Large white clouds, raining metal drops, hang from the ceiling, while a video of a snowboarder jumping an obstacle plays in the background. The same obstacle sits alone on the gallery floor, in front of collages of crosses, teepees, men with long braids and white girls in dresses.
“It’s about reaction and distraction; oppression and sovereignty; and absence and presence,” curator Ryan Rice writes about to his latest exhibit, Alternation, currently on display at the Harbourfront Centre as part of the upcoming festival Planet Indigenous.
Throughout the summer, the centre is hosting 10 cultural festivals, featuring thousands of artists. This weekend kicks of the 10-day celebration of traditional and contemporary Indigenous cultures from around the world through visual art, theatre, music and dance.
One of the aims of Planet Indigenous, artistic director Janis Monture says, is to break away from the perception that Indigenous culture is “frozen in time, kept under glass like artifacts,” and to let people know “we’re still very much kicking and contributing to this community.”
Alternation plays its part in that task as it explores the shifting nature of culture and identity, with each artist bringing their different backgrounds to the artistic table, including Inuit, First Nation and mixed heritages.
Mark Igloliorte’s video installation of a balancing act on his snowboard, represents the harmony he strikes between his Inuit and Newfoundland background, as well as the balance between the cultures he was born into with those that he’s chosen, boarding and painting.
Across the room, Hannah Claus’s cloud installation, which translated means “the shedding of the ballast,” also incorporates notions of balance and stability, with the dangling raindrops representing landscapes that have been stripped of stability.
Claus, part Mohawk, grew up in an urban centre, explains there’s more to the piece than what is seen on the surface.
“It is also about making connections between cultures and opening up to worlds that we don’t see around us but are there. The connection between energy, form, matter ... the delicate nature of this balance of being heard and seen and understood.”
Other pieces in the exhibit also play with ideas of connecting cultures, such as George Littlechild’s collages of pictures of white and Indigenous people laid overtop of symbolic images such as the Union Jack flag.
Monture says the notions of shifting identity and geography that Rice brought forth are important and is thrilled with the exhibit.
“All their pieces are quite phenomenal and quite contemporary … and that’s one of the things we want.”
• Award winning Keesic Douglas’s video Vanishing Trace and photo exhibit Flight to the Moon, both exploring stereotypes and racism towards natives.
• RESPECT, 80 billboard-sizes aerial images of Canada’s boreal forest shot by nine Canadian photographers.
Opening this weekend:
• Polytoxic presents Teuila Postcards: Three tourists journey to a fantasy island expecting an exotic, blissful, dream-like holiday. What they get is an island-style drag show, a hilarious Elvis-inspired advert and insight into a Samoan girl’s experiences of everyday life. Admission: $25, 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday.
• Maori Dance Workshop with Pacific Curls: Learn a number of dances including Kapa haka (traditional dance), action songs, body percussion dances and titioria, a traditional Maori stick dance taught to children and adults alike. Free, 6 p.m. on Saturday.
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