Canadian Art: You Want Our Art but Not Our People

Feature image: Maria Hupfield and Regan de Loggans, two members of the Indigenous Kinship Collective, at Whitney Biennial 2019.

Why, in the era of #MeToo, Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock, are social calls and critiques still so stymied in the arts? For an industry that portrays itself as progressive in its proximity to radical ideas, why is art so unresponsive to the dynamics of power that define it, except in gestures of representation and vague ideas of identity politics? Is it because we know Art can never truly be radicalized? Is it because the boards of art organizations are populated with capitalists who rely on ideas over people to ensure their profits? Certainly, there was a radical call in my early drive to seek out Indigenous art resistance. I came up in the streets, giving speeches at rallies and having my name grace CSIS files before I was even out of my youth. I came to art because I believe in its revolutionary, world-making power. However naive it sounds, I’m still matriculating through all these art world politics and ego trips. But this capital “A” art is something else altogether—this is an industry and a machine. A machine that, however uncomfortably, leads to the question of whether or not Indigenous Art, in the context of these industries, can ever truly be radical.

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