Sonny Assu | Interdisciplinary Artist | sonnyassu.com

Longing

Four years ago, I stumbled upon the site of a log-home developer on the traditional territory of the We Wai Kai Nation, my reserve on northeastern Vancouver Island. I found it comical that my nation leased a plot of land, on un-ceded territory, to a company that exploits our resources to assemble log homes to be shipped off to the wealthy around the world. 

 

While exploring the piles of discarded wood, I discovered a unique by-product of this industry: off-cuts that looked remarkably like pre-fabricated Northwest Coast masks. Left to be reclaimed by the earth or chipped up into cat litter, they are considered worthless by the developer and the consumer. 

 

These “masks” have an inherent beauty: the poetics of a chainsaw paired with centuries-old growth rings reveal the wisdom of these once majestic cedar trees. Each one has a face and story within—and therefore also an inherent wealth. The felling of the rainforest enables us to display wealth in the form of luxury vacation homes, but we often give little thought to the waste produced by such affluence.

 

Historically, dominant cultures and ruling authorities have taken it upon themselves to preserve artifacts from perceived lesser societies, displaying the objects in galleries as a sign of their own wealth and authority. Today, we show our prosperity by accumulating posh, inanimate objects. And perhaps subconsciously we display the waste from this consumption (water bottles, disposable coffee cups, product packaging) as further markers of wealth.

 

Longing is my commentary on what these waste products could have been. The display of these discarded objects, using museum-quality mask mounts, assigns wealth in an artistic and anthropological sense. Through this work I challenge the institutions to collect remnants of our consumption culture.

 

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