A WEE GIFT FROM MIMI

Dear Class…this is my wee gift back to you to honour your journey in this class…

One is a comedy sketch that brings to light the confusion and lack of awareness about Reconciliation found of our Canadian society

The next is a wonderful resource of Indigenous Films to watch

http://https://www.cbc.ca/arts/there-s-a-massive-free-catalogue-of-indigenous-films-online-and-we-have-6-picks-to-get-you-started-1.4623884?fbclid=IwAR04kVxBkg6tmzr3Oha23pcZRGN9yIIuc6n-fv5HRr2c4leG-gOJ7nAB9wU

Take care everyone! And keep in touch over the summer!

 

Post #3 Final Project: Kelowna From Away & Calabria From Above By Madison Smith

 Kelowna From Away, 2020, Oil on Canvas, 30″x30″

Calabria From Above, 2020, Oil on Canvas, 30″x30″

These two works are part of an ongoing series exploring landscapes that have become a part of my heritage and my own personal past. I sought out to discover my ancestry and look at the landscapes my family has inhabited over time. The process was more of an exploration, as I began learning more about my family, I urged myself to look and learn through a decolonized lens. Beginning with looking at the land as my main focus. In my work I often paint portraits of people I idealize like family, friends, celebrities etc. So instead I wanted to paint portraits of the land.

 As I gained more knowledge of a family lineage I had previously been oblivious too, I began to learn things and question how we came to be here in Canada. I began to think about how landscapes where developed and changed through time. 

The first image depicts Calabria Italy, a small hillside town in the south of Italy where my family left to Canada from. Looking at the landscapes it’s fun to imagine where my family could have been had they not become settlers to Canada. The second image is where I grew up, in Kelowna BC. It’s a place I still recognize as my home. I had forgotten how spaced out the houses had been, how many houses had pools, how big the yards were and just how much space a small cul-de-sac eats up in newer cities like Kelowna.

There is a large discrepancy in land usage in each image. I noticed the different patterns of street, housing clumps, green spaces, etc. In my image of Kelowna much of the green land was part of someones property. The houses are spaced out and there is plenty of room for each individual household. The different modes of building are interesting in how we perceive land when composing neighbourhoods or cities. We can see a change in structure based on time. The landscape of Kelowna seems structured and precise, like a suburban dream for settlers. The neighbourhood was built before the people, whereas Calabria is a cluster of buildings and nonsensical roads that seem to have grown themselves as the city grew. Both Images, although similar in palette and style, appear to be very different worlds. Some of the structure is clouded by organic shapes and linear lines that were added as a visual aid in seeing how land would develop over top of these areas, showing a connecting structure through both paintings.  

I wanted to play with general ideas of memory, division and land. In a way I wanted to remember these places and revisit them. I hope these places might remind you of somewhere, and that it reminds you to be conscious of the space we become apart of. I want the land to be important to the memories we keep and the history we inherit. 

Blog Post #2: Project Process/Reflection

In starting this project it took awhile for me to cultivate an idea. It’s an area that I wasn’t really sure how to tackle. As I’m still learning what decolonizing really means and looks like. I allowed myself to start small. Looking at the 150 Acts of Reconciliation I realized that there are many different ways to approach the task. Some seem smaller than others but they all aim towards the same goal. So, as someone that had never been exposed to anything like this before I wanted to aim inward. I wanted to focus on myself and my experience in hopes of seeing things differently for myself. I wanted to gain an appreciation for the land and the people who came before me. To learn more as a way to understand what history I am apart of.

 I spent a long time trying to research my family, my fathers side was nearly impossible to track down and most of his family ran dead ends. My mothers side went very far on her mothers side and that’s where I gained the most information of when her family immigrated to Canada, with who, why, etc. I learned that it’s important to keep records of things because it was hard to connect to my ancestry without a lot of family communication through the generations. Learning about my family was a weird feeling, you feel connected to someone you’d never met and you still have this feeling of connectivity with them. I really enjoyed that part of my process and discovering different landscapes from Britain, Italy and Canada where my family had all lived. 

Once that was done I flew around on google earth and took various images trying to find a nice composition to begin my painting. I stretched the canvases myself, gesso’d each one and began a base layer in blue. I began plotting out the streets and filled in the landscapes and buildings referring to the image for most of the process, but sometimes just imagining what would be in that space or trying to use my memory. I enjoyed painting, it’s not a style I typically paint in so I think it’d be beneficial to continue the series and experiment more to see where it can go. There’s the obvious problem of the lockdown that ensued and it did effect my work quite a bit. I didn’t get to make the series as big as I would’ve liked, and slowed down my painting quite a bit. I’m happy with what came out of it just in my own learning and in the visual product. That being said, I enjoyed the challenge and hope to expand on my ideas in future projects.

 

Blog Post #1: Class Reflection

Beginning this class I really didn’t know what I was signing up for. I found that a lot of classes I’ve enjoyed at Emily Carr have come from random chances I’ve taken in registration. When I first started printmaking I had signed up for it by accident and now it’s become a big part of my practice. I’ve learned a lot of things, it’s a class that expanded your thinking instead of testing how much information you’ve retained (which is the best way to learn, in my opinion). I learned about Indigenous studies and art. I had only been taught about residential schools in high school, I had never been taught about the ongoing injustices, especially the ones happening in Vancouver. I learned a new way of seeing the world from all the origin stories of many cultures that where presented in class. I learned that I need to keep learning, that this conversation of decolonization doesn’t end here. I was informed on ways I can continue to decolonize my way of thinking outside of this class.

 I learned from the various writers supplied in our readings about their lived experiences. One of the first recourses was The Danger of A Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Aichie, that shared the importance of listening and learning. How you can’t base your truth off of the one version you had always known. I think that’s one of the most important lessons of this class that really stuck with me throughout the term. Hearing peoples stories is important in becoming a more informed and conscious person. I really loved meeting artists and hearing them speak, it connects you more to them and inspires you in your own practice. It’s great to learn about different processes and art forms as you can try and apply certain parts to your own practice. In saying that, it was also great to learn from students their stories.

From the artists I saw new processes like Connie Watts’ with her amazing carvings and sculpture work. She was one of the most inspiring speakers to me and hearing her story was really amazing. To see her grad project gave me hope that I can create things I maybe don’t think I’m quite capable of. Jake Chakasim has a great practice as well, I’ve never seen works like the ones he had before. It was lovely to learn about so many different ways of practicing art, through quilt, architecture, sculpture, painting, etc. 

In the end I learned a whole new way of looking at the world, and one main thing that stuck in my head from the 150 Acts of Reconciliation is to listen more and talk less.

Make Yourself (Un)Comfortable

‘His rejection of this expectation and his inversion of the ideals of carving and monumentality through painting on canvas challenge the colonial desire to consume culture as artifact’

The Unceded Territories exhibition aimed at challenging what it means to have works in a museum. We had talked about this idea of historicizing Indigenous art and how things had been taken from their communities and become relics of a past civilization to it’s viewers. Lawrence Paul Yuxeluptun challenges this notion and allows for viewer interaction. I loved the inclusion of all the reflections in the comments book. I thought it was really significant in adding words from people of all different opinions and walks of life. It opens a deeper discussion on how people interpret Indigenous art. The idea of a community collectively acknowledging land ownership and allowing the public to vote on names for it was a really smart way to have people participate (I enjoyed the name Salmontopia). Including environmental destruction, racism, and resources in the discussion of his works was a way to show that most people want the same things for their community. Many people are frightened by this idea, scared that they might lose what they feel is theirs, and this way it allows people to see what intentions are shared between opposing sides. 

The idea of ‘exhibitions as calls to action’ was interesting to me. As I see representation as a very important factor in education. I’ve mentioned before but growing up I was not exposed to Indigenous art, only the traumatic history of residential schools was supplied in our academics. We never learned about the communities we have around us today. The authors speak about ‘museums becoming sites of renewal instead of memorials to dead cultures and ideas’. There needs to be a balance and consideration on who presents what to who. Meaning, the culture who holds these belongings should decide what belongs ‘behind the glass’. Art is meant to speak about current culture, to bring up hard to speak about ideas in a more digestible way. The authors describe art’s efficiency by the impact after the exhibition, what steps are taken or systems changed. That’s exactly how it should be viewed. It’s a hard line to tread as we have talked about what it means to be considered ‘Indigenous art’, there remains the idea that some Indigenous art isn’t ‘authentic’ or it’s too modern or political. These ways of thinking have no use and shouldn’t be anyones concern, but unfortunately it is. The article gave me questions of what role museums have, who benefits from these museums, who decides what is historic and what is modern art?

“Are we strengthening our position or are we complicit in the ongoing colonial project?”

Blog #3, Final Project/ Jieri Minstita Jirinhaxaka T’u/ Eva Fernández Ojeda

This is the link to my final piece

https://soundcloud.com/user-739261725/jieri-mintsita-jirinhaxaka-tu

Artist Statement:

Jieri mintsita jirinhaxaka t’u

Solía pensar que uno no puede extrañar algo o a alguien si nunca ha sido suyo, sin embargo, me pongo nostálgica cuando pienso en ti. Te cargo conmigo y siempre te extrañaré.

There is a pressure that I feel in my chest. It is not a strange feeling; I’ve felt it before, but I do not remember when was the first time it appeared. Maybe I was born with it, carried through my mom, my grandma and my grandpa. Maybe it’s carried through my brown skin or through being a woman. As I navigate this world, I use my body as the tool of expression to understand and heal this pressure in my chest.

Where is my ancestry? How can I trace it back? Who can I ask, if my grandpa left this world when I was only a baby? I am choosing to learn Purépecha, the language of my ancestors, and pray by talking to my grandfather Apolonio, or my abuelito Cuachis, like my brother and I call him. With the use of my body in space, my voice and natural elements of cempazuchil flowers and copal incense, I reconnect with him and the generations before. I activate our senses of smell and hearing in the gallery space, and make it a time sensitive piece, diverting from the ocular centrism of the West. The act of speaking the indigenous language that was taken away from my family by settler colonialism seeks to decolonize three subjects: me, my grandpa who also wasn’t fluent in his language, and the gallery space where I will be performing the piece.

Blog #2, Process and Project Reflections/ Eva Fernández Ojeda

This project proved to be very complicated because learning a new language is difficult and takes time. At some point, when I was getting to the basics of conjugating verbs I thought “Oh my god, this is so difficult. How do people learn a new language?” and I immediately laughed at myself because I started learning my second language since I was a baby and I learned my third language when I was a teenager. However, this was a completely different experience. All three languages that I speak are colonizers’ languages (Spanish, English and French) and they share many similarities between each other, which made it easier for me to learn. However, Purépecha was a completely new and different language. By growing up in Mexico City, there are many words that we use that come from Náhuatl, which I guess would have been easier for me to understand, but Purépecha comes from the State of Michoacán and because I have never even been there, all words form this language are complicated for me. However, I enjoyed every minute of the learning process and it got me very excited to keep learning Purépecha so I can be fluent one day.

Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 outbreak, my project had to suffer from some big changes. First, I couldn’t print my grandpa’s photos, but I had the scanned version that my mom sent me, so I will be showing those in the documentation. Second and most importantly, because my medium is performance art, I couldn’t formally finish my project. It is important to me to use my body in the space to activate it, and especially because of the nature of this project, being present in “the white cube” which is the gallery, an institutional space that has been historically colonial, was important. I also wanted to use other objects as copal incense and cempazuchil (marigold) flowers, which would have activated other senses and helped the communication with the soul’s world. For the means of the class, I will be presenting an audio version of my project, but I will keep it in my list of future projects to show it at some point in a gallery space.

#3–Final Work and Artist Statement

(*clicking on the work should open a high resolution version*)

“Experiments in Photographing the Spirit”

Digital Photography Triptych

The prompt for this class was to “decolonize our lenses”, and this photographic work takes on that assignment literally as well as conceptually. My family lineage is Settler Canadian and European immigrant–both with strong ties to the Christian church–which made engaging with the processes and effects of colonization as a descendant of the colonizer initially daunting. Through conversations with my Opa (who as a WWII refugee has many stories to share), I learned a hidden aspect of my history that resonated with the discussions of this course, and this piece responds to that situation of exclusion and the resilient faith of my ancestors.

In the early 1960s, there was a spiritual surge known as the Charismatic movement among Christian denominations. This movement emphasized the importance of spirituality through the use of gifts that were said to be given by the spirit, which included (but was not limited to) the ability to speak in tongues. My grandparents, who were liberal in their own right, acknowledged the tenants of this movement as positive and powerful and discussed the movement in small group settings. Soon, several youths in their congregation confronted the church leadership for omitting these Charismatic teachings from the church discourse as a whole, as the Mennonite church’s conservative elite did not agree with emphasizing the spirit. Consequently, my grandparents became scapegoats to place and diminish the movement, and they were quietly asked to leave and never return.

For several decades afterward, my grandmother wrestled with her personal faith. She struggled to reconcile the possibility of an intimate relationship with a Creator when the politics of religion that had ostracized her with such ease. As a way of coping with these issues she began to paint late into her life, eventually using watercolor on silk as a consistent medium. Her use of art as therapy in times of turmoil has inspired me greatly in my own practice, and this piece is a direct acknowledgement of her experience. Though I dabble lightly in painting, photography has been my method for years, and approached this project as a challenge to combine studio lighting techniques in several locations I thought pertinent to my Oma’s experience.

The scarves stand in for a spiritual presence–they float above the three scenes as if caught in a fluid dance. Engaging with the themes of decolonial aesthetics we have discussed, these scarves move through scenes of life that both empower and attempt to lessen them. My grandmother was Othered for believing in a powerful spirituality, which made her question her validity against a “status-quo” that attempted to strip it from her. Even though she’s no longer here, this piece portrays her artistic medium as a symbol of resilience, strength, and trust in oneself when the world aims to convince us otherwise.

Here is a link to see each work in PDF format: SPIRIT

#2–Process

Preparing this final work took many turns–I changed ideas about concept and execution multiple times.

When the project was first introduced, I was thinking a lot about my own practice of photography in light of Juhani Pallasmaa’s The Eyes of the Skin reading and the optic centricity we have as a culture. Doing some research into the photographers of the residential schools, I began to see how photography was used as a colonial tool from such an early start and thought about ways I could potentially flip that narrative. I had the idea to take portraits and then use geographic mapping software to convert the light of the image into a relief plane that could then be 3D printed, but the idea became pretty difficult to execute in our time span and I didn’t have a clear idea of whose portraits I wanted to emulate in this way.

Then, looking at those images of such young kids in the residential schools and how they were indoctrinated and manipulated also spurred an idea. Thinking of my own childhood experience going to “Sunday school” in a Christian church, I was curious to look back at the books I would have read and the media I would have been fed as a child, to see how the Other was represented. The idea would be to reclaim the children’s bible story through a decolonized lens, breaking down the story of colonization as I had learned it in this class at a level, I would have wanted my kids (or myself as a child) to understand. However, research into that proved there would be a lot of questions to answer and worldviews to consider. I didn’t know if I wanted to tell the Christian creation story and just properly represent the significance of colonization, or include other creation stories I felt I might not have the authority to speak about… so the scope quickly proved to be quite involved and I didn’t want to make any ethical mistakes in my research simply because I was rushed for time.

Instead, as the weeks wore on, I realized it would be best to do a photography project after all, because that’s the medium I enjoy the most and I just wanted to get started on something. So, after talking with my Opa about his history with the church and researching techniques to suspend the scarves I had in a photograph, I made a list of locations for the final work and set about photographing them:

Here are some “behind the scenes” images to show how I made the work… it was done as a long-exposure image (camera on tripod) and I used a hand-held strobe flash aimed at the scarf, firing the flash and catching the scarf in the air while the long exposure took in enough light to also record the background of each location.

#1-Class Reflection

Enrolling in this course was one of the best decisions I made this semester. Having a recommendation from my roommate that Mimi was a great instructor, I came into the first class ready to be challenged and to learn a lot in the face of everything I didn’t know about the place I call home. While the readings weren’t easy by any stretch, I really respected the voices of the scholars we looked at due to a lack of encounters with decolonial thinking much before, and I liked the deconstructive criticality approach it took to looking at current systems in their entirety. While I still have much to learn and many research threads to follow just from the syllabus readings for this course, I feel better equipped to have conversations with those who are quick to judge decolonization, based off what we have read and everything we’ve discussed in class. I am so grateful to everyone in this class who was willing to share their perspectives and their personal histories–this was my favourite class every week because the intimate setting and the encouragement to participate allowed for so much meaningful exchange. I always left the class on Tuesday afternoon inspired to look further into something or create something in response to what I was learning.

Also really important to this class was the number of guest speakers and artists we were able to witness and talk to, which isn’t often an option at classes for this school. I found the presentations given by Gina Adams, Jake Chakasim, and Sue Shon gave me such inspiration, because I could see how all the theory we were learning could be put into action, taken beyond the context of the classroom and into the world where they were making real impact.

A big thank you to every member of this class and for Mimi’s instruction! This was one of the most powerful experiences of my academics at Emily Carr in my three years here, and I hope it doesn’t stop there. It was a challenge to be asked what my commitments where to the land where I live, because as a privileged Canadian with settler origins, I had never been told to think about such things. Now I can look at the issues in my local area with a critical eye that’s at least aware of the competing narratives and the history of our country, so that I can be more honest in my support for indigenous people of BC (and globally), while still recognizing I have much to learn, and there is stuff I might never be privileged to know. Above all, this experience solidified for me the importance of respect and reciprocity with all beings, whether human or more-than-human.