Curated by Christine Conley, Crossings covered a program of performance art and discussion, which included a workshop component in Ottawa. The program sought to bring artists from Belfast together with First Nations artists. The core artists were Bbeyond members Alastair MacLennan, Sandra Johnston and Sinéad Bhreathnach-Cashell, representing three generations of artists based in Belfast, and Aboriginal artists Jackson 2bears (Kanien’kehaka (Mohawk)), Maria Hupfield (Anishnaabe (Ojibway)) and Skeena Reece (Tsimshian/Gitksan and Cree).
*** Image caption: Darryl Nepinak, I-N-D-I-A-N(Still), 2008. Courtesy: Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba*** Double
Paris/Ojibwa is the latest multimedia installation by world-renowned Anishinabeg (Ojibwa)  artist Robert Houle. The installation is a time portal to 1845, when a troupe of Ojibwa dancers lead by a man named Maungwudaus travelled to Paris to dance for King Louis-Phillipe of France and a public of 4,000 French ladies and gentlemen. They were part of American painter George Catlin’s “Indian Museum,”  presented as living exhibits of an ancient culture.
Sound artist Dipna Horra uses field and voice recordings to create aural environments that simultaneously present a sense of location and dislocation. With Avaaz, Horra recounts a narrative of migration from India to Africa and then Canada, a narrative that undergoes translation and transposition. Horra’s sound installation consists of a central table set for tea, a wheeled tea trolley in the corner, a suspended window pane on the left of the gallery space and an unobtrusive air vent at our feet. Simple furniture, understated architectural features and fine china are the conduits through which the sound artefacts, that tell the artist’s story are emitted. Horra’s kitchen installation is a theatrical space in which the continuity of ancestral memory both reassures and unsettles.
The Turtle/Television Island Project features the work of two contemporary aboriginal artists: James Luna, of the Puyoukitchum (Luiseño) nation, who is based in La Jolla, California; and ssipsis, of the Penobscot nation of Indian Island, Maine. Both of these artists use contemporary media to critically reflect on and repair the often static ways in which Native Americans are portrayed by the white/Western world.
In a conversation with Lucy Lippard in 1985, Suzanne Lacy spoke of the history of women’s labor unions making use of communal activities such as pageants, dinner parties, gift exchanges and birthday celebrations as a means to build solidarity amongst women. Art and activism have a longstanding overlapping history. In the mid-80s, Suzanne Lacy began retroactively framing the large-scale performances she had been undertaking since the early 70s within the tradition of pageantry. Pageants in the early part of the 20th century were a deeply community-oriented and non-commercial form of entertainment: they were often massive productions involving a cast of hundreds of volunteers in performances of theatre, dance and music.
Catch + Release is an exhibition that gives us valuable glimpses into the communities that rely on salmon along the Pacific coast. Ruth Beer, in collaboration with Kit Grauer and Jim Budd, has created a space to contemplate the importance of salmon and the ocean in our everyday lives. Incorporating sculpture, video interviews and interactive sensor technology, the show creates an immersive experience that juxtaposes the history of Steveston, a fishing village on the West Coast, with contemporary data from NEPTUNE, Canada’s underwater ocean observatory.
500 Years of Resistance, a graphic novel written and illustrated by Gord Hill, celebrates a history of resistance against colonialism from the perspective of Indigenous warriors of the Americas. This past July marked the 20th anniversary of Kanien’kehaka (Mohawk) resistance to the proposed construction of a golf course and resort over their sacred lands and burial sites, known through mainstream media as The Oka Crisis. Thoughts of the summer of 1990 evoke mixed memories of tension, conflict and a coming together as activists on reserves and in urban centres demonstrated in support of the Kanien’kehaka of Kahnesatà:ke.
Discussing alternative ideas and spaces seems just as much an exercise in locating the norm, as it is a matter of articulating possible alternatives. Ranging from articles that consider contemporary alternative spaces in art, to the normalization of alternative thinking, Playing by the Rules questions whether spaces can remain “alternative “over the long term. The collection contains 13 essays from artists, historians, curators, writers, poets, critics, philosophers, theoreticians, and professors, including a preface by Stephen Rand, an introduction by Heather Kouris, and essays by Pablo Helguera, Robert Atkins, Biljana Ciric, René Block, Irene Tsatsos, Raphael Rubenstein, Marina Grizinic, Julie Ault, Renaud Ego, Boris Groys, Naeem Mohaiemen, Winslow Burleson, and Sofija Grandakovska. Together the essays develop a theoretical and practical space for rethinking and assessing the continued relevance of alternative spaces.
With video cameras going palm-size, the creation of home movies only as far away as the nearest iPhone, and the ubiquity of YouTube and its near-live broadcast potential, we can forget how the creative practice of new media was, not too long ago, an artistic form that required more than just the latest technology. Indeed, for many, it was a direct and unique expression of identity formation.