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Every. Now. Then: Reframing Nationhood

Posted in Culture

Please go see this exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

For reasons that I will eventually have time, energy, and the patience to write about, there have been several glitches in the timeline of this project between Jonathon’s account and mine. I’m calling these multiple narratives #AGlitchInTheTimeline.

I flew out from Edmonton to Toronto for a few days on August 4th for a wedding and one of the things I was looking forward to aside to an exquisite celebration the most was this incredible exhibit, Every. Now. Then., co-curated by my dear friend Anique Jordan.

It fit and exceeded the ethos and ideals that the original vision of what As The Raven Flies sought to uncover, listen, and showcase. Our project is far from over but will, regardless of all of our efforts, only scrape the surface.

As someone who during his time in Toronto used to be a member of the AGO, I felt incredibly proud that such a privileged space and place would host such sincere and no-bullshit work. It is and will remain as one of the most powerful exhibits I have ever been to and one that, if I could give out Michellin stars equivalents for exhibits, would receive three. (What this means, at least to my limited knowledge, is that it is worth your time to fly/drive/sail to Toronto solely to see this exhibit and turn right around.)

Let me try and get into why. Well, the images + statements are mostly from the exhibit and speak for themselves.

First, an aside. Two of my favourite leading artists and creators in the ‘Canadian’ landscape are Christi Belcourt and Kent Monkman. I must have seen this piece before but somehow, it felt more relevant again now. It wasn’t part of ‘Every. Now. Then.’ but encountered on the way to it. The piece is called The Wisdom of the Universe.

Indians and Cowboys (attribution: unrecorded)

Esmaa Mohamoud

I think this 150 moment is really important for us to begin a discussion about difference, identity, and acceptance.

Multi-National Conglomerates Hostile Take Over of the New World Order by Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun

I am a survivor, and I will freely emancipate myself as a thinking person, and I will walk in my traditional territory, and I will talk to this world; and some time, at some point, things will change.

Paris/Ojibwe by Robert Houle

This installation recreated an encounter between Mississauga leader Maungwuduas + his dance troupe and the French royal court. Below each portrait is a painting of the smallpox virus, which killed several members of the dance troupe. Of the eleven original members, only five returned.

From an Early Age by Rosalie Favell

I am trying to illustrate what we looked like as a Métis family in the 1960s ... My sister and I used to wear our watches really tight so that we could pull it back and say, 'See? We're not that dark, it's a tan.' Culturally ingrained racism affected my upbringing.

Crossing by Laura Millard

These impermanent images inscribed on a place that's not mine felt like a metaphor - for land use, ownership, and the problems of Canada 150 in relation to treaty rights. This metaphor of going in circles and the absurdity of going nowhere fast was suddenly stilled by a quiet crossing.

Edge of a Moment by Meryl McMaster

I stand with some uncertainty atop the buffalo jump at Head-Smashed-In. I stand where many have stood and many more will stand after. I stand with a longing to call my ancestors to travel with me into the future.

Man Has Reached Out and Touched the Tranquil Moon by Humboldt Magnussen

The moon's history is very similar to Canada's history - settlers really wanted to own it. I think this longing for alternate spaces to own and colonize is like the hope for a 'new world'. That's what brought people over to Canada. Settlers who came to Canada romanticized the land, and we still do that today - but we forget who was here first. It is misguided to see Canada as 150 years old. As land and as people's home, it is much older. This is why I chose to depict the moon; it's part of everyone's landscape but impossible to own.

Laura, Maanii and Annie by Sofia Mesa

I think of Canada's relations with Indigenous peoples, with refugees and with non-status people as the moment before an arrow releases - the tension, the stretch... In the context of this 150 moment, my work is an exposure of those relations, literally and figuratively.

Interior Migrations by Yu GU

These videos are about Niagara's migrant workers who spend 8 to 10 months of the year in Ontario, and send their wages to their families back in Jamaica or Mexico. It explores the tensions between their memories of home and their present reality.

Baby, Don’t Worry, You Know That We Got You by Syrus Marcus Ware

left to right: Yusra Khogali, Rodney Diverlus, Melisse Watson, Queentite Opaleke

These are portraits of local activists in the movement for Black lives. One of the images is of acivist Yusra Khogali, who's a Black Muslim organizer with Black Lives Matter - Toronto. Yusra's been unfairly criticized for her valid comments about white supremacy in Canada. I want to celebrate Yusra's bravery and energy because it's easy to attack someone who seems like a representative of something, and forget they're an actual human being with feelings, families and communities. To me, people like Yusra - and activists Melisse Watson, Queentite Opaleke and Rodney Diverlus - are essential, because we need them in the fight. They're my people and I need them to survive. That's why I'm drawing them.

I literally have no words for this piece by Gu Xiong and still feel that Anique captured it much better.

Asad is an inventor with his head up in the clouds and his feet down in the dirt.

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