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Sovereign Acts

Works by:

Rebecca Belmore, Lori Blondeau, Dayna Danger, James Luna, Shelley Niro, Adrian Stimson, Jeff Thomas

Sovereign Acts

April 18–May 27, 2012

Curated by Wanda Nanibush

Justina M. Barnicke Gallery

The history of Indigenous Peoples performing cultural dances and practices for international and colonial audiences is an important part of Indigenous art generally, and performance art specifically. The Indigenous performers known as ‘Indians’ faced the conundrum of maintaining traditional cultural practices by performing them on stage while also having that performance fulfill the desires of a colonial imaginary. In Sovereign Acts, the artists contend with the legacy of colonial representations. Drawing on the depiction of the imaginary Indian – the ahistorical, pre-contact ‘primitivism’ in popular and mass culture – they recover and construct new ways of performing the complexity of Indigenous cultures for a contemporary art audience. Their work returns to the multi-levelled history of ‘Performing Indian’ to recuperate the erased and objectified performer as an ancestor, an artist, and an Indigenous subject.

Touring Program

Open Space Gallery, May 1-June 15, 2014
Neutral Ground, February 22–April 4, 2014
Southern Alberta Art Gallery, May 1–June 15, 2014
Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery, January 21–April 1, 2017
University of Waterloo Art Gallery, January 11–March 3, 2018
Art Gallery of Windsor, October 20, 2018–January 27, 2019
Galerie d’art Louise-et-Reuben-Cohen, Université de Moncton,
May-July 2019
Kelowna Art Gallery, August 17–November 3, 2019

This exhibition was originally produced in 2012 as part of the requirements for the MVS degree in Curatorial Studies at the University of Toronto.

Participating artists: Rebecca Belmore, Lori Blondeau, Robert Houle, Terrance Houle, Shelley Niro, Adrian Stimson, and Jeff Thomas.

Opening Reception

Wednesday April 18, 2012 7-9pm
Justina M. Barnicke Gallery

Our Supporters

We gratefully acknowledge the operating support from the Canada Council for the Arts, with additional project support from the Ontario Arts Council,the University of Toronto Women and Gender Studies Institute, and the University of Toronto Arts Council.

Beginning in 2017 the touring exhibition was organized and circulated by the Art Museum with the support of the Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery. We also gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Ontario Arts Council Touring Projects program.


Title Image: Installation view of Sovereign Acts, 2014. Image credit: Toni Hafkenscheid.

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