In January 2017, the OO7 Collective was approached by Laura Taler, Associate Programmer with the National Arts Centre (NAC) for Canada Scene to undertake an exhibition in response to the Canada 150 celebrations. Canada Scene has been an annual event organized by the NAC that brings together artists in music, theatre, dance, visual and media arts, film, circus, culinary arts and more. The festival features artists who inspire and challenge, reflecting the diverse cultures of Canada.
The exhibition was in collaboration with Danny Hussey and Bridget Thompson of Central Art Garage who run a cutting-edge art gallery and art framing studio in Ottawa with a unique exhibition space that is in a converted vehicle repair shop.
Core members of the OO7 included Barry Ace, Rosalie Favell, Ron Noganosh, Leo Yerxa, Ariel Smith, Frank Shebageget and Michael Belmore, with invited Special Agent Artists including Meryl McMaster, Joi T. Arcand and Barry Pottle. Artist and Co-Director of Asinabka Film & Media Arts Festival, Howard Adler was an invited special guest and presented his new film Native Nibbles in a special outdoor film screening at the vernissage. The film featured Adler in his persona as Cory Sleeps with Bears baking a birthday cake for Canada, which had many humourous and very tragic ingredients including small-pox (as a poignant settler history lesson). In true Adler fashion, Cory Sleeps with Bears hosted the film screening and post-screening Q and A.
A panel discussion was also held on opening night moderated by Linda Grussani that reflected on the five-year anniversary of the OO7 Collective and Special Agents, including their formation and exhibition history. The participating artists also shared their personal views and responses to Canada’s Sesquicentennial celebrations in 2017 through a poignant discussion on their works of art.
The OO7’s exhibition It’s Complicated was a direct response to Canada’s Sesquicentennial. The exhibition highlighted that for Indigenous peoples of this land, from coast to coast to coast, 150 years represents a very minuscule passage of time, especially in terms of the longstanding presence and occupation of homeland territories. Yet this seemingly fleeting moment in time is monumental in its impact on Indigenous communities, culture, language, identity, rights, water, and land. The exhibition presented an alternative perspective to the widely propagated Canada 150 celebrations by revealing timely and poignant aspects of the convoluted historical and contemporary relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples. As the artists noted, if there is any room for celebration in 2017 from an Indigenous perspective, it is a celebration of survivance, tenacity, and perseverance. It’s a complicated celebration.
- Barry Ace (Founding Member)
- Rosalie Favell (Founding Member)
- Ron Noganosh (Founding Member)
- Leo Yerxa (Founding Member)
- Frank Shebageget
- Ariel Smith
- Michael Belmore
Special Agents: Howard Adler, Meryl McMaster, Barry Pottle and Joi T. Arcand.
VIDEO: Birthday Cake by Howard Adler
IMAGES: Shelby Lisk (www.shelbylisk.com) unless otherwise noted.