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UnSettled

by Adrian Stimson, Queer Arts Festival visual art curator

[A colorful painting of an Indigenous person with multi-colored accessories and facial paint standing regally standing in front of different colored feathers.]
[A colorful painting of an Indigenous person with multi-colored accessories and facial paint standing regally standing in front of different colored feathers.]   

We live in Unsettling times - the world feels under siege, unsafe, tensions between alt-right and social left, neo-liberalisim, 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. UnSettled deploys artistic and critical discourse to focus on Two-Spirit resilience with work addressing power, representation, sexuality, language, body, memory, colonial narratives, and knowledge sharing.

This year's QAF exhibition UnSettled features the work of Indigenous artists who identify within the Two-Spirited context yet also challenge this binary through their own experiences and cultural understandings.

To honor the past, we have included three deceased artists: Aiyyana Maracle, Mike MacDonald and Ahasiw Maskegon-Iskwew; we honor 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. UnSettled is honored to present the work of nineteen 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.

UnSettled explores 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.

UnSettled Curated Artists : Ahasiw Maskegon-Iskwew, Aiyyana Maracle, Barry Ace, Tuy't'tanat-Cease Wyss, Dayana Danger, George Littlechild, Jessie Short, John L. Powell, Michelle Sylliboy, Mike MacDonald, Raven John, Richard Heikkilä-Sawan, Robert Houle, Rosalie Favell, Thirza Cuthand, Ursula A. Johnson, Vanessa Dion Fletcher, and Wanda Nanibush.

Sat Jun 17 - Wed Jun 28
Roundhouse Arts Centre | 181 Roundhouse Mews Davie @ Pacific

UnSettled is 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. Other highlights include : Greed/Resolve, dance by Circadia Indigena; UnSettling Colonial Gender Boundaries, media art curated by VIMAF; Technical Knockouts, spoken word/electrionic music by Kinnie Starr, Tiffany Moses, DJ O Show; and MSM [men seeking men] by Toronto's leomonTree creations.

Visit Queer Arts Festival for more information.

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