Led in collaboration with the University of Victoria the Feminist Art Field School is an online course geared towards students, artists, curators and community members interested in gender, feminism and the porous boundaries between art, activism and academic practice.
Join Michelle Jacques and Chase Joynt for module 6 in the virtual field school as they sit down with artist Tania Willard to discuss her research, which focuses on Secwépemc aesthetics/language/land and consider collaborative projects like BUSH gallery, a conceptual space for land based art and action led by Indigenous artists.
Learn more at: https://aggv.ca/feminist-art-field-sc…
Check out some of the resources/institutions/artists mentioned in the full conversation:
The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria is located on the traditional territory of the lək̓ʷəŋən speaking peoples, today known as the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations. We extend our gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity to live and work on this territory.
Video editing by Marina DiMaio.Led in collaboration with the University of Victoria the Feminist Art Field School is an online course geared towards students, artists, curators and community members interested in gender, feminism and the porous boundaries between art, activism and academic practice. …
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Tania: And so all of these things sort of culminated
in wanting to move back home. In my territory and wanting
to make and really questioning, well,
why can’t I make space for art here?
You know, in the rural on reserve,
you know, those spaces that’s not New York and Paris, right?
These ways in which we still locate
like the center of kind of cosmopolitan art.
And, you know, I have big questions about that.
What does that mean?
Who does that leave out
when we kind of adhere to those expectations?
For me, the Bush Gallery project was as much about being in place
as well as questioning those ideas.
And so I always thought of that as like,
you can kind of make your own bush gallery space wherever.
And I didn’t think I was doing anything
totally new, just building on the ways in which you know,
people still harvest materials and make baskets
and do things that are with the land.
if I really think through Secwepemc aesthetics and ideas that I’ve learned
I realize that the only kind of concept of gallery
would be the land.
And I’ll just add this, that recently I had a chance
to translate this manifesto we first wrote for Bush Gallery.
You know, we use a number of kind of art terms and ideas in there.
And I worked with Elder Flora Sampson, Janice Dick Billy to translate what we wrote into
Secwepemcstín. So into my language.
And this is the language of the land here.
And it was really interesting to get around these ideas
and we were translating just the idea of Bush Gallery,
and it’s an opportunity for me as well
to kind of make space for resurgence in my work.
You know, we have
to all negotiate space and time and money, right?
And so I just said this is what I’m going to do.
This is where I’m going to make space
because these are things that I believe in.
Chase: Thank you so much.
And I want to immediately ask you questions
about the Bush manifesto, but I’m going to hold it.
I’m going to say it out loud and hold it and start with a broader
question and then move toward the more micro questions
that are animating my thinking,
since I had the opportunity to read everything
that you’ve offered to us for this conversation, and,
you know, my question is,
you think out loud about the categories of pedagogy
and field and land
based practice and art and aesthetics and feminism.
And I was wondering,
could you tell us in the context of this conversation,
some of the ways that those terms, categories, modes, of political
being relate to you and your work?
Tania: Yeah, well, part of that translating,
I’ll go back to the manifesto quickly,
because part of translating it was translating the word feminism,
because we write in the manifesto “BUSH gallery is feminist.”
And, you know,
because I start from this place as a mother as wanting
to make space,
you know, within the kind of push and pulls of the domestic as well.
And so I tried to translate this idea of feminism,
which was an interesting one to think about.
And we came up with “KARHÁ:KON Tió:nakte feminist nen’né:’e” which is kind of like
like an importance and a strength
and a sacredness for women at Bush Gallery.
You know, those are just deeply intertwined
for me, the importance of and the space of feminism.
You know, I’ll say that not without a critique of feminism, right?
In terms of the ways in which it didn’t in the earlier stages,
kind of make enough space
for Indigenous, Black, People of Color within those practices.
But it’s still something
I think is really important that allows us to question
the kind of impacts of patriarchy and colonialism
within our communities. So.
Michelle: Well, you took the conversation
kind of exactly to the place that I think
my next question would have taken it
because I was going to comment on how much joy
and hope there is and the way you talk about Bush Gallery
and your relationship to the land.
But of course, there’s narrative running underneath
about what is happening to the land.
There’s a huge protest at Fairy Creek
on Vancouver Island, which is
sort of really bringing into focus how complex
this situation is around the land, because there are lots of people
protesting the logging of old growth forests but in so doing,
they’re questioning the rights of the Indigenous community
whose territory that growth of trees
is on to make a living from logging those trees.
So I wonder if you could talk a little bit about how you balance
the hopefulness and joy of your relationship to the land
with all of these things that are threatening your territory
and all Indigenous territories?
Tania: Yeah, I mean, certainly I always struggle with like not doing enough and then I
have to go like, OK, but I’m doing something
and there are a lot of people doing nothing.
So, you know, you have to kind of balance that all out at times
because I don’t feel like I could ever do enough.
There’s so many pressures and has been since the onset
of settler colonialism. We hear about things in the news
or hopefully we do about the ongoing Secwepemc protest
against the Canada owned TMX pipeline.
And those are really serious
and I contribute in ways that I can to those.
But I also want to acknowledge
all the people that are doing the really difficult front line work
and that I think at times we only can do in bursts
because it’s really challenging work.
So, you know, their work on front lines as warriors is so important,
but they need people behind that to support,
you know, so fundraisers like building economies locally,
Those are all things I hope that I’m contributing to,
as well as language resurgence and knowing the land and practicing
harvest and stuff on the land, those are subtler, more ongoing ways,
completely subversive activities because if you read through like,
Secwepemc histories that’s what we’ve been fighting for, for 150 years, is being fenced out of our territories.
And that fight comes from our love and the joy that brings. Right?
And so I think the only way I can kind of be sustained in
some of that work is to have those experiences.
You know, I also think about futurity in that
even though this is a small piece of land
that is impacted,
it is and can be a future and is and can be abundance.
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