4th Year, Art Education Specialization
As a non-aboriginal artist and art educator, working within a framework of socially engaged art practice, my intent is to pay tribute to human experience and the resilience of displaced or marginalized peoples. Through issues-based pedagogy, I hope to evoke the potential in my students to imagine change through their own agency and critically reflect on issues that affect the health of communities and environments.
Projected Migrations aims to expose the unjust displacement of aboriginal communities, specifically Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario. This community, and others across the country, live in despair due to the social arrangements established by our government. My project aims to acknowledge our system’s failure as non-indigenous and Eurocentric interventions continue to erode northern living conditions.
In November 2013, news broke of residents and families located at the mouth of the Attawapiskat River at James Bay that they were again being evacuated from their remote First Nations community due to substandard living conditions. This crisis inspired me to create a work which reframed romanticized notions of nature in the Canadian North. Projected Migrations is a three-dimensional projection of videos onto a man-made storage shed in my backyard woods.
Inspired by the strength and perseverance of Attawapiskat residents to exist in deplorable conditions brought about by the politics of “historical colonialism and its ideology of denial” (Watkins & Shulman, 2008, p.30), I situated viewers as witnesses to the “greatest natural migration on earth” of our Canadian caribou herd, intercut with images of the ongoing community crisis occurring in the Attawapiskat First Nation. As I worked on the video, I became more conscious that, as a privileged immigrant (Battiste, 2000, p. 196), I needed to be mindful of the ethical challenges of appropriating the conditions and pain of Canada’s indigenous peoples. I felt strongly the demand for personal accountability in representing their knowledge and traditional practices of a world that operates according to a rhythm completely different from the one to which we are accustomed. (Miller & Sheehy, 2008, p.103) In this spirit, I implicitly challenge my audience to reconcile and contest the exclusionary interests of government and business interventions, which break the balance of communities and nature.