Li Salay at Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton
Within moments of visiting the Art Gallery of Alberta exhibition Li Salay, you find yourself falling into step with the deep, rhythmic drumming emanating from Casey Koyczan’s installation Naet’a; The Sun Keeps Coming Up. Once you’ve entered the installation, you are subsumed by an immersive video projection depicting images of celestial landscapes as they fluctuate between discernibility and abstraction. Interlaced with the projection are a number of white sticks that point towards the center of the image, drawing your eye to the experimental, yet intuitive, compositions that depict the cyclical geo-cosmic narratives of the earth, sun, and moon.
Li Salay at the Art Gallery of Alberta, 2018, exhibition view
Curated by Amy Malbeuf and Jessie Ray Short, Li Salay is an exploration of the myriad ways that Métis artists represent and express their relations: with themselves, their families, friends, the land, the sky, the water, and countless other instances of reciprocity and interconnectedness. Li Salay(Michif for ‘the sun’) brings these diverse representations of inter-relation and co-constitution together through an emphasis on how all things hold relations with the sun. Through this embrace, the curators create space for a heterogeneous articulation of contemporary Métis artistic practice that acknowledges Métis peoples as always already whole.
While Koyczan’s mesmerizing video installation invites celestial contemplation, Gabrielle L’Hirondelle Hill’s sculpture Orinoco Note – featuring a flag crafted out of tobacco and thread – cuts through the room, leaving faint olfactory traces of tobacco throughout the space, out of reach but detectable. The flag’s delicate stitching – occasionally resulting in a tiny tear – alludes to a deep and complex intimacy with land. Hill’s flag doesn’t sway with allegiance to any state, but instead it complicates the relationship between identity, land, and nation.
Sheri Nault, Entangled Bodies 4, 2018 (photo: Charles Cousins)
This focus on complexity and complication is echoed in Sheri Nault’s Entangled Bodies 2, 3, and 4, which weave together wood, human hair, and beeswax to form a series of human/more-than-human assemblages that tell stories of porous bodies and permeable boundaries. Investigating the complicated interpersonal dynamics of sexuality and gender, Dayna Danger‘s digital video Bebeschwendaam reveals intimate explorations: the playful, awkward, tender, pleasurable negotiations of interacting with strap-on antlers.
In addition to the above, the exhibition includes work by Lori Blondeau, Katherine Boyer, Rosalie Favell, Tim Moore, Audie Murray, Sherry Farrell Racette, Les Ramsay, Jewel Shaw, and Amanda Strong. Together, the thirteen artists in Li Salay complicate, connect, reveal, critique, love, persist, and expose. They swell together, yet remain distinct.
Jessa Gillespie is an artist, writer, and curator residing in Edmonton. Most recently, they collaborated on the curation of the exhibition material™ at Latitude 53, as well as interviewed Cindy Baker on her performance and solo exhibition Crash Pad, which can be found on the dc3 Art Projects website. Gillespie currently holds a Gallery Assistant position at dc3 Art Projects and a Research Assistant position with Dr. Scott Smallwood at the University of Alberta.