CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: Curators’ Statement

About the exhibition:
The world is at a crossroads in many ways. Now is the moment to reconfigure our notions of time to reveal alternative ways of thinking and being for the future. In Close Encounters: The Next 500 Years Indigenous artists imagine the future within the context of present experiences and past histories. By radically reconsidering encounter narratives between native and non-native people, Indigenous prophecies, possible utopias and apocalypses, this exhibition proposes intriguing possibilities for the next 500 years. “We all in different measure have carved out the future,” observes Hopi photographer and filmmaker Victor Masayesva in his book Husk of Time. “We are all clairvoyants, soothsayers, prophets, knowingly assuming our predictions.”

Close Encounters brings together over 30 Indigenous artists from across Canada, the United States, South America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, including newly commissioned work from Rebecca Belmore, Faye HeavyShield, Kent Monkman, and Edward Poitras. Jimmie Durham’s sculptural work Pole to Mark the Centre of the World (at Winnipeg) challenges widely held ideas surrounding space and location, while James Luna's poignant installation Spirits of Virtue and Evil Await my Ascension, addresses issues of ritual and the passing of time. Close Encounters showcases artists and artworks that collectively invent provocative futures from a diversity of perspectives and practices.

Encounters today are less a “shock of the new” that defined first encounters in the early modern era; rather they are about possibilities of positive outcomes for the future. Lisa Reihana interweaves Maori prophecies and mythologies with personal history and people into a Digital Marae where she connects her past with an imagined future. Choices and possibilities - and ambiguities - for the future are contained in Michael Belmore’s Smoulder - a hearth of carved stones and gold inlay.  The work alludes both to an extinguished flame and the hope of regeneration through fire, the site of beginnings and ends. 
 
Other works take on current colonial conditions. In a slightly tongue-in-cheek gesture, Postcommodity's Repellent Eye consists of a custom-made 10 foot diameter “scare-eye balloon” looming over the city of Winnipeg. It replicates, on a much larger scale, balloons popular with environmentally-conscious gardeners to keep away annoying birds. The artists speculate that if a 16 inch diameter scare-eye balloon is effective in repelling pesky birds then perhaps something on a much larger scale might be effective in repelling Western civilization. In another mediation on end-times, Mary Anne Barkhouses's installation The Four Horses of the Apocalypse brings new perspective to the riders of pending doom. Here the nightmarish myth of the Book of Revelation is represented by four immaculately restored coin-operated toy horses - the kind of 60s era kiddie rides - outfitted in custom-made regalia. Each horse bears a different animal crest - bats and vultures; pelicans, a walrus, and an oil drum; a wolf-creature carrying a chainsaw. Clearly it is the animals who have come back to wage war. In a much darker mediation on the psychological hell brought about by assimilation policies and other symptoms of colonial encounters, Tracey Moffatt’s experimental film Night Cries presents an Australian Aboriginal woman trapped in the daily cycle of caring for her ailing adoptive mother. The final scene sees her overcome with grief, curled up beside her dead mother in a barren landscape where the only sound is of a baby's cry. Other works go back in time to rewrite history. Archer Pechawis' performance Horse begins with one of the most devastating moments in North American history - the Sand Creek Massacre - only to turn it on its head. Horse attempts to conjure a reversal of hierarchies and power relationships and revels in the potential of one small action to change the course of the world.

 With its myriad histories, trajectories, tensions, collisions, and self-image(s), the city of Winnipeg offers an intriguing juxtaposition for these artistic mediations. Close Encounters: The Next 500 Years presents international Indigenous perspectives in a city that in many ways also epitomizes the future of Aboriginal people in Canada. Works in multiple venues throughout the city will serve as catalysts to invent different ways of thinking, acting, and being in the world of our shared future.  At this pivotal moment in time, Close Encounters invites engagement with the speculative, the prophetic, and the unknown.  

Download the Close Encounters program guide

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