I believe in living
Basil AlZeri, Rana Bishara, Christina Battle, Richelle Bear Hat & Brittney Bear Hat, Rehab Nazzal, Abdi Osman, Tiffany Shaw-Collinge, Rinaldo Walcott
curated by Ellyn Walker
April 21 – June 30, 2018
Saturday, April 21, 3 – 6 pm
I believe in living takes its cue from Assata Shakur’s poem “Affirmation” that begins the activist’s 1987 autobiography. In it, she insists on the gifts of living in spite of the oppressive and violent logics of the state, and writes of the power of loving and imagining as radical counteractions to colonial, racial, sexual, gender and class-based injustices. Accordingly, the artists and contributors in this project carry these actions forward in each their own way, offering tender, caring, creative, poetic and intellectual propositions that examine different forms of living as complicated gestures and lived realities.
Using plant life as a starting point, the works in this exhibition explore the diverse ways in which plants represent: Indigenous and ancestral knowledges; sovereign resistance; cultural resilience; enslaved, colonizing and diasporic movements; as well as place-based rootings and relations. What does it mean for a cactus to have lived 800 years in the New Mexico desert, where the land has witnessed multiple statehoods? What does it look like to resist the Israeli State’s strategic excavation of olive trees—extraction as a form of settler-colonialism and a tactic of economic devastation—on Palestinian territories? In what ways do diasporic movements sever and/or carry land-based knowledges with them? How do contemporary greening and gentrification practices—including the aggressive re-financialization of the Albertan landscape—conceal the displacement of multiple histories, peoples and practices? How can a relational approach to place rather than to emplacement, reconfigure future environmental and familial relationships?
The exhibition features diverse works by local, national and international artists, in and outside the Untitled Art Society main gallery space, online, in the UAS +15 Vitrine and on billboards across the city. In the gallery: Rana Bishara’s photographic installation of robust cacti growing in the West Bank provides a bird’s-eye view of colonial occupation in the background; Christina Battle offers visitors seeds harvested from her Southwestern Ontario garden accompanied by semi-instructional zines to take away; sisters Richelle Bear Hat and Brittney Bear Hat present a collaborative installation with mint tea gathered from their ancestral territory along with personal stories; Abdi Osman’s video projection of a woman reminiscing on the shoreline recalls the ways in which bodies, like plants, have been forcefully transposed across bodies of waters; and commissioned writing by scholar Rinaldo Walcott responds to these collective works, and is presented in the form of a textual installation.