Beat Nation, curator’s talk

2017 summer intensive

One of our resident artists, Tania Willard, is also an accomplished curator, and most recently she has co-curated the Beat Nation show at the Kamloops Art Gallery. This is from a tour she gave to the resident artists.

Beat Nation: Art, Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture

June 29 to September 7, 2013

Beat Nation describes a generation of artists who juxtapose urban youth culture with Aboriginal identity to create innovative and unexpected new works—in painting, sculpture, installation, performance and video—that reflect the current realities of Aboriginal peoples today.

Since the early 1990s, hip hop has been a driving force of activism for urban Aboriginal youth in communities across the Americas. The roots of this music have been influential across disciplines and have been transformed to create dynamic forums for storytelling and indigenous languages, as well as new modes of political expression. In the visual arts, artists remix, mash up and weave together the old with the new, the rural with the urban, traditional and contemporary as a means to rediscover and reinterpret Aboriginal culture within the shifting terrain of the mainstream.

While this exhibition takes its starting point from hip hop, it branches out to refer to pop culture, graffiti, fashion and other elements of urban life. Artists create unique cultural hybrids that include graffiti murals with Haida figures, sculptures carved out of skateboard decks, abstract paintings with form-line design, live video remixes with Hollywood films, and hip hop performances in Aboriginal dialects, to name a few. Beat Nation brings together artists from across the continent—from the West Coast as far north as Alaska and Nunavut, as far east as Labrador and south to New Mexico—and reveals the shared connections between those working in vastly different places.

As Aboriginal identity and culture continue to change, and as artists reinvent older traditions into new forms of expression, their commitment to politics, to storytelling, to Aboriginal languages, to the land and rights remains constant, whether these are stated with drums skins or turntables, natural pigments or spray paint, ceremonial dancing or break dancing.

The exhibition is accompanied by a full-colour catalogue, published by the Vancouver Art Gallery and available at the Gallery Store.

Organized and circulated by the Vancouver Art Gallery and based on an initiative of grunt gallery. Beat Nation is co-curated by Kathleen Ritter, Associate Curator (former), Vancouver Art Gallery and Tania Willard, a Secwepemc artist, designer and curator.

This exhibition was made possible with the generous support of Mark McCain & Caro MacDonald/ Eye and I, the Audain Foundation for the Visual Arts, Gary R. Bell, Rick Erickson & Donna Partridge, and the Killy Foundation.

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