Artist collaborators: Matt Everson, K’umugwe Cultural Society, Anita Lawrence, Monica McKean, Medwyn McConachy
Cultural Knowledge Contributors + Facilitator: Elder Mary Everson with Andy Everson, Lee Everson
Videographer/Photographer/Editor: Kirk Schwartz
Installation collaborator: Guylaine Langlois (Vaste et Vague)
As an artist and curator of Kanien’keha:ka and French ancestry, I would like to acknowledge the traditional territory of the K’ómoks First Nation where this exhibition is presented. I would also like to express my gratitude to the W̱SÁNEĆ (Saanich) First Nation on whose traditional territory I have lived for the past 16 years.
In 2005, I had the opportunity to participate in a 7-week Aboriginal New Works Residency at the Banff Centre. During that period, I created a two-part installation piece entitled Vessels. The vessel is the central object in this installation. The first part is contemplative. It is composed of 4 video projections and 4 large wax vessels. The second part is participative. It is composed of 144 small wax vessels placed on the ground.
During every exhibition of Vessels, visitors are invited to bring an object of cultural significance to be placed in one of the bowls. The meaning of each object is affected or transformed by the presence of other peoples’ objects. Their objects have stories attached to them—sometimes extraordinary stories. They have spirit. The objects and their journeys become part of the gift.
In an unplanned and unforeseen way, some people use the installation as a safe place to make an offering. And as they do, the installation transforms. Not only do the objects visually interact with each other, but each ‘aura’, each story starts to inhabit the installation. I was emotionally overwhelmed by the stories that were told to me. This led me to explore the meaning of gifting and offering from different cultural perspectives.
And so in 2012, during a residency at artist-run centre Vaste et Vague in Gespe’gewa’gi (Gaspé Peninsula, Québec), I created and exhibited, for the first time, the installation Offerings / Offrandes.
Offerings / Offrandes is grounded in collaborative authorship. It pays homage to relational aesthetics. It welcomes the presentation and interpretation of practices rooted in different cultures. The installation is space-based. It establishes a connection to specific artists and their communities—both Indigenous and non-Indigenous—that inhabit this land.
In many Aboriginal cultures, offerings are gestures filled with spiritual, social and political meaning. We offer a feast to the members of the community or to visitors. We offer stories. We offer songs to the plants that we harvest and to animals that feed us. We offer tobacco to elders, to spirits. Offerings were at the heart of the exchanges that took place during contact with Europeans. We offered refuge. We offered knowledge of the territory. We offered medicine to cure the newcomers. We offered to share the land.
Offerings are also present in many different cultures. They are based in the spirit of giving without a time frame or self-interest. They can take the form of rituals, of ceremonies or of communal exchanges. They are sometimes private gestures.
With Offerings / Offrandes it is my intention to create a gathering space and engage Indigenous and non-Indigenous audiences to consider what has been offered in the past and what can now be offered, both individually and collectively.
Prior to the exhibition France undertook a creative residency at CVAG during which the offerings of regional Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists will be integrated into the touring installation.
France Trépanier is a visual artist, curator and researcher of Kanien’kéha:ka and French ancestry. Her practice is informed by strategies of collaboration. Her artistic and curatorial work has been presented in many venues in Canada and in Europe.
France is co-leading Primary Colours/Couleurs primaires, a 3-year initiative which seeks to place Indigenous art practices at the centre of the Canadian art system. She is the Aboriginal Curator at Open Space Arts Society in Victoria BC, where she co-curated, with Michelle Jacques and Doug Jarvis, the exhibition Deconstructing Comfort. She also recently curated the Awakening Memory Project with artists Sonny Assu, LessLIE and Marianne Nicolson. France was selected, by the Canada Council for the Arts, to be part of the International Indigenous Curators Exchange in Australia, New Zealand and the 2017 Venice Biennale. France was the co-recipient of the 2012 Audain Aboriginal Curatorial Fellowship by the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.
France co-authored with Chris Creighton-Kelly Understanding Aboriginal Art in Canada Today: a Knowledge and Literature Review for the Canada Council for the Arts. Her essays and articles have been published in numerous journals and magazines.
France worked at the Canada Council for the Arts before becoming a Senior Arts Policy Advisor for the Department of Canadian Heritage. She held a diplomatic post as First Secretary, Cultural Affairs at the Canadian Embassy in Paris. She directed the Centre for New Media at the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris. France was also the co-founder and Director of the artist-run center Axe Néo-7 in Gatineau, Quebec.