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Accepted Paper:

Unceded Territories: Art, Agitation and Upset on the Northwest Coast  
Nicola Levell (University of British Columbia)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will situate the exhibition Unceded Territories: Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun (2016) in relation to other contemporary art installations at the UBC Museum of Anthropology to question how they have upset, politicized and even legitimized the institution's narratives, practices and spaces.

Paper long abstract:

In a panel discussion at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1998—associated with the exhibition Down from the Shimmering Sky: Masks of the Northwest Coast—the outspoken Coast Salish artist Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun addressed anthropologists and curators from the UBC Museum of Anthropology: "What are you people even doing here?...This is a gallery for contemporary art so what does this have to do with any of you? You have your death house out at UBC, there is no reason for you to be here. Go back to it!"

For decades, Yuxweluptun openly expressed his disdain for MOA, referring to it as an "Indian morgue"—an institution that shamefully displays the powerful spiritual expressions of his and others' cultural heritage. Yet, in 2016, with his consent, MOA mounted a major career retrospective of the artist's work: Unceded Territories: Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun. Attracting tens of thousands of visitors, the exhibition consisted of over 60 artworks, including large scale paintings, drawings and multi-media assemblages, which vividly and provocatively addressed the neo-colonial realities of living in BC, the politics of land, the abuses and damaging multigenerational effects of the Indian Residential School system, the injustice of the Indian Act and other institutions of exploitation. This was no grey zone, but a site of unapologetic political agitation and aesthetic action. This paper will situate Unceded Territories in relation to a body of contemporary art exhibitions at MOA to question how they have interrupted, upset, politicized, complicated and even legitimized the institution's narratives, practices and spaces.

Panel P041
A Grey Zone: Sites of Contemporary Art and Anthropology
  Session 1 Saturday 2 June, 2018, -