Personal Territories

Karolina Bialkowska and Tomas Jonsson

Panel 4

This week we shared the space of a fourth O k’inādās panel discussion with presenters Cathy Mattes, Leah Decter, Keven DeForest, Tannis Nielsen, and moderator Ashok Mathur.

To begin this overview we would like to start with a personal reflection. The iterative processes of learning and creating throughout this residency have been both formational and dismantling. This panel, as the others, challenged previous assumptions and provoked a self-reflection. It did important work to remind us, midway through the residency, what we are trying to do here.

These are the productive moments of change that can occur when one’s heart, mind, and creative practice are open to interrogation. Community builds futures.

Kevin DeForest grew up in the middle class suburbs of Winnipeg and the prairies have become important subject matter.  Identifying dual cultural identities from each of his parental lineages- Swiss and Japanese- he spoke of mis-recognizition, an embodied hybrid state, in uncomfortable relation to current public culture. He suggests we don’t see enough imagery and representation of mixed states, instead they become concealed, invisible.

He spoke of mobility, having recently stopped making art in order to take care of his parents and their lost mobility. He thought through his own comfort in taking for granted freedom of movement.  The outcome was gratifying, an important learning experience. He also introduced his other family member, his dog Hana, and spoke of walking with him, experiencing land.

Kevin explored the question of what it means to dwell.  The idea that when occupying a place, it becomes very much tied to your identity. His recent works from his current home in Brandon referencing alleyways. His  is an interest in their qualities as transitional, overlooked and invisible spaces.

Leah Decter put forward ideas on process, touching on her work, areas of focus, as points of potential discussion. Situating her body is an important aspect of her work, and in particular in relation to the work and conversations that are being created, articulated, here.

She identified herself as a white settler, and in so doing fully recognizing that this term is fraught, inadequate, contested, often invoked as performance (‘I am this’). Rather than as a performed act, she considers it as a way to think strategically, a provocation as to who we are in a space, without resorting to forms of denial.  Her work deals with these reckonings and responsibilities- to know what we are conditioned not to know.

Cathy Mattes began by introducing herself in Michif – a contemplation of the importance of time and place, how land is storied, and to offer more only when more is suitable. Stories, like kinship, and like fire, are what we do.

She spoke of the importance of family kitchen tables, located at the centre of home, and an important dialogic space, where political cultural survivance and transmotion could take place. These were safe spaces to be Metis, free from the ghostmaking rhetorics of colonization.

Tannis Nielsen prefaced her presentation with a request to turn away the cameras, and audio recorders capturing the unfolding panel, and that any reference to her work be cleared with her.  The intention of this statement to enact sovereignty over her own image, words and being, an act of border control over a personal territory.

The panel was thought-provoking and dislocating. It created threads of questions that insisted we, as listeners and responsible brothers and sisters to each other, locate ourselves and our stories, tell them honestly, and beware of the space and place of our bodies on this land, and in relation to one another.

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