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Indigenous Art, Imagined Exhibitions

October 1 - November 15, 2014

Curated by Heather Igloliorte; Installed by Camille Usher


The collage of images and texts in this Department of Art History Vitrine Gallery exhibition are excerpts from the catalogues produced by students in Dr. Heather Igloliorte’s Winter 2014 advanced undergraduate seminar ARTH 450/4:  Exhibiting Aboriginal Art in Theory and Practice. In this seminar students critically examine the history and theory of exhibiting Indigenous art and culture in a global context, while concentrating on exhibitions and Aboriginal curatorial practice in Canada over the last thirty years. Throughout the semester students gain understanding of the Aboriginal arts milieu through focused readings and gallery tours, and benefit from guest lecturers and discussions with esteemed members of the Indigenous arts community from across the field of contemporary Aboriginal art and curatorial practice. Throughout the course students interrogate such issues as the tension between art historical and anthropological paradigms of display, the challenges of post-colonial museology, the possibilities of art and curatorial practice in relation to decolonization, and the ongoing role of identity and sovereignty politics in contemporary Indigenous art and art history.

Rather than writing term papers or exhibition reviews, in this course students apply their knowledge to the creation of their own ‘imagined’ exhibitions, bringing together theory and practice as they propose and plan an exhibition of Aboriginal arts throughout each stage of development. In this workshop-style class students progress logically through the stages of preparation for creating an exhibition, beginning with researching and selecting exhibition venues; writing their own biographies and CVs; developing a curatorial theme and crafting a proposal; choosing artists and selecting appropriate art works; and finally crafting their labels, writing the introductory exhibition text, designing a floor plan, planning public programming, and writing a curatorial essay for their catalogue. This Vitrine exhibition contains evidence of many of these actions, from gallery research and exhibition mapping to text labels and catalogue pages.

The imagined curatorial projects produced for this course span an impressive depth and breadth and evidence deep engagement with a wide range of concerns and topics including materiality, representation, racism, social justice, satire, appropriation, settler colonialism, performativity, Indigenous activism, and artistic and cultural continuity. Several of the projects bring contemporary Indigenous art into conversation with historical works, popular culture, and other media; many also bring Aboriginal artists into conversation non-Indigenous artists from an array of backgrounds. The end results are as thoughtful and exciting as they are varied, as demonstrated by the wonderful array of catalogues shown here. In fact, at least one of the “imagined” exhibitions is also be a “real” exhibition. The collaborative project of Indigenous curator Tricia Livingston and settler curator Nadia Lisi, Making a Mark, featuring works by Concordia University undergraduate settler and Indigenous students who seek to open a dialogue between Indigenous and settler artists through their artworks, will run from October 13th to the 24th at our own VAV Gallery. Making a Mark will have a Vernissage on the evening of October 14th and another public event on the evening of Friday, October 17th in conjunction with the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective colloquium Iakwé:iahre (we remember).

Participants: Claude Bock - Emilie Campbell - Jasmine Claus Inglis - Emily Cloutier - Susanna A. Conrad - Alexandra Costello - Nadine El-Khoury - Stephanie Gagne - Tess Juan Gaillot - Anne-Marie Guerin - Kristen Millar - Karen Lee-Chung - Tricia Livingston - Nadia Lisi - Katherine Stein - Steven Steffen - Camille Usher

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