Modern Indians Standing Around at the Post
Modern Indians Standing Around at the Post (1998) was Ace’s first solo exhibition. The exhibition was held at Gallery 101 (view exhibition archive), an artist-run-centre in Ottawa at the former location on Nepean Street.
The exhibition featured works in a variety of different medium from painting, sculpture, assemblage and multi-media installation. The exhibition’s title came from a comment made by Ace’s great-aunt and basket-maker, Annie Owl McGregor, who travelled with him to a conference at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, USA in 1993. Ace was presenting his Master of Arts thesis paper entitled Kokiibinaagan: Symbols of Cultural Continuity at the conference Celebration of Indigenous Thought and Expression. The keynote speaker for the conference was the esteemed Anishinaabe writer and academic Gerald Vizenor who was presenting his paper entitled Ishi Bares His Chest that was published in Partial Recall. Throughout his reading, Vizenor kept interjecting with academic terminology of the time, including post-modern and modernity. Half way through the reading, Ace’s great aunt, who’s first language is Anishinaabemowin, became disinterested, along with another Anishinaabe elder in the audience. The two left the auditorium and met in the hallway outside. The elder man said to Ace’s great aunt, “Do you know what that guy was talking about in there?” To which she responded, “Something about modern Indians standing around at the trading post.” It was from this comment that Ace saw the parody and irony and the apparent disconnect between western academia and Indigenous community based knowledge and storytelling.
The exhibition was installed around a central illuminated post with historical representations of Indigenous people and Ace’s family in 35mm transparencies linked together and illuminated by the post and a continuously running text in Scrabble™ letters spelling out “modern Indians standing around at the post – modern Indians standing around at the post-modern…” In creating new works for the exhibition, Ace addressed a multiplicity of social, cultural, spiritual and historical issues that were drawn directly from his own personal experience and those of his family and Anishinaabe community. Although some of the works were couched in dark humour and parody, many others were a blatant and tragic commentary on the impact of colonization, enforced assimilation and environmental change.
IMAGES: Lawrence Cook