Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a Kanien’kehaka from Six Nations and Tyendinaga, a member of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. I have always been interested in art, music, and theatre – I don’t recall any specific incident that sparked my interest. I do recall it was my high school art teacher who convinced me to go to university and enroll in the Art and Art History Program at the University of Toronto. That program introduced me to the world of contemporary art and I primarily made paintings and worked with photography. After graduation, I spent a few years as a practising artist in Toronto and then enrolled in the MFA program at the University of Victoria. At UVic, I focused on new media, primarily audio/video, and began to create multimedia installations and performances. I then completed a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies at UVic, studying with Dr. Arthur Kroker. My dissertation explored the aesthetics of contemporary Indigenous identity — its various manifestations, transformations, simulations and hybridizations — within the context of our hyper-mediated, technologically saturated culture. During this time, I began to exhibit my artworks in various museums, galleries and artist-run centres across Canada and internationally, and travelled extensively to present my multimedia-performance artworks. Right before coming to uLethbridge, I was Audain Professor of Contemporary Art of the Pacific Northwest at UVic.
How long have you been at the U of L and what do you do here?
I have been at uLethbridge for six years, where I am Canada Research Chair of Indigenous Arts Research & Technology. I teach courses in Art Studio and Media Art, with a specific focus on contemporary Indigenous art, First Nations philosophy and cultural theory. My current research-creation activities are focused on Indigenous land-based histories and embodied cultural knowledge, exploring the creative use of digital technologies as a means to support the innovation, transmission, expression, and transformation of FNMI creative and cultural practices. My CRC research program involves the creation of large-scale, site-specific, interactive, multimedia installations, along with the development of a geolocation-based, multimedia app featuring mobile media and virtual reality artworks. I’m also preparing a publication focused on exploring reconciliation and decolonization in the digital age.
What’s the best part of your job?
I enjoy every aspect of my job. I suppose the best moments happen when, as a CRC, my research and teaching overlap. I very much enjoy working with my (student) research teams within a critical/creative studio environment.
With all of the research and teaching you do, how do you manage to keep creating art?
I think I am able to manage because, for me, all of these things — my academic research, creative practice and teaching — are all interconnected. I feel so very fortunate to be in a position where all of my academic and creative interests overlap, where my scholarly pursuits inspire my studio practice and vice versa. I am also very inspired by my students and our conversations and discussions in the classroom.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
Hmmm. I suppose … that I am not naturally inclined to working digitally. In my studio practice at the moment, I almost exclusively work on computers to produce and create my artworks like multimedia installations and video/sound media. But the truth is that this is a means to an end — I much prefer other, more material-based studio processes. I think it would be surprising for some to hear that I would prefer to paint something than use a computer to create my work. Perhaps I will return to painting in the future, but for now the digital seems to be best way I know how express my ideas.