Curated by Wanda Nanibush, this exhibition at Neutral Ground (203-1856 Scarth) features some pretty well-known First Nations artists. The title does double duty, referencing both the intent of the artists to assert the autonomous status of aboriginal people in Canada and the fact that, in doing so, they use the medium of performance. So their works are “acts” in the theatrical sense too.
According to Nanibush’s curatorial essay, Sovereign Acts takes its inspiration from a video installation by the best-known artist of the six — Rebecca Belmore. It’s a three-channel work called In the Wilderness Garden (pictured above) in which the Vancouver-based artist honors an 18th century Mi’kmaw man who was taken captive and transported to England where he was forced to hunt a deer in a Victorian garden for the amusement of hoity-toity Brits aghast at his savagery. After killing and eating the deer the man apparently squatted in front of his audience and took a shit.
Consider him a forerunner of Piero Manzoni if you like, but Belmore identifies his action as the beginning of aboriginal performance art in resistance to colonial oppression. That’s a theme that runs throughout the exhibition that, in addition to Belmore, features work by Adrian Stimson (Buffalo Boy), Shelley Niro (500 Year Itch), Lori Blondeau (Belle Sauvage, Betty Daybird), Terrance Houle (Wagonburner) and Jeff Thomas (Powwow Dancers).
Sovereign Acts runs at Neutral Ground until April 4.