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Saturday, June 21
(post) Colonial Stress Disorder:
imaging a way out

Curated by Wanda Nanibush

This program was first presented by WARC Gallery in 2007. Read the essay by curator Wanda Nanibush...

Special added screening: World premiere of a new short film by Shelley Niro: The Flying Head

8 pm at the Gordon Best Theatre
216 Hunter St. W., Peterborough
(above the Only Cafe)

Divided by Zero. Danis Goulet, Canada, 2006, 16:17
Portrait in Motion. Nadia Myre, Canada, 2002, 2:21
Love & Numbers. Thirza Cuthand, Canada, 2004, 9:00
1,2,3, Knock up. Ariel Smith, Canada, 2006, 4:16
The Weave. Cherie Valentina Stocken, Canada, 2005, 5:36
Prayer for a Good Day. Zoe Leigh Hopkins, Canada, 2003, 12:12
The Knot Between. Cherie Valentina Stocken, Canada, 5:14

This program highlights six emerging Indigenous voices within media arts today.

Divided by Zero
Danis Goulet,

2006, 16:17

The first filmmaker is Danis Goulet who's second short drama Divided by Zero follows a young Cree woman in the city as she struggles to both enact social change and define what it is to be Cree. She builds herself a tipi, burns sweetgrass and paints her face because an 'innocent' comment by her boyfriend's mother leaves her unmoored in her 'Cree-ness.' The film brings to light the discourses on Indian-ness that one must negotiate in order to even be politically active or to love. It subtly critiques both the idea that Cree ness could be so easily located inside a tipi and critiques the appropriation of notions of Aboriginal spirituality by some activist movements. Possibly her Cree-ness is located in her fight against 'Blood for Oil." To be divided by zero is zero, taken as a visual image it is to be a whole. Wholeness does not necessarily mean lack of contradiction or confusion.

Portrait in Motion
Nadia Myre,
2002, 2:21

Nadia Myre's arresting Portrait in Motion takes another approach to the same problem. She constructs herself in the metallic coloured morning paddling a canoe through the mist. She monumentalizes herself. The difference becomes apparent as the statue-portrait moves, closer and closer, until you are staring her in the face. Her sweatshirt and direct gaze undo the myth of the vanishing Indian. The face-to-face moment asks us to accept what we cannot see or know of her and to be critical of how we see or know her. She may also be recuperating the canoe as a mode of transportation that belongs to Indigenous technological innovation

Love & Numbers
Thirza Cuthand, Canada,
2004, 9:00

Click to see still...

Love & Numbers by Thirza Cuthand is a complex rendering of the breakdown of meaning brought about by the violation of colonialism. She speaks of all the 'codes' she receives; from her ancestors, from colonial narratives, from the hospital, from her heart in love. She marks out the pain and confusion in being unable to navigate through the competing narratives of who she in order to be able to transmit, to signifying her-self. The inability to signify this rupture in her being or to bring to speech the deep trauma gets recodified within the hospital as her 'craziness.' As she says: "I only wanted to create a world where I could be loved." Love is a relation that resists any kind of binary code.

1,2,3 Knock up
Ariel Smith
2006, 4:16

Click to see still..

Ariel Smith in navigates her way through a number of narratives and experiences that make a horror of girlhood. In a film that references Lynch as much as Citizen Kane, Smith breaks new ground in displaying the relationship between image and meaning. Her film is open to multiple interpretations but for me, she recuperates female subjectivity and girlhood from a suffocating sexualization.

The Weave

Cherie Valentina Stocken,
2005, 5:36

Click to see still...


The Weave by Cherie Valentina Stocken is a visual representation of the crack within the Indigenous psyche. The screen is divided into four mini screens. The centre image of a horizontal triptych on the screen is a close up shot of a grieving woman. You see her scream and cry. The left screen of the triptych shows a woman standing in a field wearing European dress. English handwriting scrolls over the screen reminding us of the colonial journals that continue to define us. The right screen of the triptych is a woman in what is probably pow wow regalia. The screen is covered in Cree syllabics. Unlike the European women the Aboriginal women stands with a ghosted picture of her ancestors behind her. Possibly pointing to the white women who came here alone to 'birth a new white nation' and to the Aboriginal women's location within community. Above the triptych are hands weaving red and white cloth. This could symbolize the Canadian flag. The weaving could be the national impulse to incorporate (assimilate) the Aboriginal Peoples within its narrative of origin. It could point out the necessity of the images of Aboriginal Peoples that circulate in Canadian society for defining what is Canadian at the same time as they ignore 'real' Indigenous Peoples. It definitely points out Stocken's need to weave her white and Aboriginal histories into her current identity. The motion of weaving hails forward the braiding of sweetgrass and the teachings it contains. As the grieving women's hands begin to weave, she smiles. The song switches from Jesus loves me back to the childhood lullaby. Her healing lies within a weaving that we do not see the beginning or ending of. Conflicting narratives and lineages are being weived endless til there is just the motion of the weaving itself to signify identity and wholeness.

Prayer for a Good Day
Zoe Leigh Hopkins, Canada,
2003, 12:12

Click to see still...

Prayer for Good Day by Zoe Leigh Hopkins takes grief straight into the Aboriginal community and points to its generational effects. The silence of the little girls father can be read as the always already of colonial trauma and its unspoken effects. The daughters resilience and periodic joy show how the community goes on despite the supposed-to-be-debilitating effects of policies of assimilation and segregation. Hopkins shows how colonialism reached its hand into the home breaking millennial old family relations and codes of love.

The Knot Between

Cherie Valentina Stocken,

Click to see still...

The closing film is The Knot Between by Cherie Valentina Stocken which marks out the difficulty of the in-between and its asyphixia of meaning. It viscerally symbolizes both how we are suffocating under signs we have not chosen and that this struggle for place, for definitional control, for meaning is a matter of life and death. When her suffocation speeds up, we can feel it in our own body. We feel with her the relief of a life-giving breath.


Danis Goulet's short films have screened at numerous festivals in Canada and around the world, including the Sundance Film Festival, the Native American Film + Video Festival in New York, and the Message Sticks Film Festival in Sydney, Australia. She sits on the Board of the Images Festival, the Visual/Media Arts Committee of the Toronto Arts Council, and the programming committee of the Worldwide Short Film Festival. Danis is Métis, originally from northern Saskatchewan. Divided by Zero is Danis's second short drama.

Nadia Myre is a multidisciplinary artist whose work has exhibited nationally and internationally. She has been the recipient of the prestigious Eiteljorg fellowship and her work is in the Council Art Bank, Canadian Museum of Civilation, and the Indian Art Centre and many other collections. Myre has made four short videos.

Thirza Cuthand was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, in 1978, and grew up a Cree Scots Irish bipolar butch lesbian two spirited boy/girl thingamabob in Saskatoon. She has produced award winning experimental videos and films on low to no budget exploring issues of identity, race, sexuality, relationships, ageism, and mental health. Her work has been shown at the Walter Art Centre, the Mackenzie Art Gallery, Oberhausen International Short Film festival, the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, The Women's Television Network, MIX NY, the Walter Phillips Gallery, the Mendel Art Gallery, the MIX Brasil festival of Sexual Diversity, and many other places. She majored in film and video at Emily Carr Insititute of Art & Design.

Ariel Smith is from the Cree/Ojibway First Nations. She is also Roma and Jewish. She was born a few years ago on Coast Salish land commonly known as Vancouver. Ariel has written , directed and produced video shorts and one super 8 short film. Her videos have screened at festivals and events around North America and overseas.

Cherie Valentina Stocken's work deals with issues of cultural convergence and the role history plays in defining cultural relationships. Stocken has received her BFA from the University of British Columbia and has exhibited both nationally and internationally. It is Cherie's goal to continue to inspire social change throughout her art career. Cherie is English, Saulteaux, Cree, German and French from Gordons Reserve, Saskatchewan.

Zoe Leigh Hopkins graduated in 1997 from Ryerson with a B.A.A. in Film. Zoe was a Fellow at the Sundance Institute's January 2004 Screenwriter's Lab with her feature script, Cherry Blossoms. Her short film Prayer for a Good Day had its world premiere at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. Zoe is Heiltsuk from Bella Bella and Mohawk from Six Nations.


Vtape Distribution
401 Richmond Street West, Suite 452
Toronto, Ontario M5V 3A8
Wanda Vanderstoop wandav@vtape.org
Titles: Divided by Zero, Prayer for a Good Day, The Knot Between, The Weave, Love & Numbers, 1, 2, 3, Knock up

Nadia Myre
514 284 2444
Title: Portrait in Motion

(post) Colonial Stress Disorder
'imaging a way out"

written and curated by Wanda Nanibush

There is a considerable amount of writing today decrying the dangers of identity politics and much laughter and resentment over political correctness. This debate missed the mark and never discovered what was actually being demanded from within identity politics. The demand was not be included or tolerated or even understood. It was a demand to redefine the meaning and shape of contemporary society from the position of all that it excluded. The inclusion of Indigenous Peoples is really about remaking society from within our understandings of what it is to be human, to be political, to be a society, to be lawful etc. To be sovereign has always been about self-determination, not in terms of what can be accommodated in the system already, but in terms of changing the system entirely. Identity, taken to be fluid and multiple, is necessarily political. 'Identity politics' was also not about replacing one definition for a cultural one. It was about clearing space for us to have a discussion with ourselves about who we are, who we were and how we want to be.

The six emerging Indigenous filmmakers in this program show that the fight over meaning, (over the symbolic) is not over, Indigenous Peoples are still struggling for sovereignty over their own self-definition, still struggling to breath under the weight of someone else's view of them. This fight is not just over words and images, it is about how words and images have violent material consequences. The struggle over the symbolic order is a struggle to be recognized from within one's difference as Indigenous (not a fixed term). It is also a struggle for land. If we lose the fight over our own representation we could lose the fight over the land. History has shown how images and words defining who Indigenous Peoples are can justify political and social violence. The struggle over self-definition and meaning is a struggle over matter- I want to matter, to count, to be counted, and to be spoken into being.

There is a crack in the Indigenous psyche between that which is written about us and our understanding of that writing. The crack itself is a subjectivity that can not find voice, a subjectivity unrecognizable in the terms we are given within the English language. The invasion and imposition of signifiers of Indian-ness - dance, dress, tipi, feathers - all have another history and context. These signifiers of Indian-ness once belonged to very specific and diverse Indigenous cultures. They get reframed in the films as significations not of Indian-ness but of connections to community and ancestry. Both the critique of stereotypes and the recuperation of these symbols of identity lead us closer to a future of Indigenous specificity and uniqueness. They become modes of collective healing and mutual recognition.

The materiality of being indigenous lies also in sovereignty over defining identity, culture and place. The in between space we inhabit is not the hybridization of culture but the inbetween within the conflict of not having regained our sovereignty. These films ask what is my responsibility politically and culturally to the history I have arrived in and the future I create in the present. They also ask the viewer to question their own conceptions of what they see, to accept responsibility for their part in the current confusion and pain of meaning, they face us with the impossibility of unity and complete understanding.

The desire for belonging, memory, and history is a nostalgic dream brought to the fore in the trauma of colonialism. Our nostalgia for the past is really nostalgia for a future. These films point out that we never went anywhere but it's a struggle to ontrol where we are going. The break in our pasts connection to our present is not due to a loss of culture but to a political violence that we still experience. The break is due to a loss of sovereignty over the meanings of our cultures and over the lands we inhabit. The ethical responsibility for us all is to honour and help create the breathing space being demanded. A breathing space for a unique specific subjectivity for all Indigenous Peoples, be they Métis, Anishnawbeg, Cree, urban, reserve, mixed blood, adopted or whomever they wish to be in all their complexity.

• • • • • •

Wanda Nanibush is an independent curator, writer and emerging media artist. She lives in Ottawa, studies film at Carleton and raises her son. Wanda is Anishinabe-kwe from Beausoleil First Nation. In her other life as a consultant she helps arts organization develop, change and grow. Nanibush also helps communities develop arts programming and infrastructure.

The Flying Head by Shelley Niro
Canada, 2008, 4:00, bw
Co-presented with The Peterborough Arts Umbrella
In the olden days the bogey man was a common scare tactic to get kids to react to the adult voice. On the Six Nations Reserve, the bogey man was "the flying head". Threats of seeing bizarre and horrible things were used to get children into the house after dark. It usually worked. In the contemporary world we can laugh at these basic employs, but are they really fantasy as we pretend them to be?

Shelley Niro is a member of the Turtle Clan of the Kanien’kehaka (Mohawk) Nation, from the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford. She was born in Niagara Falls, New York in 1954, and has studied at the Banff School of Fine Arts, is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art, and received her MFA from the University of Western Ontario. Working in a variety of media, including beadwork, painting, photography, and film, Niro challenges stereotypical images of Aboriginal peoples through strategies of masquerade, parody, and appropriation. Often using herself, friends, and family members as subjects, the artist creates depictions of Aboriginal peoples in counterpoint to those generated by centuries of colonization. Through her often direct yet humorous approach the artist proposes numerous possibilities for lived experience, presenting identity as a fluid and complex state, not one that is fixed and singular. Her work has been exhibited in galleries across Canada and her award-winning films have been screened at festivals worldwide. Her art can be found in the collections of the Canada Council Art Bank and the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and now here in NAICA online’s Spring edition! For more information on Niro visit www.thenaica.org/edition_eight/air/intro.htm where she is the North America Indigenous Cinema and Arts featured artist in residence for Spring 2008.