November 20, 2018

Winnipeg
-13° C, Light snow

Full Forecast

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Opinion

Shaking the foundations

Curators' ground-breaking exhibition puts Indigenous artists in the WAG spotlight

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/9/2017 (424 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It’s Thursday afternoon, and a cacophony of hammers and power tools reverberates through the Winnipeg Art Gallery. There’s a hum of anticipatory excitement amid the organized chaos of a gallery changeover.

Pablo Picasso exhibits are coming down, and Insurgence/Resurgence is going up.

The significance of that imagery is not lost on Jaimie Isaac and Julie Nagam, the co-curators of what will be the WAG’s largest exhibition of contemporary Indigenous art ever. Nor was it lost on Kenneth Lavallee, one of the 29 Indigenous artists who will be featured in the show. His stunning 10-metre-by-12.5-metre work Creation Story adorns the outside of the building, taking the place of the gallery’s usual promotional banner.

“When he found out he was going on the outside of the building, his reaction was, ‘I can’t wait to take Picasso down and put me up,’” Nagam says. “The shift of power of that, and what that means for a local, Indigenous, contemporary artist to be on the front facade of the WAG.”

Get the full story.
No credit card required. Cancel anytime.

Join free for 30 days

After that, pay as little as $0.99 per month for the best local news coverage in Manitoba.

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Join free for 30 days

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Subscribers Log in below to continue reading,
not a subscriber? Create an account to start a 30 day free trial.

Log in Create your account

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Mon to Sat Delivery

Pay

$34.36

per month

  • Includes all benefits of All Access Digital
  • 6-day delivery of our award-winning newspaper
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/9/2017 (424 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It’s Thursday afternoon, and a cacophony of hammers and power tools reverberates through the Winnipeg Art Gallery. There’s a hum of anticipatory excitement amid the organized chaos of a gallery changeover.

Pablo Picasso exhibits are coming down, and Insurgence/Resurgence is going up.

The significance of that imagery is not lost on Jaimie Isaac and Julie Nagam, the co-curators of what will be the WAG’s largest exhibition of contemporary Indigenous art ever. Nor was it lost on Kenneth Lavallee, one of the 29 Indigenous artists who will be featured in the show. His stunning 10-metre-by-12.5-metre work Creation Story adorns the outside of the building, taking the place of the gallery’s usual promotional banner.

"When he found out he was going on the outside of the building, his reaction was, ‘I can’t wait to take Picasso down and put me up,’" Nagam says. "The shift of power of that, and what that means for a local, Indigenous, contemporary artist to be on the front facade of the WAG."

Indeed, the exhibit, which opens tonight and runs through spring 2018, is a momentous, precedent-setting one. Covering more than 10,000 square feet, Insurgence/Resurgence is physically large. As Nagam says, the exhibit marks a radical shift and reclamation of space. Emerging-to-established contemporary Indigenous artists will show their boundary-pushing work in Western Canada’s oldest civic art gallery, in spaces usually dedicated to the Picassos of the world.

Excuse the pun, but that’s a big deal.

Over many late-night conversations, Isaac and Nagam — who have the easy shorthand of life-long best friends — thought hard about the imbalance of representation in solo and group shows in institutions across Canada. Whose voices aren’t being heard? They selected works from artists across nations, and were struck by how rich the contemporary Indigenous art scene is. "We selected until two weeks ago and we just really had to stop," Isaac says with a laugh.

JUSTIN SAMANSKI-LANGILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Local artist Kenneth Lavallee poses in front of his Creation Story, which was installed on the side of the Winnipeg Art Gallery as part of the Insurgence/Resurgence exhibition.</p>

JUSTIN SAMANSKI-LANGILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Local artist Kenneth Lavallee poses in front of his Creation Story, which was installed on the side of the Winnipeg Art Gallery as part of the Insurgence/Resurgence exhibition.

But Insurgence/Resurgence also represents a sea change when it comes to who is making those curatorial decisions. In addition to co-curating this show, both Isaac and Nagam have ascended to influential roles within the organization; Isaac is the newly appointed curator of Indigenous and contemporary art at the WAG, while Nagam is the chair in the History of Indigenous Art in North America, a joint appointment with the University of Winnipeg and the WAG.

"We’re two female Indigenous curators/artists who have been given a lot of power, which doesn’t always happen," Nagam says. They’re also young; both women are in their 30s. "That’s radical in another aspect, in terms of thinking about the glass ceiling and where women get to take up space."

A few days after I met with Isaac and Nagam, the 2017 Emmy Awards were televised. Various wins by people of colour — Lena Waithe, Donald Glover and Riz Ahmed, to name a few — made history Sunday night. Those victories brought into sharp relief how the cultural landscape is changing. The voices that are being heard on Netflix, on the big screen, on stage, in books and, yes, in art galleries are finally becoming more diverse. So, too, are the gatekeepers — the curators, the editors, the show creators — who, come to think of it, don’t act much like gatekeepers at all.

To that end, it was important for Isaac and Nagam to include emerging artists in Insurgence/Resurgence. Artists such as Dee Barsy, whose vivid abstract My Four Grandmothers is featured prominently in the exhibition’s promotional materials.

"I feel honoured to be involved in the show," Barsy says. "I feel excitement for the future of Indigenous art, and that I get to be an emerging artist in this show."

The soft-spoken 30-year-old Winnipegger was thinking about grandmothers when she put brush to birch panel. One of her grandmothers died on Mother’s Day this year, and Barsy, who was adopted, met one of her birth grandmothers for the first time the year before. "When I met her, it was hugs and, ‘I love you.’ I wasn’t expecting that. I was thinking about my birth grandmothers and my adoptive grandmothers and how I’m so lucky to have so much love in my life, and the fact this person has remembered me for 30 years and has always loved me."

The powerful, and political, works in the exhibition span media, including beading, tufting, tattooing, painting, sculpture, installation, photography, sound and performance. Isaac says the lines between traditional and contemporary are blurred, and the show will challenge assumptions about what Indigenous art is.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Insurgence/Resurgence co-curators Julie Nagam (left) and Jaimie Issac.</p></p>

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Insurgence/Resurgence co-curators Julie Nagam (left) and Jaimie Issac.

Isaac and Nagam are also interested in public art, which is a big reason why Insurgence/Resurgence is not confined to any one gallery in the building.

"You can’t avoid the engagement," Isaac says. "It surprises you, which is really beautiful about public art."

Similarly, you can’t avoid Insurgence/Resurgence. "It was really effective in taking up space, holding space and making space for Indigenous artists who have, for so long, been denied access to contemporary art contexts," she says

In many ways, this exhibition will set the tone for the future.

"I think there’s only room to explore and experiment more," Isaac says. "Personally, in my role as Indigenous and contemporary art curator, I’m really wanting to reflect the voices in our community, which is diverse. I want to think about imbalance in institutions and representation of who they’re showing in solo shows and group shows. I want to support artists of colour in the community, support members of the LGBTQ2S community, and support more women’s shows."

Nagam, meanwhile, would love to see the creation of an Indigenous research centre and media lab, so that people are given the space and opportunity to explore different kinds of work.

"I’d like to see Winnipeg become the hub for contemporary Indigenous art," she says. "That means in all institutions. It’s a lofty goal, but it’s what I want to see happen."

jen.zoratti@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @JenZoratti

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti
Columnist

Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and co-host of the paper's local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

Read full biography

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

History

Updated on Friday, September 22, 2017 at 8:57 AM CDT: Fixes typo

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective January 2015.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us