorial Residency at aka gallery, Saskatoon. As part of this residency, I developed a three-gallery exhibition, Othered Women, which foregrounds the agency and voice of six contemporary Aboriginal women artists. In selected works, these artists testify to the role of Aboriginal women in the fur trade and the formation of Canada as a country, and, to the multiple ways in which Aboriginal women have been fixed in mainstream Canadian histories under the sign of the Other. This exhibit reveals how these six artists are appropriating, dismantling and transforming the cultural controls of colonial discourse, and, how they are giving “voice” to their own situated Indigenous-centred knowledge(s) across a range of visual media, including textiles, photo-based work, and installation.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
DepartmentArt and Art History
ProgramArt and Art History
CommitteeLee, Deborah; Bell, Keith; Findlay, Isobel; Purdue, Peter; Battiste, Marie
Copyright DateJune 2011