Talkin' Back to Johnny Mac: Interrupting John A. Macdonald & Learning to Curate from an Indigenous Framework
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From January to April 2015, I curated Talkin’ Back to Johnny Mac, a five-part performance series that took place in Katarokwi (Kingston, Ontario). The series, which took place during the bicentennial birthday year of Kingstonian Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, interrupted the celebratory, nationalist, and settler colonial narratives that drove the celebration and critiqued the ways in which historical and colonial/settler icons like Macdonald are remembered. Each individual performance by artists David Garneau, Peter Morin, Adrian Stimson, Leah Decter, and Tanya Lukin Linkater embodied unacknowledged contradictions in the celebratory tone of Macdonald’s birthday year. Together, the performances built a critical dialogue that intervened in the colonial narrative that turned Macdonald into an icon. Taken together, this series of performative acts forced a consideration of his ongoing influence as the first Prime Minister of Canada on the undercurrent of discrimination and assimilation still so fundamental to state approaches to Indigenous issues in Canada. Talkin’ Back to Johnny Mac is the first component of this project-based dissertation. Documentation of the performances that constituted the project is included in Chapter Three. The second component is this written section, which explores Indigenous curatorial methodologies by placing my experience of curating Talkin’ Back in conversation with the practices of six Indigenous curators. In so doing, I create a map of Indigenous curatorial history in Canada. The written component builds on the curatorial project, locating it within a discussion of Indigenous curating as a practice based in Indigenous epistemologies and ontologies.
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