arts and environment
TOUT CE QUI RESTE - SCATTERED REMAINS: A Woman. Artist. Indigenous. Exhibition
Curated by: Geneviève Goyer-Ouimet
Review by: Melinda Pierre-Paul Cardinal
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts: Montreal, QC.
Upon entering Nadia Myre’s TOUT CE QUI RESTE - SCATTERED REMAINS, one is enveloped into an eerily seductive environment. Here, the smell of tobacco wafts through the air, the walls are black rather than immaculate white, and a faint glow lights each artwork, enticing the viewer forward, out of the shadows and into personal space.
Within this environment Myre’s work flourishes, simultaneously engaging viewers with glimpses into Indigenous traditions, whilst confronting them with a history of European contact.
Nadia Myre, TOUT CE QUI RESTE - SCATTERED REMAINS, 2017, mixed media, photo taken by author. Exhibited at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
Introducing Nadia Myre
TOUT CE QUI RESTE - SCATTERED REMAINS is a multidisciplinary survey exhibition by Algonquin First Nation—of Kitigan Zibi Anishnabeg—member, and artist, Nadia Myre. It is currently being presented within a seasonal cycle entitled Woman. Artist. Indigenous. by the MMFA (Montreal Museum of Fine Arts). The cycle aims to provide representation for female Indigenous artists in Canada. A particularly significant aim given that they have historically lacked equal representation within the visual arts.
In its entirety, the exhibition gathers five different series of Myre’s work created between the years 2000 and 2017, entitled: Code Switching, Indian Act, Grandmother’s Circle, Meditation (Respite) and Oraison/Orison. These series consist of larger-than-life photographs, sculptures, video, and installation pieces. Though many of the works differ in media, they are linked thematically in their shared representation of post-contact Indigeneity.
Adopting a participatory approach, Myre prioritizes the collaboration and cooperation from a number of Indigenous Peoples in each of her series. In doing so, she reveals collective memories, struggles and desires, effectively reframing nationhood while symbolically reclaiming Indigenous self-determination from the unyielding grasp of settler colonialism.
Among Myre’s Oraison/Orison series, is a particularly engaging installation piece entitled Oraison/Orison (Net). The installation, created between 2014 and 2017, is comprised of a massive red net that is suspended from the ceiling. The edges of the net are tethered to the ground by a dozen cord-wrapped stones placed in a wide circular formation. Maintaining a measured pace, the net is mechanically pulled up to the ceiling and back down to the floor in a continuous loop. At its highest point, the net expands to create a translucent, tent-like structure. This physical composition brings to mind the image of traditional nomadic shelter and that of sweat lodge ceremonies. By contrast, when at its lowest point, the net lies in a soft coil of crimson material on the exhibition floor, evoking images of spilled blood.
Nadia Myre, Oraison/Orison (Net), “Oraison/Orison” series, TOUT CE QUI RESTE - SCATTERED REMAINS, 2017, nylon rope, photo taken by author. Exhibited at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Curiously, the combination of the quiet exhibition space and the steady, cyclical motion of the net suggest the rhythm of breathing, effectively arousing a kind of embodied awareness of a visitor’s own respiration, particularly in relation to pace, depth and sound. As though caught in a trance, one begins to enter a relationship of unconscious mimesis, re-adjusting each breath to closer reflect the even breaths of the installation.
Nadia Myre, Oraison/Orison (Net) (detail), “Oraison/Orison” series, TOUT CE QUI RESTE - SCATTERED REMAINS, 2017, nylon rope, photo taken by author. Exhibited at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
The environment that Myre creates has a function that is simultaneously therapeutic, and one that heightens critical self-awareness. Within the tranquility of this space, a visitor is invited to reflect upon the collective memories explored within the exhibition, particularly in relation to their own privilege. As such, Oraison/Orison (Net) acts as a symbolic meeting point for reconciliation between individuals with settler and non-settler identities. One where visitors may consider histories of contact and exploitation in relation to their own ancestry within the larger picture of Canadian settler colonialism. One where they may reflect upon the disturbing fact that we currently live on unceded Indigenous lands. And finally, one where they may consider ways to become an ally to Indigenous Peoples, rather than continuing to ignore a long history of oppression and disadvantage that continues to this very day.
Though this process of self-reflection may indeed be unpleasant if not shameful for some, it remains a necessary advancement towards decolonization and overdue Indigenous self-determination.
TOUT CE QUI RESTE - SCATTERED REMAINS is, in effect, a much needed act of defiance within an elitist art landscape where an overwhelming majority of works represent colonialist, Eurocentric and patriarchal ideals. Likewise, it achieves a task of utmost importance; Empowering Indigenous Peoples by prioritizing their voices within an environment where they have for too long been silenced. As with the other exhibitions presented in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts cycle: Woman. Artist. Indigenous., perhaps it is time that we as a society, take a step back and finally listen.
© CUSS Journal