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Close Encounters: The Future of First Nations Art

Various Venues, Winnipeg Jan 22 to May 8 2011
Wally Dion <i>Thunderbird</i> 2008 Detail  Wally Dion Thunderbird 2008 Detail

Wally Dion <i>Thunderbird</i> 2008 Detail

Canada’s first major visual-art event of 2011, “Close Encounters: The Next 500 Years,” brings together diverse national and international voices in a bold forecast of the future of aboriginal art. Curated by Candice Hopkins, Steve Loft, Lee-Ann Martin and Jenny Western, and taking place in several Winnipeg venues—109 Pacific Avenue, the Winnipeg Art Gallery and Plug In ICA, to name a few—“Close Encounters” aims to re-evaluate the relationship between Aboriginal and Western cultures. Keeping in mind the first 500 years of this relationship, a history rife with clash, resistance and disparity, participating artists present both utopian fantasies and darkly critical nightmares. US-based collective Postcommodity’s ominous Repellent Eye, a headlining work, is a 10-foot-wide “scare-eye balloon” that will float above Winnipeg, mimicking the environmentally friendly gardening contraption that keeps avian pests away—and suggesting said pest might, in this context, be Western civilization at large. Saskatoon’s Wally Dion proposes hybridity, constructing spectacular panels featuring tribal iconography composed of circuit boards. On that note, many of the works—true to the event’s spirit of inclusiveness—look backward and forward, locally and globally, such as New Zealander Lisa Reihana’s Digital Marae, a 10-years-and-running multimedia project that plays freely with gender, myth and genetics, seeing a future devoid of borders, whether actual or conceptual. (109 Pacific Ave, 300 Memorial Blvd, 460 Portage Ave & other sites, Winnipeg MB)

This article was first published online on January 20, 2011.

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