Maria Alejandrina Coates and Julieta Maria
This publication presents seven inter-media art projects with corresponding critical responses by seven writers, as well as four feature essays that address the embodied experiences of Indigenous people and non-Indigenous racialized im/migrants across the political and geographical borders of North America. All of these projects use emergent technologies and media to recount stories marked by the tension between migration and rootedness, reality and fiction.
Inspired by the conversations that took place during the symposium on Decolonial Aesthetics from the Americas, which was organized by e-fagia in collaboration with FUSE Magazine in 2013, this project critically addresses settler colonialism from the point of view of Indigenous and im/migrant artists and activists, particularly within the boundaries of what is now called Canada.
Guided by a transdisciplinary curatorial approach, both the exhibition and publication set up a conversation on the topics of indigeneity and immigration in the context of creative narratives and the frameworks enabled by new media and digital technologies. The artists’ projects use an extensive list of media, including video, animation, photography, sound, text, maps, games, documents, food, performance, and machinima towards an imaging of our current reality in an increasingly globalized, mediated, and networked world. In this sense, voz-à-voz / voice-à-voice focuses on the intersectionality of political identities and the relationship between voices that have created a new aesthetic vocabulary to articulate the stories of their communities. This exhibition and publication bring these voices together to examine the ways in which new media and storytelling can build alternatives to the divisive and capitalistic structures that tend to limit our politics and behaviours.
These artworks are tied together by the movements of people (or their immobility) across state, institutional, social, and geographical borders, as well as through time. Our current profit-oriented system limits the movements of people while facilitating the free flow of capital; this forces us into predetermined roles and routes, setting us up in complex relations of exploitation. In the midst of capitalist and colonial homogenizing drives, artist and activist voices from different communities strive to challenge and overcome these relationships. For those of us who identify as im/migrants and settlers, these voices can inform our movements as we set out to imagine different journeys and ways of being in relationship to this land.
To escape the physical and symbolic constraints imposed on us means responding to an ethical imperative for affection, connection, and dialogue. It prompts us to be in a state of constant movement. In a similar way in which David Garneau, in his essay for this publication, proposes Indigenous territory as an embodied space that is performed in motion, we im/migrants can embrace a way of being that articulates movements, encounters, and conversations that unsettle the colonial framework we inhabit.
Through the works presented in this publication and exhibition, migration becomes a practice that opens dialogues, nurtures relationships, and continually examines our presence on these indigenous lands. These artists present journeys as movement out of, and back towards, other territories; journeys to the past and to the future. In this sense, migration is defined not just as the movement of people, but as a way of knowing that becomes a call to both act and tell at the intersections of histories and experiences. The audience is invited to be a companion and a witness, rather than a voyeur, to these stories.
From schizoid enclosed walks of the interior of an immigration detention center found in the work of Tings Chak, to ones that open the landscape to hidden histories in a documentary by Alexandra Gelis; from the futurist tales of Skawennati and micha cárdenas, to historical accounts that divert from colonial discourses explored by Gita Hashemi; from the hope orchestrated by Cheryl L’Hirondelle to the complete re-orientation of a Toronto locality produced by Julie Nagam, these artists take us through ruptures, apocalypses, and processes of recovery. They walk through spaces of forgetting and remembering. Migration (both as a reality and as a metaphor) entails also a rebuilding and reimagining of one’s territory from ruins. Through them, we would like to think about the possibility of reimagining and rebuilding this/our territory(ies) with others, voz-à-voz.
In line with this process, the feature essays in this publication address the relationship between self-identification and representation. For instance, David Garneau explores the concept of non-colonial Indigenous aesthetic attitude as a state of being and as a creative impulse that exceeds the limits of political identification. This notion provides a more inclusive understanding of art that allows meanings to converse with other non-Indigenous settlers and im/migrants who inhabit the land. Francisco-Fernando Granados similarly picks up on the need and responsibility required of im/migrants and settlers to engage in a Nation-to-Nation dialogue that necessitates an examination and undoing of the privileges of citizenship and the benefits of colonialism. The same feeling and need for interconnectedness is encountered by Lindsey Catherine Cornum, who looks to the vast unknown of outer space while firmly grounded in the realities and traditions of an Indigenous Earth. In this muddle of time, going back to origin stories and historical moments allows one to find new pathways from which to move forward; as well as new ways of interacting with each other and thinking of the future apart from colonialist visions of contact. While Indigenous Futurism is a method to visualize alternative models of progress and technology, the use of media by Indigenous artists is discussed by Wanda Nanibush as a means to express non-linear narratives, the circularity of time, and the visual and oral histories used to represent Indigenous worldviews. With this in mind, Nanibush explores how media becomes a tool to establish cultural continuity and the resurgence of Indigenous voices within contemporary culture.
The critical responses to the artists’ work were commissioned with the intention of providing more context for and insight about the pieces presented in the publication and exhibition, and in order to facilitate intimate dialogue between mutually invested practitioners who might not otherwise be in direct contact. The writers who have contributed responses are Heather Hermant, Nasrin Himada, Tarah Hogue, Yaniya Lee, Jessica MacCormack, Farrah Miranda, and Gregory Volk.
The publication is accompanied by an exhibition at YYZ artists' outlet, from September 18th to December 5th, 2015. A programming series has been also scheduled, including a two-day workshop by Dylan A.T. Miner, “Lowriding as Indigenous Ontology,” a performance by micha cárdenas based on the game and artwork Redshift and Portalmetal, as well as an artist’s talk and screening of TimeTravellerTM by Skawennati.