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Interventions On The Imaginary

The title "Interventions On The Imaginary" is a clear reference to Marcia Crosby’s essay, "The Construction of the Imaginary Indian", and situates itself within the realm of remix culture—as digital interventions onto works that contain the colonial gaze.


These interventions participate in the growing discourse of decolonization, acting as “tags” to challenging the colonial fantasy of terra nullius and confronting the dominant colonial culture’s continued portrayal of Indigenous peoples as a vanishing race.


With the insertion of ovoids, s-shapes and u-shapes into the images, both the landscape paintings and the Northwest Coast design elements are changed. The landscapes become marked by the spectre of Native presence and the NWC design elements, traditionally two-dimensional in appearance, acquire the illusion of depth through association with Western principles of perspective. I see these bold interruptions of the landscapes as acts of resistance towards the colonial subjugation of the First People.


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Artist Statements about specfic Interventions. 

What a Great Spot for a Walmart!, 2014
digital intervention on an Emily Carr Painting (Graveyard Entrance, Campbell River, 1912)


This painting by Emily Carr is of the entrance to the graveyard that belongs to my grandmother’s village. The personal connection to this work made the intervention particularly satisfying.


Today the geographical landscape of the graveyard entrance is dramatically different. However, a replica of the Thunderbird totem stands in a nearby band-owned commercial development. Just beyond the tree line in the background of this painting, a modern-day Walmart can be found. Although the store is not located in a culturally sensitive area, with this intervention I’m questioning the desire of First Nations to adopt colonial ways of consumerism, commerce and resource extraction as a means to provide a mode of income for their Nation(s). While I understand the need for and support a Nation’s mandate to build infrastructure to provide for the betterment of their people, I question what we might pave over in order to provide for our own.



Choke on an Ovoid, 2014
digital intervention on an Emily Carr Painting (Strangled by Growth, 1931)


I was visiting Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun at his studio once, and we discussed the impact of the Group of Seven on art in Canada. Our exchange could only be explained as a typical Yuxweluptun conversation: one part biting whimsy, two parts political commentary and 147 parts complete teardown of the colonial establishment. (See what I did there? Math is fun!)


Yuxweluptun noted that the landscape paintings of the Group of Seven erased the Indigenous presence from the land. And that his own work, by contrast, places an Indigenous presence back into the colonial construct of this place known now as Canada.


Much like Yuxweluptun’s, could Emily Carr’s work be viewed as deeply political? She fought against the aesthetic and gendered bounds of the Group of Seven. She painted “Indian” life and territory into her work, oddly working both within and outside of the salvage paradigm.


Choke on an Ovoid is a tribute to Yuxweluptun’s deep and ever-expanding body of work that combats the colonial whitewashing of Canadian history. But it also acts as a nod to Carr, who had a genuine interest in recording the daily lives and places of a diverse group of people she greatly admired.


It was, like, a super long time ago that ppl were here, right?, 2014
digital intervention on an Emily Carr painting (Cumshewa, 1912)


An impetus behind this intervention was my desire to relate to how “digital natives” communicate and absorb information. Titling within this series becomes an important tool to counter the whitewashing of history and the assumption that the Indigenous struggle is rooted exclusively in the past. I wanted to adopt language familiar to this generation to form a dialogue about the true history of this place. Within this, I feel we’ll be able to counter the constructed colonial narrative and move past reconciliation as more than just a catchphrase.


Social media, texting and short bursts of images are increasingly becoming the major forms of communication for youth, and unfortunately their generation finds itself being heavily criticized for being lazy and lacking basic fundamentals of the established Western/English conventions of writing.


With that in mind, how or what will the English language look like in 25 years? In 100 years? Will it look anything like how we know it now, or what Emily Carr knew of it in 1912? Will there be proper punctuation, grammar and spelling? Or will future English be dramatically different, informed by how the youth of today, and that of the future, communicate?


#photobombing the Dzunuḵ̓wa. She’s Gonna Be Mad, 2014
digital intervention on an Emily Carr painting (Guyasdoms D’Sonoqua, 1930)

I see the Ovoid as having a presence. From a traditionally informed Kwakwaka’wakw perspective, the ovoid is but one part of a whole. It comes together with the S-shapes, U-shapes and formline to create culturally significant narratives. Through this intervention, as in many of the images in this series, the ovoid itself demands a presence. It not only acts as a “tag” or a “UF-Ovoid” to disrupt the colonial narrative, but forcibly asserts and inserts itself into the conversation as an entity unto its own.


Yeah... Shit’s about to go sideways. I’ll take you to Amerind. You’ll like it, looks like home., 2016
digital intervention on an Emily Carr painting (Cape Mudge: An Indian Family with Totem Pole, 1912)

This is an intervention that draws upon my appreciation of Star Trek and the love of understanding my culture and family history. Emily Carr’s Cape Mudge: An Indian Family with Totem Pole is a painting of my home village, and that of my grandfather and his grandfather, Chief Billy Assu. As with What a Great Spot for a Walmart! (2014), the personal connection I have to the source material for this work has made this intervention particularly satisfying.


There have been a few episodes in the Star Trek canon that have appropriated “Native American” life, culture and, most notably, stereotypes of Indigenous cultures. A number of these storylines include an extraterrestrial visit to Earth, where the aliens have intervened with or removed the Indigenous people from the land.


In the early 20th century, Chief Billy Assu, in the name of progress, urged his people to maintain traditional values yet adopt colonial ways to provide a better future for our people. Perhaps he felt adoption was better than assimilation? To that end, he destroyed the longhouses in the village of Cape Mudge, dragging them out to sea using a steam-donkey attached to a barge. Where longhouses once stood, you’ll now find single-family homes.


In the episode “The Paradise Syndrome” (1968), from Star Trek: The Original Series, the USS Enterprise crew lands on a planet that is seemingly inhabited by Native Americans. Spock is able to decipher the writing on an obelisk that protects the planet, and he discovers that a group of well-meaning aliens—known as the Preservers—removed these Native Americans from Earth, transporting them, along with everything they were familiar with, to a planet halfway across the galaxy. There, these people were able to flourish, never having known the effects of colonization.