Since time immemorial, Indigenous peoples have preserved biodiversity in the face of continued human population growth. Shortly after the time of first contact with Europeans, Indigenous communities were stripped of their ancestral lands; the Land Back movement aims to restore governance and stewardship of the territory for a sustainable future.
If Land Back is a call to action, a return of equity to a stolen territory, it also allows for some questioning. How can we best protect biodiversity, land and water? The first step would be to return the land to its traditional and legitimate protectors. The revalorization of Indigenous knowledge goes beyond symbolic gestures of recognition or inclusion; it aims to significantly change practices and structures.
The “discovery” of the mass graves of Canada’s Indigenous residential schools in the summer of 2021 has sent shockwaves across the country – raising a wave of misunderstanding, dismay and empathy. Yet the first official apology from the Government of Canada to former residential school students, issued by Stephen Harper, was in 2008. Over 150,000 children were placed in residential schools. The last Canadian Indigenous residential school closed in 1997. These schools have been agents of abuse, suffering, and cultural and generational uprooting. How can we explain such a great loss of memory, in the face of such a traumatic event? How can we act now?
The artists presented in this space address this sensitive subject through different answers, solutions or further questioning. Lisa Jackson approaches the issue of family uprooting with a darkly humorous critique in her film SAVAGE, while Roxanne Charles’ colossal installation The Strata of Many Truths takes a more emotional approach.
Jacob Meders and Pat Kane turn to a more spiritual and religious angle of the subject through installation and photography, respectively. Meders’ work is also part of a performative action in which the artist directly sources the soil of the exhibition site.
Carey Newman’s Witness Blanket is a filmic projection of the physical work of the same name. A national monument of memory, it is a mosaic of hundreds of objects and testimonies of residential school survivors. Art could thus be positioned as a vehicle for commemoration, but also, potentially, as a healing process.
We recognize that BACA is taking place on unceded Indigenous lands, and that the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation is the caretaker of the lands and waters on which we gather today. Tiohtiá:ke (Montreal) is historically known as a gathering place for many First Nations. Today, it is home to a varied population of Indigenous and other peoples. BACA acknowledges the continued relations with the past, present, and future in their current relationships with Indigenous and other peoples within the Montreal community.
The Biennale d’art contemporain autochtone (BACA) thanks the Canada Council for the Arts, the Government of Quebec (Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, Fonds d’investissement pour le rayonnement de la Métropole), Tourisme Montréal, the Conseil des arts de Montréal, the Maison des Jésuites de Sillery and its other presenting partners.