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Dancer Jessica McMann details the experience of practicing performance art in a pandemic – The Peak

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McMann represents Indigenous dance in this year’s Re-Centering/Margins showcase. Photo courtesy of Tet M Photography

By: Dev Petrovic, Staff Writer

Spring has sprung and so has the dance festival season, so if you’re hoping to get your arts on, now is the time. Made in BC – Dance on Tour is continuing this year, despite the tour aspect of the showcase being a little different. One upcoming event happening in April, Re-Centering/Margins, will be performed by local BIPOC artists-in-residence — including multi-talented SFU alum, Jessica McMann. The Peak got the chance to speak with McMann about her experience as an artist-in-residence and how this year’s presentation has been produced. 

McMann comes from a Cree background and works as a flute musician, dancer, and choreographer. She completed her MFA in Contemporary Arts at SFU and, pre-pandemic, focused her attention on the dance company Wild Mint Arts, where she is a co-founder and co-director. She started her residency with Made in BC in 2020. The work that will be seen from McMann has been entirely choreographed, performed, and composed by her. 

Margins is a dance residency, but it’s not in residence now because of COVID,” clarified McMann. “Normally we spend 50% of our time in Vancouver and then 50% of our time here, in Calgary.” 

Due to the pandemic, the artists-in-residence have not been able to travel back to BC. McMann explained that this has made the residency more challenging, as she lived in Vancouver when she got accepted with Made in BC but has since moved to Alberta. 

“When the Re-Centering/Margins residency came up, I was really excited because it wasn’t age-driven, which is [sic] really nice. It wasn’t like you have to be 25 or under and as an Indigenous artist, I don’t fall into those young emerging artist categories,” explained McMann. 

Adding to that, McMann said she’s been grateful to have the creative freedom, as well as “the time and space and support to do the work that [she] want[s] to do” instead of being limited to a specific residency theme.

She explained SFU has been giving her support as an alum by providing her with studio spaces in Vancouver. As well, she’s been building her professional connections with SFU and Made in BC. 

After the initial lockdown last year, plans for the artists-in-residence shifted. “So we were going to come [to BC], but then we didn’t, so it’s filmed at [a theatre in Alberta],” McMann said, adding that she wanted to be in BC to film at the SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, but couldn’t due to work obligations in Calgary.  “I’m not really quite sure what the other people are working on because we haven’t had as much time to really connect with each other as we would have been in a more traditional residency,” she expressed. 

[For] myself, as I can only speak for myself, this pandemic has given me an opportunity to actually do land-based work,” said McMann. “So instead of trying to figure out how to bring a land-based thing into the studio, now I have the freedom to actually do land-based stuff and film it and do it where it should be done.” This new artistic space will also allow her to freely film and edit her work as she pleases.

She reminisced about how her work is intended to be done on the land of her ancestors and explained that using online art platforms will make showing her art easier. “I’m circling back to where I first started a dance practice,” she said, “which was not in studios, which was not in theatres because I didn’t have access to those bases. So it was parks outside, art galleries that would let me get those spaces for an hour.”

Yet residency, in its untraditional form, has been difficult. McMann is from the Vancouver area, so not being able to continue her work in BC was disappointing, as well as the disconnect with the residency being all online. “I got so comfortable always being a studio, but my practice is land-based so it’s time to go back,” she said. 

The project honours BIPOC artists and delves in the artistic representations of what these struggles look like. “But there are only three slots available for artists,” reflected McMann. “When you have four supposed categories to fit everybody in, how do you honour those struggles of individual people? So I cannot speak for anybody else but Indigenous people and even then, only myself. Because each Indigenous person’s experience is going to be completely different.”

McMann’s work is supported by Indigenous methodologies and is “created from an Indigenous body with the Indigenous mind.” She explained that her work comes within a base of Indigenous knowledge, “meaning [she] learned to do powwow dancing first before [she learned] how to do and incorporate other dance styles.”

Reflecting on how her style of dance works within and around the margins, McMann described how “looking at that from an Indigenous worldview changes the expectation that [she had] to move in a certain way in front of the camera for it to be dance.

“And [with] Western dance people [ . . . ] it becomes other labels and different types of dancing. Pedestrian movement and terms like that don’t sit the same way in the way that I view how I move and work,” she said.

Re-Centering/Margins will be showcasing their work from April 2–7. The event is free, but donations are suggested. Registration is required through Eventbrite.

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Public art, top floor of Kelowna's One Water Street tower revealed – Summerland Review – Summerland Review

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Before showing off the top floor of the tallest building in Kelowna, a 27-foot public art display outside of the One Water Street towers was also unveiled on Wednesday (Sept. 22).

The cast aluminum sculpture named “Ursa” — which stands 30 feet above the ground — was created by Toronto-based artist Pierre Poussin. The abstract, ribbon-like sculpture is a bold outline of a grizzly bear, which Poussin said is a homage to Kelowna’s name, kiʔláwnaʔ, an Okanagan word that translates to male grizzly bear.

“The grizzly bear plays a significant role in the creation stories of the Syilx and Okanagan people, symbolizing strength, power and courage,” said Poussin. “In my conceptualization of Ursa, I wanted to create a sculpture that honours, celebrates and symbolizes the majestic beauty and significance of the grizzly bear.”

The $300,000 sculpture consists of five sections, and Possin said it took about five days to create its design. He went back and forth with fabricator Michael Bilyk of Lafontaine Iron Werks for a month to tweak the outline. It took about six months for the sculpture to come to life, with the finishing touches coming earlier this month.

Ursa’s curves, he added, parallel the curves of Lake Okanagan.

“What is your experience when you look at this? Do you see the bear? Did it take you a while to see the bear? Because that was the goal, to take you a little bit of time to see the bear,” he said.

READ MORE: Kelowna’s next tallest building receives hesitant approval from council

Mayor Colin Basran said that public art is a vital part of building a vibrant community.

“Arts and culture is so important — maybe more important than it’s ever been, in light of coming out of this pandemic. Recognizing that we need to be kinder, more understanding of each other and our backgrounds, and really just supporting one another,” said Basran.

“A great way to do that is through arts and culture.”

The view of Kelowna’s waterfront from the 36th floor of One Water Street’s east tower on Sept. 22. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)

The view of Kelowna’s waterfront from the 36th floor of One Water Street’s east tower on Sept. 22. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)

He commented on the site of the One Water Street east and west towers, saying that the former — which was completed this past summer — has lived up to its expectations.

“I really think that what (North American Development Group) created here is something special. I want to thank you for your investment in our community,” he said. “I think that that investment is again another example of the great things that are happening in our community.”

All but one of the units in the tower have been sold, with the remaining unit being a penthouse worth $12 million located on the building’s 36th floor.

The interior of a penthouse suite located on the 36th floor of One Water Street’s east tower on Sept. 22. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)

The interior of a penthouse suite located on the 36th floor of One Water Street’s east tower on Sept. 22. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)

The interior of a penthouse suite located on the 36th floor of One Water Street’s east tower on Sept. 22. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)

The interior of a penthouse suite located on the 36th floor of One Water Street’s east tower on Sept. 22. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)

Henry Bereznicki, the managing partner of North American Development Group, said that event was a proud day for the development team, highlighting that over 500 people call One Water Street home.

“One Water Street is located at the north end of the arts district. We thought the best way to honour the city of Kelowna and its residents was to commission and present this piece of public art to the residents of Kelowna,” said Bereznicki.

READ MORE: At $10M, Okanagan’s most expensive condo is ready to customize


@aaron_hemens
aaron.hemens@kelownacapnews.com

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The art and torture of the empire – Al Jazeera English

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Who remembers Abu Ghraib? Why should we remember Abu Ghraib?

Abu Ghraib represents an era of imperial conquest that began in 2003 in Iraq and before that in 2001 in Afghanistan. With its forces now out of Afghanistan, the United States has no reason to remember Abu Ghraib. But the world at the mercy of the whims of this dysfunctional empire does.

Abu Ghraib was a prison complex that took the name of the city near Baghdad where it was built.

For years, Saddam Hussein used it to unlawfully imprison, torture, maim and murder dissidents and political opponents. Then the US took it over to do more of the same.

For people who have been raped, whose bones have been broken and whose souls have been crushed there, it made no difference whether their ordeal was ordered and approved by Saddam Hussein or George W Bush.

But at least Saddam Hussein never pretended to be the duly elected president of a democracy. With George W Bush and his ilk, however, the world had to endure endless denials, and tiresome lectures about “American values”.

‘The United States does not torture’

In 2004, three years into the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, a number of dreadful photographs surfaced that showed members of the US military, security, and intelligence forces physically, mentally, and sexually torturing Iraqi and other inmates not just in Abu Ghraib, but also in Guantanamo Bay and other similar locations in Afghanistan.

These photos the American torturers took of themselves and their victims to send to their friends and families in order to boast of the terror they had been unleashing on Arabs and Muslims soon became iconic – emblematic of an immoral decadence that did not quite sit with the centuries-old propaganda that the US is the “shining city upon the hill”.

Americans were torturing people, maiming and murdering them, forcing them into deranged sexual acts. It was ugly. How could these people do such things?

Soon the global media began spreading these pictures to the point of numbing our senses. Existential questions emerged. The depth of the depravity of the people who did these things to other human beings soon escaped any meaningful registers.

Names such as Specialist Charles Graner, PFC Lynndie England, or Brigadier General Janis Karpinski became synonymous with the horror of Abu Ghraib torture chambers, but names like George W Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld remained respected and honoured in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. Americans soon lost track of these names. Their amnesia eventually led to the election of Donald Trump. Thus, 9/11 became a pathway to 1/6 – the day the US Capitol was invaded and ransacked by the militant white supremacist cult of Trump.

‘The Art of Torture?’

Soon after their publication, a number of artists began to look at these horrid pictures with a different set of eyes, perhaps to enable us to see their horrors better. But did we really need to see those horrors better? Would we not be better off looking at the barbarity of the raw evidence itself?

In a series he called Oh Boy! Oh Boy!, Swiss visual artist Daniele Buetti transformed these photographs into stained-glass mosaics. They looked disturbingly familiar, uncannily beautiful. People who viewed them were put in an odd position: peeping into American torture chambers through a “lovely looking glass”. Were we supposed to be horrified at their beauty or enamoured by their terror?

There was something deeply disturbing about this rush to put an aesthetic turn on torture. I remember my immediate reaction was that was too soon, too early, that these pictures should remain decidedly undecipherable for a while. Artists were in too much of a rush, perhaps out of a basic human instinct of visceral reaction, to decipher them, read them, paint them, interpret them, incorporate them into their own distinct visual vocabularies.

Perhaps the most widely known artistic renditions of the torture chambers of Abu Ghraib were by the Colombian figurative artist and sculptor, Fernando Botero, who in a series of commanding visual renditions of those pictures made their terror look like something people would pay to buy and hang in museums, art galleries, art festivals, crowded Biennales. The frightful facts of what had happened in Abu Ghraib had been registered in a number of crude snapshots sent to friends and family as “souvenirs,” and now widely aestheticised to be consumed by festival curators and art galleries and their customers.

There was something obscene about this whole spectacle. What about the screams of a solitary human being at the mercy of an American torturer? What happened to that cry from the depth of human suffering? In the dark dungeons of what subterranean history did that cry get lost?

Art historians like Helena Guzik began researching the subject of art and torture further back in history and, in learned essays like, Visual Forms, Visceral Themes: Understanding Bodies, Pain, and Torture in Renaissance Art (2014), explored “the implications of Renaissance philosophies surrounding the human body in the context of pain and particularly the physical suffering endured during torture.”

The work of an American artist, Susan Crile, came close to exploring those pictures without rendering them into spaces of faded and fractured abstractions. But still when her work was reviewed in the New York Times, the reviewer coyly said she “hesitate[d] to use the word lyrical”.

Lyrical? Really – depictions of torture?

There remained something deeply familiar about these pictures American torturers took of their Iraqi inmates – they looked like those white racist murderers took of their victims when they lynched them, hanging them from a tree. “Strange Fruit”, the legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday called them in an iconic song. The trees bearing those fruits had been planted in Iraq by the selfsame racist thuggery that had terrorised the South, and which had now gone East.

Art of Resistance

Iraqi artists were of course not sitting idly by in face of the US invasion and destruction of their homeland or the Abu Ghraib atrocities, of which they had memories that went further back from Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld to Saddam Hussein himself.

“It is our duty as artists to feel what our countrymen are feeling and suffering,” Qasim Alsabti was quoted as saying in 2004 when he and 24 other Iraqi artists produced a “series of sculptures, paintings, and installations depicting the horrors of Abu Ghraib at the Hewar Art Gallery in the Wazerieh district of central Baghdad.”

More recently, in 2019, the works of a group of artists from the US, Iraq, and Kuwait were curated in a major exhibition at MoMA PS1, for a reflection back on the horrors their people had experienced at a time when, as a review in the New York Times put it, people had no interest in remembering. Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991-2011 was barely noticed by the public at large, despite the fact that there were a few positive reviews of it in major media outlets.

Today you would scarcely find any news item in the US or Europe critically thinking about Abu Ghraib. They have no reason to do so. To the contrary, imperial cultures thrive on their intentional amnesia. History means nothing to empires, except for the delusional mythologies they keep feeding themselves.

There is, therefore, a direct link between the rush to aestheticise and exhibit the horrors of Abu Ghraib and the sudden disappearance of a troubling memory that should have remained indecipherable and troubling for a much longer time. But forgetfulness is precisely how this memoryless empire best survives, by least caring about the trail of terror and destruction it leaves behind as it wages its endless “war on terror”- now its paramount ideology of world domination, at a time when in that very world there is very little left to dominate.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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All Aboriginal art is political: you just need to learn how to read it – The Guardian

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All Aboriginal art is political: you just need to learn how to read it  The Guardian



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