Unsettling the Last Best West: Restorying Settler Imaginaries
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My doctoral project is a study of how art was used in the promotion and dissemination of colonial ideologies and in the recruitment of settlers to Canada in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, specifically under the aegis of Clifford Sifton as Canada's Minister of the Interior from 1896 to 1905. My project interrogates the content and dissemination of immigration advertising, establishes its role in the cultural production of settler and national imaginaries, and appropriates its tactics to build creative strategies of decolonization in contemporary sites. To this end, my project operates in two, interrelated ways: first, by establishing the colonialist agenda of immigration advertising through an integrated interrogation of primary sources using critical visual and theoretical analysis, and second, by appropriating and subverting Sifton's tactics of visual communication to create a series of artworks that critically reactivate and reframe this material in such a way that its ideological thrust and colonialist underpinnings are made apparent. My project develops through creative practice in four ways. It examines the potential for creative practice to disrupt the ongoing cultural performance of settler colonialism, to open the reproductive practices of settler colonialism to critical reflection, to recruit participation in decolonization, and to actively operate in creating strategies of reimagining and restorying. I develop this work through practice-based research methodology, self-reflexively, from my perspective as a settler, settler descendant, and treaty person, focusing on a settler audience to contribute to anticolonial dialogues and conciliation in contemporary sites.