Nearing the turn to the new year and thus the conclusion of Wood Land School: Kahatenhstánion tsi na’tetiatere ne Iotohrkó:wa tánon Iotohrha /Drawing Lines from January to December it is meaningful to have been given a chance to reflect on the project and its force. In “Taking Up Space: An Interview with the Wood Land School,” Art in America’s Sean J Patrick Carney posed a series of thoughtful questions to Tanya Lukin Linklater, Duane Linklater and myself about the project and about art institutions. With their future-tense inflection, these prompts point to the work that still, continually asks to be done, and in the twilight of Drawing Lines… I find myself easing into hope.
In the ongoing becoming that is Wood Land School: Kahatènhston tsi na’tetiátere ne Iotohrkó:wa tánon Iotohrha / Drawing a Line from January to December, the second gesture launches this week with a cast of artists invested in thinking through what an inherited history makes in the present. It is an honour for Wood Land School to be thinking alongside Joi T. Arcand, Elisa Harkins & Nathan Young, Tsēma Igharas, Brian Jungen, Gabrielle L’Hirondelle Hill, Marianne Nicolson, Annie Pootoogook and Wendy Red Star.
The first gesture of this year-long project was concerned with the power of line to mark history and invoke memory. In this first gesture, we considered what it means to inherit a history. We made claims for where we have felt ourselves formed. We proposed that this is one of many ways to pick up the line.
In the second gesture we are asking the following question: how does the line behave?
Spanning video, photography, sculpture, drawing and performance, the works of the second gesture show us how to occupy the present. Here, the line acts as a point of departure for Indigenous relations, mapping time, family, Indigenous languages and non-human relations in the now. And yet, this isn’t a singular line of thought. What does a line of thinking become when it is collapsed or disrupted? In this second gesture, we complicate and converse with the idea of the line and materiality.
Wood Land School: Kahatènhston tsi na’tetiátere ne Iotohrkó:wa tánon Iotohrha / Drawing a Line from January to December has yielded many questions and ideas—for Wood Land School, for SBC, for the artists and for our publics. Collectively, we consider how this line acts, thinks and articulates itself under this particular condition we have created or implicated ourselves in.
Please join us at the launch of the second gesture on Thursday, 11 May 2017, 18:00–20:00, at SBC galerie d’art contemporain (372, rue Ste-Catherine Ouest, espace 507, Tiohtià:ke/Montréal). Elisa Harkins, Tsēma Igharas and Hilda Nicholas will be variously performing over the evening and they are not to be missed.
As winter turns to spring, Wood Land School’s unfolding exhibition Kahatènhston tsi na’tetiátere ne Iotohrkó:wa tánon Iotohrha / Drawing a Line from January to December prepares to rest. Articulated through a series of gestures—clusters of activity that bring works into and out of the exhibition space— a suite of new drawings by Brian Jungen will soon join works by Annie Pootoogook, Alanis Obomsawin, Layli Long Soldier, ReCollection Kahnawake and Napachie Pootoogook. With this, the composition of forms that make the first gesture will be complete.
To mark the inclusion of Jungen’s work, which are the first drawings he has produced in over 20 years, Wood Land School will engage in conversation with the artist this Thursday, 30 March 2017. Please join us.
Following this, for the month of April, the exhibition will rest, playing out the energies between the works on display, collectively producing a line that demarcates and describes inheritance.
In May, the exhibition remakes itself along with the world. Details of the second gesture will be announced soon.
Today, Alanis Obomsawin’s first film, Christmas at Moose Factory (1971), joins Annie Pootoogook’s Coleman Stove with Robin Hood Flour and Tenderflake (2003-2004) in the space of Wood Land School: Kahatènhston tsi na’tetiátere ne Iotohrkó:wa tánon Iotohrha. Conceived as a single year-long exhibition unfolding through a series of gestures—clusters of activity that bring works into and out of the gallery space—the exhibition is in a constant state of becoming, and today it shifts.
Christmas at Moose Factory brings together children’s crayon drawings and the voice of a girl narrating the images to create a study of life at Christmas time in Moose Factory, a community of mostly Indigenous families on the shore of James Bay. Incidents big and small are illustrated and described with candour, conveying to the viewer a strong sense of being there with the children and their families. As Obomsawin comments in the film, the children “speak with their drawings about life around them” and the resonance between their stories and Pootoogook’s study of domestic rituals makes for a moving illustration of the power of a line to circumscribe living and mark history.
Cultural work is not distinct from the political realities that shape civic society.
Wood Land School offers our sincerest and deepest condolences to the Muslim community of Quebec City, and to those in the province of Quebec, throughout Canada and the United States, and around the world for the hateful act that was carried out at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec on 29 January 2017. We feel a deep sense of empathy and love for the families and people affected by this tragedy. Places of prayer should be safe and peaceful sanctuaries for our communities, our loved ones, our children and our families. As Indigenous people, we understand the need for these spaces to exist, and to exist without fear. We are deeply sorry for your loss and commit ourselves to fostering a world where such acts of intolerance are no longer conceivable.
With love and solidarity,
Wood Land School
Duane Linklater, Tanya Lukin Linklater and cheyanne turions, with Walter Scott
For the duration of 2017, I will be working with a group of people I deeply respect on a project that promises to totally reconfigure how I understand the cultural work I do and the relationships that function as the support structures for it. On the invitation of Duane Linklater, I will be joining him, Tanya Lukin Linklater and Walter Scott on a new iteration of Duane’s ongoing Wood Land School project, this time anchored in Montréal at SBC Gallery. For the year, SBC’s institutional identity and resources will function wholly in support of the Wood Land School as an experiment with what it means for settler-colonial infrastructures to work in service of Indigenous imperatives. This is one attempt to understand what such a reconfiguration of power, privilege and resources can be, authored from our specific and varying subject positions. Entitled Kahatènhston tsi na’tetiátere ne Iotohrkó: wa tánon Iotohrha (in Mohawk), Drawing a Line from January to December (in English) and Traçant la ligne de janvier à décembre (in French), this project is rooted in our shared investment in making a world that grapples with how to inherit history, and it dreams wildly free about how else we can be in relation. Conceived as a single year-long exhibition, the project will unfold through a series of, what we are calling, gestures—clusters of activity that bring works into and out of the gallery space—such that the exhibition is in a constant state of becoming, learning from itself and responding to the political urgencies that are sure to emerge over the course of 2017. Amidst so many confederation and civic anniversary celebrations, Wood Land School: Kahatènhston tsi na’tetiátere ne Iotohrkó: wa tánon Iotohrha aims to be a space of critical reflection otherwise.
Tanya, Duane, Walter and I have authored a letter, explaining the project and articulating our goals for the year’s activities, which we anticipate will shift and change as the year’s programming develops. Perhaps we will re-write the letter along the way. As we begin, though, this is where we are:
For the duration of 2017, SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art will be renamed and operate as the Wood Land School. This is the continuation of a conversation, and it is the forging of new relationships. From an initial position of Indigenous self-determination and collectivity, we situate ourselves as impacted upon by forces both nurturing and destructive; we work to be aware of our own participation in dispossession; and we consider our capacity to articulate new ways of being in relation. Structured as a single exhibition unfolding over the course of a year, Wood Land School: Drawing a Line from January to December recognizes the power of line to mark history and invoke memory, proposing a line without beginning or end as a space to collaboratively imagine Indigenous futurity.
Contemporary civic institutions and social structures are built upon systems that have silenced, ignored and destructively classified Indigenous people, ideas and objects. In response to this history, Wood Land School calls upon institutions to give intellectual and physical labour, philosophical and physical space, time, and funds to support Indigenous ideas, objects, discursivity and performance. In Wood Land School’s six-year history, it has come into relation with many kinds of institutions through a framework of treaty, wherein we have accepted and shared in the responsibilities of realizing these many projects. Foregrounding Indigenous history and presence on this land now known as Canada, in a place now known as Montreal, Wood Land School: Drawing a Line from January to December attempts to create a space of critical reflection and re-imagination, where the tenets of treaty—mutual accountability, reciprocity, relation across difference and stewardship of resources—can be enacted.
Wood Land School is an experimental space where Indigenous thought and theory are centred, embodied, mobilized, and take shape as practice through exhibition and pedagogy. Wood Land School does not seek to summarize Indigenous identity, but rather to honour specific, embodied expressions of inheritance and becoming.
The scope of the contexts we operate within and in relation to include the historical, which is akin to theory, and the contemporary, which is akin to practice. Wood Land School aims to be a space for listening, where we can tend to the urgency of current conditions as they unfold—both systemic and material—with an eye to how (and how else) these circumstances can shape our everyday lives. It operates with an awareness that settler colonialism is ever present, enacted in and on Turtle Island in various forms. Wood Land School is the theorization and practice of centering Indigeneity. Our primary relationships are Indigenous to Indigenous, which includes land and non-humans. We also extend our conversations with and to other communities and publics, working in and through a treaty relationship, to re-frame conversations in a way that centres Indigenous agency. The impact of this project will be determined by many viewers over time.
We wonder, how do the relationships between theory, practice and pedagogy manifest across the complexity and diversity of Indigenous identities, and in relation to settler colonial positionings? What does it mean for a settler-colonial institution to unknow its power? What does it mean to memorialize and dream in relation? How to collectively tend to the becoming of the future?
The project launches this Saturday, 21 January 2017, with a single work by Annie Pootoogook and readings by Heather Igloliorte and Wood Land School. Please join us from 4–6 PM at SBC (372 Ste-Catherine Ouest, suite #507).
Thanks to Pip Day, Camille Usher, Julia Smith, Lindsay Nixon, the board of SBC galerie d’art contemporain, Ersy Contogouris, Kanerahtenhawi Hilda Nicholas, Dorothy Thunder, Reid Shier, Heather Igloliorte, Beatrice Deer, Canadian Art, The Three Sisters and The Andy Warhol Foundation for your labour and generosity in making this project possible.