The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery’s latest exhibition begins before the audience even walks into the building, with a vibrant red banner draped over the gallery that proclaims, “YOURS FOR INDIGENOUS SOVEREIGNTY.”
Jana Tyner, assistant to the director of the gallery, explains that “it was the artists’ idea to have it at the side of the building, but we supported it entirely because we love having art sort of creep out into the public.” The banner was designed by the ReMatriate Collective.
Titled Collective Acts, the exhibit focuses on labour organizing and protest art, making it unique among the rest of the four-part Beginning with the Seventies series. But Tyner says that its prioritization of female-identifying artists and subjects keeps it similar to the others.
“We see that all of the Beginning with the Seventies exhibitions are feminist exhibitions.”
All the artworks are products of collaboration and seem to come across as metaphors for themselves. Ribbon skirt-weaving workshops are scheduled to be held in the middle of Dana Claxton’s colourful section, and Christine D’Onofrio’s constellation-like database of artists is both trailblazing and intuitive to use.
The stark drawings of old anti-war photographs, the items curated by Jordan Wilson from the archives of the Salish Weavers Guild, and a selection of stunning rugs highlight the importance of documenting the past.
Said Tyner, “all curators are concerned about this, you know? That information gets lost, because people pass away.”
“So much of contemporary culture is focused on the individual - the celebrity, the art star, and so forth,” said Lorna Brown, the exhibit curator, in an emailed statement. “Collective Acts asserts that art, like activism, emerges from co-operative communities working together to bring about change.”
The themes and threads of this striking exhibit may at first glance seems disparate and even contradictory, but when looked into a little deeper it is clear that all the artworks are woven together, as tight as a rug.
A previous version of this article misspelled Jana Tyner's name as Jann Tyler. The Ubyssey regrets this error.