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Exhibit showcasing Chu Niikwän Artist Residency works opening at the KDCC

Three Yukon artists who took part in this year’s round of the Chu Niikwän Artist Residency earlier this year will get the chance to showcase their final products for the first time at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre this weekend.

Meeting by the currents: works from the Chu Niikwän Artist Residency will feature the work of artists Asad Chishti, Robyn McLeod and Aimée Dawson Robinson, with the Nov. 7 opening reception to feature performances as well as artist talks.

The residency, now in its third year, is a partnership between the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre, Yukon Arts Centre and Yukon Arts Society. Along with the Yukon government, they provide selected artists and curators the time, space, mentorship and resources to develop a new exhibit together.

Nicole Bauberger and Lori Beavis co-curated Meeting by the currents, with Beavis participating remotely from Montreal.

While the artists and curators typically complete the residency at various locations in Whitehorse, Bauberger said in an interview Nov. 5 that, much like many aspects of life, things were different this year due to COVID-19.

“We really embraced the opportunity for people to participate remotely,” she said.

It was both an adaptation to deal with the pandemic, Bauberger explained, but also part of a desire to make art more accessible to people living outside the territorial capital.

“From Toronto or Montreal, Whitehorse is kind of the hinterland, but here in the Yukon, Whitehorse is the Toronto-urban-metropolis,” she said.

“So it’s sometimes tricky because … a lot of art programming happens in the centres for ease or logistics, but it also means we have to make a special effort to you know, try to remove the barriers for people who don’t live in Whitehorse.”

While Chishti and Robinson worked in Whitehorse, McLeod chose to do the residency remotely from Ross River, where she lives with her partner.

McLeod, in a Nov. 4 interview, said she’d been thrilled that her application for the residency was accepted, but, after discussing it with her family, thought she would have to decline the opportunity because she didn’t feel like travelling to Whitehorse and then back to Ross River during the pandemic would be safe.

Asad Chishti, one of three Chu Niikwän Artist Residency artists from this year, produced a project focused on Whitehorse’s eponymous rapids and what the taming of the river means. (Erik Pinkerton/Submitted )

“I’m really grateful that I’ve had the flexibility of being able to stay home and work from my studio,” she said.

A fashion designer originally from the Northwest Territories who enjoys blending traditional Dene art with technology, McLeod created three full outfits for the exhibit inspired by Dene patterns and techniques she discovered while researching the evolution of Dene clothing over the past 200 years.

Dene women, she said, have always adapted to using new fabrics or materials, but she noticed in her research that sometimes, with the introduction of new designs or methods and the impact of colonialism, old ones were being lost and forgotten.

For her outfits, McLeod said she focused on finding styles or designs that aren’t being used anymore and breathing new life into them; her favourite is a gold dress made of materials including bamboo and silk. A beaded moosehide holster and visor accompany it.

“It’s kind of funny because I did this design before the pandemic happened and so it kind of looks like it’s made for the pandemic but it was all designed on paper before that,” she said, referring to the incorporation of the visor into the outfit. “…So if you look at it, you’ll be like, ‘Oh, cool, that’ll be great for keeping germs away.’”

Robinson, meanwhile, used her residency to work on a performance piece named Seven., the idea of which was triggered by the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August.

(Officer Rusten Sheskey shot Blake seven times in the back as Blake was opening the door to his SUV.)

Seven. will see seven dancers carry a shared, roughly 80-foot-long garment from the Old Fire Hall, where Robinson did her residency, to the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre’s fire pit and then inside, where they’ll eventually hang up the costume in the gallery.

Robinson created the garment, which she described as a giant cape of sorts, out of fabric donated to her by the Whitehorse community.

“The intention of the work is that it’s kind of a healing ceremony for everyone who’s experienced police brutality,” she said.

“(The dancers) are presenting a physical and visual unity, because they are unified by the garment… The idea is that by the nature of our gathering and setting our intentions, that we are saying, ‘This is not okay with us that police harm people, that we are visible, that we are united and that we want to send good energy to people who have been harmed.’

“It’s about being part of something bigger than one’s self — literally, the costume is bigger than one’s self, you couldn’t manage it on your own.”

Finally, Chishti’s residency project, according to the Arts Underground website, “is more conceptual than physical, focusing on the conundrum of living in a place that takes its name from rapids that aren’t there anymore, rapids that have been tamed out of existence by the dam that powers the city.”

“My inquiry focused on the site of the former rapids, where the dam is now,” his artist statement says. “Time was spent both on the river, around the river, pouring over historical aerial images, snapping a few, recording audio and then cooking it all digitally.”

Meeting by the currents: works from the Chu Niikwän Artist Residency is on view from Nov. 7 to Dec. 2. An opening reception will be held Nov. 7 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.; people interested in attending are asked to RSVP online.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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