Billboard on Shaw: Tsēmā Igharas
May 10 - June 17, 2021
This billboard is presented as part of the group exhibition Groundwork, curated by Valérie Frappier for Critical Distance. Featuring artists Alana Bartol, Ileana Hernandez Camacho, and Tsēmā Igharas, the exhibition grapples with the mindset of extractivism and highlights how site-specific performance can bring focus to alternative ways of relating with land. Groundwork is a Featured Exhibition of the 2021 Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival.
Groundwork foregrounds camouflage as a performance strategy to investigate the divide between human and non-human. Displayed here is documentation of a 2019 performance by Tsēmā titled real camo. The action took place on the obsidian quarry where her Tahltan ancestors harvested the volcanic rock in her territory’s mountains, located in the north-west of so-called British Columbia. In pointing to her nation’s ancestral mining practices which have existed since time immemorial, she considers how this ethical harvesting can influence an “alternative extractive reality” for the future, in resistance to the Western corporate resource extraction that dominates contemporary land use in Canada. Here, Tsēmā crouches among the stones wearing a jumpsuit printed with an image of the quarry. She camouflages herself with the obsidian, asserting her connection to this land.
About the Artist
Tsēmā Igharas is an interdisciplinary artist and member of the Tahltan Nation. She uses Potlatch methodology to create conceptual artwork and teachings influenced by her mentorship in Northwest Coast Formline Design at K’saan (2005/06), her
studies in visual culture, and her time in the mountains. Her praxis is sparked by strategies of Indigenous resistance to neo-colonization, embodied knowledge and everyday acts of decolonization as ways to understand the imaginary Canadian “true
North” and industrial reverberations felt by those who live downstream.
About the Curator
Valérie Frappier is a white settler Franco-Ontarian curator and writer from Aurora, Ont., currently based in the Toronto region. Frappier’s research and curatorial projects consider questions of gender, race and place within Canadian cultural production and discourses surrounding the climate crisis. Committed to the development of platforms that build community and initiate lasting learning experiences, she has worked in curatorial, editorial and facilitation roles with cultural organizations in Montreal, Cork City (Ireland) and Southern Ontario. She holds a BFA in Art History and Studio Arts from Concordia University (2014), a BA in Gender and Women’s Studies from York University (2018) and an MFA in Criticism and Curatorial Practice from OCAD University (2020). Frappier’s writing has appeared in various publications including C Magazine, Canadian Art, Femme Art Review and The Senses and Society Journal.
Critical Distance thanks the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival for support in making this billboard possible.