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Ace’s textile practice draws its inspiration from historical Anishinaabeg arts of the Great Lakes that incorporate floral and geometric beadwork motifs. Through the reclamation of salvaged electronic components and circuitry Ace transforms the refuse of the technological age into complex floral motifs. He is referencing Anishinaabeg beadwork as a metaphor for cultural continuity, bridging the past with the present and the future, and as a demonstrable act of nationhood, resistance and modernity.
The exhibition mazinigwaaso / to bead something presents for the first time a survey of Ace’s two-dimensional and three-dimensional bandolier bags spanning almost a decade of work. In the past, Anishinaabe bandolier bags of the Great Lakes region were integral articles of ceremonial and formal regalia that were worn during spiritual and cultural gatherings and also gifted and traded both at special honouring and friendship occasions. They were also important signifiers for intertribal diplomatic relations, as they were also gifted with other Indigenous tribes and British and French settlers.
Each of the bandolier bags included in this exhibition is unique. Ace combines such materials as hand-made paper, fibres, wire, copper jingles, porcupine quills, digital video screens as well as the unfathomable amount of wiring required to run the circuitry of technology. Also presented in the exhibition is a complete set of Anishinaabe men’s and women’s regalia juxtaposing floral beadwork with electronic component floral motifs. Two video pieces are featured in the Black Box screening room – one an historical silent film of ceremonial dance (filmed in 1925 in Wiikwemkoong, Manitoulin Island, when such ceremony was banned under the terms of the 1876 Indian Act) and the other, a video by artist and film-maker Shelley Niro entitled Homage to Four in Paris documenting Ace’s site specific Reparative Act dance performances in Paris, France in 2010.
As curator Lori Beavis notes, “This exhibition offers a dialogic and reflective artistic space to critically engage with material that furthers understanding of cultural histories through a highly creative practice. This exhibition facilitates the broadening of viewers’ knowledge of Indigenous artists, histories and contemporary art practice. Additionally the exhibition contributes to the discussions taking place within Canada and other settler nations on the topics of decolonization and re/conciliation. These discussions and the resultant initiatives are integral as Canadian cultural workers strive to heed the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Artistic investigations such as Ace’s will continue the efforts to make change and fill the gaps – as art has an important role in educating and sharing stories. As a curator and art educator of mixed Indigenous – settler descent, my objective is to curate exhibitions that advance an understanding of the artist’s relationship to self-representation and identity through their art practice. The exhibition of Barry Ace’s bandolier bags fulfills this obligation”.
Lori Beavis is a curator, art educator and art historian based in Tiohtià:ke/ Montreal. Identifying as Michi Sagiig Anishinaabe and Irish-Welsh, she is a band member of Hiawatha First Nation at Rice Lake, Ontario. Her curatorial work, art practice and research, articulates narrative and memory in the context of family, cultural history, cultural identity and self-representation. Recent curatorial projects include: The Rebel Yells; Dress and Political Re-dress in Contemporary Indigenous Art co-curated with Rhonda L. Meier, bringing eleven artists from across Canada to Montreal to further the conversation on identity and self-representation; Buffet: Recent Work by Shelley Niro (2016) at The Northern Front Studio, Whitehorse, YK; Algonquin bead artist Jobena Petonoquot’s solo exhibition, Rebellion of my Ancestors (2018) at Conseil des arts de Montreal; and Shelley Niro: women, land, river (2019) at Art Gallery of Peterborough. Upcoming in 2019: Barry Ace: Bandolier Bags as Cultural Conduit (FOFA Gallery, Montreal), and co-curator project for In/Visible: the body as Reflective Site (McClure Gallery, Westmount). Upcoming in 2020 is a confirmed exhibition for Lori Blondeau. Beavis serves on the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective/ Collectif des Commissaires Autochtones (ACC-CCA) Board of Directors and on the Tiohtià:ke Project (ACC-CCA) Advisory Committee, and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal Art Acquisitions Committee.
For more information on the exhibition (more info)
View also Nigig News post Ottawa Art Gallery Special Commission: Shelley Niro’s “Homage to Paris” footage for Barry Ace’s Site Specific Performance
English Version (Downloadable PDF)
French Version (Downloadable PDF)
CBC Indigenous: Odawa Anishinaabe artist swaps glass beads for resistors and capacitors.
European Passive Components Institute Blog: Capacitors, resistors and inductors in contemporary art.
Photos: Earl Truelove; Photos: Guy L’Heureux (Courtesy of FOFA Gallery, Concordia, Montreal).