Hexsa’am: To Be Here Always

Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC

By Michael Turner
In the summer of 2018, artists of various media (film, video, social media, weaving, animation, drawing, language and song) gathered at BC’s Kingcome Inlet to “address the urgent threats to the land and water.” The resulting exhibition, curated by Belkin interim directorLorna Brown, presents a body of work focused less on the subject of those threats, or the threats themselves, than on the shared and collaborative gestures of those gathered (as manifest in common research strategies, material affinities, media tendencies, personal testimony and ceremonial protocols). 

From Hexsa’am: To Be Here Always, 2018. Photo: Marianne Nicolson

Key to the exhibition is a reformulation of the very notions of art and culture. In the Eurowestern tradition, these concepts have long been restricted to a progressive modern idea of the symbolic and the metaphoric, with the art and culture of Indigenous peoples “representing” not an evolving, dynamic way of life, but a remnant of an archaic past.
In an effort to transcend what for some is a binarial end-game, Dzawada’enuxw artist, scholarand exhibition participant Marianne Nicolson has this to say: “We must not seek to erase the influence of globalizing Western culture, but master its forces selectively, as part of a wider Canadian and global community, for the health of the land and the cultures it supports. The embodied practice of ceremonial knowledge relates to artistic experience – not in the aesthetic sense, but in the performative: through gestures that consolidate and enhance knowledge for positive change.”
Rounding out this insightful and important exhibition are works by Siku Allooloo, ScottBenesiinaabandan, Darryll Dawson Jr., Jaymyn La Vallee, Diane Roberts, Sara Siestreem,Juliana Speier, Nabidu Taylor, Althea Thauberger, Kamala Todd, William Wasden Jr., TaniaWillard and Lindsey Willie.

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