UnSettled: curatorial statement

Curatorial Statement by Adrian Stimson, Queer Arts Festival visual art curator 2017

We live in Unsettling times — the world feels under siege, unsafe, tensions between alt-right and social left, neo-liberalism, ongoing wars, Orlando, Chechnya gay purge, the US Republican Administration rollback of civil and gay rights, fake news, mutual assured destruction, resource exploitation, identity politics, reconciliation and on and on. For Indigenous peoples, specifically Two-Spirited people, endurance of these kinds of fears has been going on for centuries, our resilience and continued presence is a lesson for us all, we have, and will continue into the future unsettle the colonial project.

It is more important now than ever before that we speak up, act out and strengthen our social justice systems. We know from history that in times of strife, it is the artists and intellectuals who are targeted first, like conquistador Vasco Núñez de Balboa who put to death male homosexual sodomites dressed as women to the dogs in 1540. Balboa realized where the power of the community lay, and immediately had them rounded up and fed to the dogs, effectively annihilating, silencing and driving the diversity of sexual beings of the Americas’ underground for centuries.

For too long, the absence of representations of Two-Spirit people, art, and being from contemporary popular culture has been endured; it is part of the colonial project, to eradicate, to deny our natural beings, to dominate, assimilate, to ultimately erase our beings and memory from time. UnSettleddeploys 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.

This year’s QAF exhibition UnSettledfeatures the works of Indigenous artists who identify within the Two-Spirited context yet also challenge this binary through their own experience and cultural understandings.

To honour the past, we have included 3 deceased artists: Aiyyana Maracle, Mike MacDonald and Ahasiw Maskegon-Iskwew; we honour those who came before us, who paved the way, who took risks, who never failed in bringing their art forward in an often hostile world, we are the sum of them.

In the present, Two-Spirited artistic and intellectual expressions are blossoming; we have an explosion of people and ideas. UnSettledis honoured to present the work of 19 contemporary Two-Spirit artists; Their perspectives in exploring contemporary roles and experiences, as well providing a platform for innovation and experimentation at the intersections between the Indigenous and queer art milieu are a continuum of indigenous knowledge and being.

UnSettledexplores the art and being of Two-Spirit artists, and in turn, they expose the issues of historical extermination, heteronormativity, the lack of alternative indigenous sexuality and gender in contemporary Western culture/media, it is a reclamation of Two-Spirit identity, theory and praxis.

UnSettledis the signature exhibition of Queer Arts Festival 2017. The annual artist-run multidisciplinary Queer Arts Festival is programmed this year by Two-Spirit and Indigequeer artists.

For more information, click HERE.

Sat Jun 17–Wed Jun 28, Roundhouse Exhibition Hall