Ringtone – Can You Hear Me Know?
by Frank Shebageget
I stood on top of Sulfur Mountain. I had just taken the cold winter walk along the mountain’s summit ridge to the Cosmic Ray Station, just below the Sanson’s Peak Meteorological Station. I stood on the small landing with no more than just a chain link fence dividing me from the steep slope of the mountain, gazing over the Rockies – one way — civilization, other ways — forest, trees, rivers, and mountains, at the convergence of the three river valleys. These valleys are the corridors for animals and travelers, coming from great distances, and located in the center at the bottom is the town of Banff. As I was getting lost in these surroundings, I heard a faint noise coming from my jacket pocket, and realized it was my cell phone. I answered and heard a friendly voice. It was Ryan Rice. Ryan was in Banff installing his show Anthem: Perspectives on Home and Native Land at the Walter Philips Gallery. He wanted to know what I was doing, and wanting to make dinner plans. I told him where I was, and we had a good laugh. It was another thing to hear the theme music from Sanford and Son (my ringtone), high up on a mountaintop.
In August 2007, I was invited by Candice Hopkins and the Visual Arts Department at The Banff Centre to participate in a residency entitled Fiction. This residency took place over two months — from January to February of 2008, and the other participants consisted of influential artists like Alex Janvier and Edward Poitras; old friends Greg Staats, Nadia Myre, and Rosalie Favell; and new friends Richard Bell, Tania Willard, Cat Fink, and Jen Rae. Before going off to Banff, Ryan had suggested I should organize a small exhibition in the Other Gallery, a small alternative space beside the Walter Phillips Gallery, mainly used by artists in the residency program.
As I found there was a great spirit of collaboration, everyone was very interested in participating in an as-of-yet untitled three-day exhibition. With all the participants of the Fiction residency converging in Banff from all across Canada and even Australia, I noticed that, in one way or another, all of the artists dealt with where they came from and how their homeland influenced who they were. Through brief glimpses of the resident artists’ work I seen as I passed their studios, or during long impromptu studio visits, I observed ideas about mapping, territory, nation, and identity. Unintentionally, everyone seemed to be preoccupied with an encompassing idea of nationhood, expressed within their own individuality, culture, language, icons, and personal history. So, I decided to put together the exhibition in response to Anthem.
Since I still had no title, the exhibition ended up being generically called Fiction Residency Group Exhibition. I thought to myself, this show was a “smaller” version of Anthem, but on a more immediate, micro-level and began searching for a word that had the same meaning as ‘anthem’, but nothing in the thesaurus seemed to fit. The show came and went, I packed up, and traveled back to Ottawa. A few weeks later, I was brainstorming, and thought about what experiences stood out during my time in Banff. Then it hit me, standing on the mountaintop, my cell phone ringing was my own personal anthem.
Artists: Richard Bell, Rosalie Favell, Cat Fink, Alex Janvier, Nadia Myre, Edward Poitras, Jen Rae, Greg Staats, and Tania Willard
Bell, who was born in 1953 in Charleville, south west Queensland (Aus), belongs to the Kamilaroi, Kooma, Jiman and Gurang Gurang peoples, has had a distinguished career spanning the past twenty years. His paintings play with the practice of appropriation, often mining the pop art styles of Roy Lichtenstein and Jasper Johns, or the paint drips of Jackson Pollock, while including texts that complicate the way we think about racism and race politics in Australia. Bell has become an internationally recognised artist who has exhibited his work in significant exhibitions internationally.
Rosalie Favell was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Much of her work draws upon both her family history and Métis (Cree/English) heritage that goes back many generations in the Winnipeg and surrounding areas. She also uses other sources to present a complex self-portrait of her experiences as a contemporary aboriginal woman. In addition to scouring her family albums for visual material, she finds inspiration in popular culture, and has incorporated a number of Warrior women from television series and movies into her works. Recent work undertakes a spiritual quest, drawing upon a number of religions and beliefs. In 1998, she earned an MFA from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM. She is currently enrolled in a PhD program in Cultural Mediations at Carleton University.
Cat Fink has been artist, storyteller, shape-shifter all of her life and graduated from the Victoria College of Art. Fink draws objects, using pastel, charcoal, graphite, coloured pencil, and acrylic on paper. Her drawings have words now and they tell stories. Fink is also a mom, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, piano teacher, and coyote-tailed Crow Girl. She lives in Nemiah Valley and Victoria, BC.
Alex Janvier has been painting for over 40 years and has created a unique style, his own “visual language,” informed by the rich cultural and spiritual traditions and heritage of the Dene in northern Alberta. Alex Janvier was born on Le Goff Reserve, Cold Lake First Nations, Northern Alberta in 1935. Aboriginal artist and painter, Alex Janvier graduated from the Alberta College of Art (1960) and later was an art instructor at the University of Alberta. In 2008 Alex Janvier received the Marion Nicoll Visual Arts Award from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts; Alex Janvier retrospective exhibition opened at the Art Gallery of Calgary, an exhibition produced by the Art Gallery of Calgary for the Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art; Was recognized as one of Alberta’s 50 Most Influential People in Alberta by The Venture Magazine; Janvier received a Doctor of Laws Honorary Degree from the University of Alberta; and was the recipient of the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.
Nadia Myre is a multidisciplinary artist of Algonquin ancestry. In 1997 she was registered as a member of Kitigan Zibi (Maniwaki, Quebec) and in 2000, as a tribute to her mother’s effort in obtaining their status, Myre proceeded to bead over all 56 pages of the annotated Indian Act with the help of over 200 participants. In 2004, she started The Scar Project, an ongoing ‘open lab’ where viewers participate by sewing their scars –real or symbolic– onto stretched canvases and writing their ‘scar stories’ on paper. To date she has a collection of over 350 canvases and accompanying texts. Myre is currently looking at companies that are causing environmental damage, and beading their logos. She has exhibited nationally and internationally and is a recipient of the Eiteljorg’s Native Artists Fellowships 2007.
Edward Poitras is a member of Gordon First Nation, Treaty Four Territory, Canada. In 1995, he represented Canada at the prestigious Venice Biennale. Poitras has also shown in the Havana Biennale, The Canadian Biennial of Contemporary Art and is a recipient of the Governor Generals Award in Media and Visual Arts; The Lieutenant Governors Award for Innovation; and The Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award. The themes of assimilation, genocide, displacement and survival permeate his work. Poitras explores tensions between past and present, nature and technology, western culture and First Nations cultures, combining natural materials with manufactured objects.
Jen Rae is a Métis Alberta-based interdisciplinary artist educated at Grant MacEwan College, The University of Alberta and Concordia University. Influenced by a three-year residency at The University of Alberta Hospital and years of nomadic movement, Rae’s research-based and ritually driven work investigates correlations between human interaction and environment with an emphasis on sensorial experience, memory and narrative. Often intersecting various disciplines of study, her investigations question the boundaries of personal vs. private space: between the tangible/perceptible and the intangible/concealed. Rae has exhibited her work in Alberta and Quebec and will begin her Masters of Art (Art in Public Spaces) at The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in March 2008.
Greg Staats (b. 1963, Ohsweken, Ontario) has lived and worked in Toronto since 1985. He is a photographer and video maker who draws on a traditional Mohawk restorative aesthetic that defines the multiplicity inherent in relationships. Staats has developed projects around the notions of animose, errance, the performative aspect of objects, and repetition; more recently he has explored his family archive which includes images, sound recordings, diaries and various other documents. Staats resultant videos are contemplative and require viewers to adapt to the rhythms of the natural world. A work in this vein depicts boreal markers on the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory in southern Ontario, the artist’s birthplace.
Tania Willard is an artist from the Secwpemc Nation, her work has been exhibited at a local grassroots level, gallery and artist run centre’s and internationally. Willard lives in Vancouver and has been a part of many aboriginal organizations and arts groups, currently she is editor of brunt magazine with grunt gallery. Her work, in painting and printmaking, concentrates on narrative and the power of story to re-create histories, understanding and points of intersection between cultures.
List of Works
- Richard Bell Red Canada Acrylic on Canvas 2008
- Rosalie Favell The Highlander 2008 Inkjet Print
- Cat Fink I dreamed shivering land where every shade of red whispered storm coming pastel, charcoal, coloured pencil, acrylic on paper (diptych of drawing and t-shirt) 2008
- Alex Janvier Love Lines Acrylic, Watercolour, Ink on Paper 2008
- Alex Janvier Sunrise on Mountains Acrylic, Watercolour, Ink on Paper 2008
- Nadia Myre Portrait as a Line video, approx. 4 min. 2008
- Nadia Myre Erase Embossing on paper 2008
- Edward Poitras Don’t Touch Charcoal on Paper 2008
- Edward Poitras Big and David with Niel Stonechild Digital Print 2008
- Edward Poitras Crown of Nails Digital Print 2008
- Jen Rae A Predilection for Gravity Digital Print 2008
- Jen Rea The Storytellers 12:53 audio track 2008
- Greg Staats auto-mnemonic condolence 12 digital prints 2008 ongoing
- Greg Staats red oak condolence (detail/still) video, colour 3:18 min. 2006
- Greg Staats water (Detail/still) video, colour 3:24 min. 2008
- Greg Staats disturbance (detail/still) video, color 4:37 min.
- Tania Willard Dreaming: Terra Incognita Wood engraving and silkscreen, letterpress printed, 2008