In this report, Canadian Art editorial resident Natasha Chaykowski visits “KWE: Photography, sculpture, video, and performance by Rebecca Belmore” at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery in Toronto.
As Chaykowski notes in the video, the term kwe is the Anishinaabe word for woman. Notably, Belmore’s work suggests how the bodies of women, Aboriginals and artists are neglected (and sometimes even disappeared or eliminated) by the powers that be. At the same time, however, it indicates that many such bodies manage to endure as a record of violence, and of survival of violence.
Two works in particular demonstrate these themes in Belmore’s exhibition: The large print sister hung in windows in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in its original showing, and it referenced the large numbers of Aboriginal women gone missing in that neighbourhood. The sculpture Speaking to their Mother, a large megaphone which was shown outside of the gallery in Toronto and elsewhere, invited members of the public to speak directly to the land and water.
The Ogimaa Mikana Project is an effort to restore Anishinaabemowin place-names to the streets, avenues, roads, paths, and trails of Gichi Kiiwenging (Toronto) - transforming a landscape that often obscures or makes invisible the presence of Indigenous peoples.
Louise Bourgeois, To Unravel a Torment You Must Begin Somewhere, no. 8 of 9, from the series What is the Shape of this Problem?, 1999
“I define myself as an ex-smoker, but I am just as quick to have a drag of your cigarette—see it as a metaphor for the same symptom, labelling myself as whatever is honourable, but still sucking the tit of convenience.”
The singer-songwriter Geoff Berner described Animism as “the sound of a people defying genocide,” and if Tanya Tagaq foregrounded that history—a video screen named the 1,182 aboriginal women gone missing or murdered since 1980, several dozen Jane Does in agonizing consonance—she refused to become a prisoner of it. You could tell the A&R types there didn’t really know who Tagaq was, were maybe expecting classicist folk art or something. What they got was both the evening’s most avant-garde performance (meaning sounds not yet heard) and the most metal one (meaning head-banging).
Damn, I love it when Chris Randle writes about music, period. but I love it even more when he writes about music I love.
I’ve been fangirling all over Twitter since late Monday night about how fucking important Tanya Tagaq is, and how important it is that this album, which is dedicated to Loretta Saunders, is. In the wake of her Polaris Prize win, I’m loving encountering music writers fumbling and failing in their attempts define the undefinable. How can you blame them, though? It is challenging to describe the sound of an album that is best experienced, but I’d argue Randle (and Berner) come close.
Awkward, too, to witness journalists struggling over which quotes to lift from her acceptance speech [(the same way how music reviewers/industry peeps floundered when Godspeed You! Black Emperor accepted to award with a seething critique of capitalism and Kanada?) also notice how when writers/media list off former winners they love to say Feist and Arcade Fire instead of Fucked up and Godspeed?]. People thinking “throat singer” adequately describes what she does, or what her album sounds like.
I needed a reminder that some of the best music is designed to confront, unsettle, disorient. Up late Monday night in my bed, alone, enthralled by an livestream of her performance, tears streamed down my face. Up late Tuesday night, hearing her on national radio, naming Loretta. Naming colonialism.