In 2017, I finished my Masters thesis under the supervision of Dr. Heather Igloliorte at Concordia University. My research was preoccupied with urbanism and the storied spaces of cities, with a particular focus on Montreal. I was interested in how architectural design, coupled with monuments, and memorials participate in the narratives of heroic settlement, and happy multiculturalism, at the expense of Indigenous lives and narratives.
Informed by Glen Coulthard’s then new book, Red Skins, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition, 2014 and Audra Simpson’s Mohawk Interruptus it was clear that inclusion and other similarly empty gestures would not be sufficient. Reflecting on the use of Indigenous art and visual culture in public arts programming of other cities in Canada, like Vancouver, also offered insight into the problems of hyper representation that amounts to a kind of ugly co-optation for nationalist aims.
The fraught nature of public art and shifting colonial-nationalist aims lead me to look at Aiako’nikonhraién:ta’ne (To come To Understand), 2015, by Lindsay Katsitsakatste Delaronde and You are On a Mohawk Land by Marie Andre Poulin. These works used the city as site and material to challenge the naturalization of settlement, both ephemeral, and presented on the periphery of official narratives.
Inspired by recent influences - like Brooklyn-based artist, Xaviera Simmons, who constructs powerful text-based works created through ‘collecting’ language – I hope to speak more to the process of writing and thinking than the polished, finished results of my thesis. Desiring to push back against the feeling of forced expertise that accompanies the act of giving a talk, I will piece together fragments from notes, quotes, and conversations that never found their way into my thesis.