Art for awareness

As a part of Aboriginal Awareness Week, two Aboriginal artists will speak at Union Gallery

Terrance Houle and Adrian Stimson in their performance Buffalo Boy’s Born Again.
Terrance Houle and Adrian Stimson in their performance Buffalo Boy’s Born Again.

Next week, Queen’s will play host to two internationally-celebrated artists.

Adrian Stimson and Terrance Houle will give performances individually as well as together as part of the upcoming Aboriginal Awareness Week — marking the first time the artists have performed together since 2007.

Though performance art may be an unfamiliar medium for most students, Sarah Murray, who’s helping organize the visiting artist series, hopes that the venue will provide a comfortable space for viewers to take in the artwork and treat it as a learning experience.

“The fact that it’s at Union Gallery, on campus, it’s a comfortable space where you can walk in, walk out. The artist talk is also a familiar forum at the university,” Murray, MA ’13, said.

Stimson and Houle will bring their unique brand of performance art — involving alternate personas and multimedia mixed with comedy — to engage the Queen’s community on topics including Aboriginal issues, identity, gender and sexuality. They will also give an artist talk on Wednesday as part of the Cultural Studies Speaks Series.

Adrian Stimson of the Siksika First Nation will give a performance of Buffalo Boy’s Born Again, as Buffalo Boy, one of his alter egos. Through Buffalo Boy, Stimson exposes issues of gender and sexuality at an intersection with race.

“He is a figure that plays with the viewer’s assumptions of Aboriginal Peoples,” said Erin Sutherland, MA ’12 and curator of the week’s performances and artist talk. “He deals with serious issues in campy, humorous ways. He disarms you with humour.”

Stimson also deals with ideas about genocide and residential schools, having been in one himself. He has also worked as a counsellor and has experience teaching at the University of Saskatchewan.

Terrance Houle, who is Blood and Ojibway and a member of the Blood First Nation, employs performance, video, photography, installation and multi-media in his work.

Houle deals with indigenous ideas and identity through humour as well.

“He engages with stereotypes. He makes them so obvious, they become ridiculous,” said Sutherland.

Houle’s work explores how people come to form ideas about Aboriginal Peoples and how they come to see themselves.

Together, Stimson and Houle will revisit their performance of Buckskin Mounting, last performed at Grunt Gallery in 2007.

Sutherland said the embodied nature of performance art makes the message the artists are trying to send much more tangible.

“The audience feels the presence of emotion directly,” she said. “They are incorporated into the struggle.”

Sutherland, a member of the Native Student Association at Queen’s, said she hopes the events of Aboriginal Awareness Week will draw attention to the contributions of Aboriginal Peoples at Queen’s. Lara Fullenwieder, first-year PhD student and Aboriginal Awareness Week Committee Member, said these artists’ use of performance makes for a more interactive and engaging experience for the viewer.

“It takes up space here, invites more thought and more change. It challenges their comfort zone,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to engage with knowledge as it’s being produced.”

Stimson and Houle will give an artist talk on Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Dunning Hall, room 12. Individual performances will be that evening from 7 to 9 p.m. at Union Gallery. Corridor Culture will host the performance of Buckskin Mounting on Thursday in the Renaissance Room at 285 Queen St.

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