September 30, 2017 – November 26, 2017
Southern Alberta Art Gallery (SAAG), Lethbridge
Opening reception: Saturday, September 30 at 8 PM
Reception sponsored by North & Company
If you are disconnected from the earth, then you are disconnected from each other, disconnected from creation and then you violate creation. We are creators, so we are the first to be violated.
– Lee Maracle, as part of an Idle No More teach-in on August 24th, 2012
What is the nature of our belongings? To what extent do they shape who we are? For Jeneen Frei Njootli, belongings can be entwined with ancestral memory, community, love, and care. But also something darker, something gruesome; they can reflect consumption, of our bodies, our art, our knowledge. In her exhibition, red rose ad lidii, Frei Njootli presents an assortment of printed images, video, objects, and performance that draws upon her personal collection of beadwork, which not insignificantly, is comprised of gifts from friends and family members. The work captures the artist firmly pressing the beadwork against various parts of her body, leaving an imprint at once indexical (the bead’s trace is revealed on the artist’s skin), and symbolic (a register that links memory, landscape, trauma and body).
On the one hand, the marks denote an aggressive act, a self-inflicted modification of her body, which reflects the ongoing violence against the earth and against women. Thinking of ‘the body as territory,’ the impressions reveal a powerful covenant between herself, her community, and the land – hurt one and you hurt them all. On the other hand, its trace is fleeting and
impermanent. In an arguably ceremonial fashion, Frei Njootli seems to subsume these beadworks, along with the stories they embody, as a gesture of strength and unity. Each of her belongings is held, acknowledged, loved, and celebrated for its unique beauty and craftsmanship before being transferred to her skin, her body, and her being. Beading, like many creative acts, is valued as a way to work through grief and trauma and these objects can often become touchstones for others. What does it mean to share this trauma, and take up this knowledge through the body?
Jeneen Frei Njootli is a member of the self-governing Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and is a co-creator of the ReMatriate Collective. She has been living as an uninvited guest in the unceded, ancestral lands and waters of the Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Stó:lō peoples for around a decade. Working collaboratively with artists, communities, youth, and the land, Frei Njootli’s practice takes the shape of sound, performance, fashion, workshops and barbecues. She sits on the Board of Directors for grunt gallery and recently completed her Master of Fine Arts Degree from the University of British Columbia. Frei Njootli is represented by Macaulay & Co. Fine Arts in Toronto.
red rose ad lidii is organized by the Southern Alberta Art Gallery. Funding assistance provided by the Canada Council for the Arts, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and the City of Lethbridge.