QAF 2017: UnSettled
Curator Adrian Stimson
For too long, the absence of representations of Two-Spirit people, art, and being from contemporary popular culture has been equally embedded in hegemonic practices of colonization. With UnSettled I explore the art and being of *Two-Spirit artists, and in turn, they expose the issues of historical extermination of Two-Spirit people, the lack of alternative aboriginal sexuality and gender in contemporary Western culture/media, the Two-Spirit movement and future as a part of the reclamation of Two-Spirit identity and practice.— Adrian Stimson
*The term “Two-Spirit” is used by many Indigenous people to describe their gender, sexual and spiritual identity—often inclusive of all LGBTQ+—in reclaiming and restoring traditional Indigenous concepts suppressed by colonial heteronormativity.
UnSettled is an exhibition curated by Adrian Stimson (Blackfoot) as part of the Queer Arts Festival (QAF), June 17-29, 2017 in Vancouver. Resolutely contemporary, the exhibition focuses on art produced in the new millennium, bringing together Two-Spirit visual artists working in new media, video, photography, performance, painting, sculpture, and installation in Canada.
Canadian Art noted “an unprecedented number of exhibitions, residencies and other art activities addressing Canada’s residential-school history and present-day consequences, as well as addressing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that has been officially ordained to bring that legacy to light.” With the TRC’s recommendation (#83) that Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists and arts organizations work together to contribute to reconciliation, this trend is bound to accelerate. However, critics have noted problematic aspects of this development, including the continued absence of Two-Spirit representation (often limited to the presentation of only the most well-known artist), the exhibition of aboriginal trauma for primarily non-Indigenous audiences, and pressure to emphasize forgiveness rather than accountability.
Truth and Reconciliation is not about following the governmental process, it is an ongoing process of coming to understand the effects of genocide, knowing our resilience as Indigenous peoples of the Americas, transcending and becoming more than the Residential school experience and changing our colonized minds and assisting the colonizer to see that there is another way.
— Adrian Stimson
UnSettled deploys artistic and critical discourse to focus on Two-Spirit resilience with work addressing power, representation, sexuality, language, body, tradition, memory, colonial narratives, and knowledge sharing. As LGBTQ+ movements posit dismantling the dominant performance of gender binaries and creating equality within a progressive, social justice narrative, there remains widespread ignorance in the mainstream that respect for gender and sexual diversity is nothing new on this continent. Two-thirds of the 200 Indigenous languages spoken in North America have non-negative terms to describe those who are neither male nor female, speaking to the primacy of multiple genders and sexualities within aboriginal cultures. Being identified as Two-Spirit often meant carrying unique responsibilities and roles within the community, knowledge keepers being one of the most important. Homophobia came with colonization, as the Urban Native Youth Association attests, “The religious dogma of the Residential Schools erased a proud and rich history of Two-spirit people in most Aboriginal communities. As a direct result of the residential school experience, homophobia is now rampant in most Aboriginal communities, even more so than in mainstream society.”
UnSettled presents work from a Two-Spirit perspective, exploring contemporary roles and experiences, as well providing a platform for innovation and experimentation at the intersection between the Indigenous and queer art milieu. It is vitally important to give priority to these dually marginalized voices, and to trace commonalities within a contemporary art context. Where the dialogue of activism recites a eurocentric mantra of inclusion, while systematically excluding Indigenous models, perspectives, and contemporary practice; it is UnSettled.
At the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre | 181 Roundhouse Mews | Davie @ Pacific | Vancouver BC