Sick and Tired is an installation that explores identity, history and transcendence through the reconfiguration of architectural and natural fragments. It is homage to colonial history. Its elements are three Old Sun Residential School windows, filled with feathers and back lit, and an old infirmary bed from the same school with a bison robe folded into a human shape placed on its springs. The bed is illuminated from the top to create a shadow beneath similar to a stretched hide. This work references material culture and post-colonial issues in Aboriginal art. Sick and Tired is a continuation of my explorations into my Siksika (Blackfoot) identity and the reality of cultural genocide. Combined, these elements speak to fragmentation, re-signification and counter memory—ideas that are a part of colonial or post-colonial discourse.
Residential schools were instruments of genocide; they created isolation, disorientation, pain and death and ultimately broke many human spirits. I can imagine many children peering out of these windows, longing to be home with their families. Their reality, however, was confinement similar to being smothered by a pillow. Sickness and disease were and still are a reality for First Nations—a legacy of illness represented by the infirmary bed. How many people lay sick, tired, dying or dead on this bed is not known, yet I feel the heaviness of its presence, a state that exhausts me physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. The bison robe configured like a mummy lies on the bedsprings; it is a cultural reference that speaks to another fragment, that of a historically decimated mammal analogous to the people and their culture. A light shines down illuminating robe and bed; the shadow beneath represents a stretched hide and speaks to the duality of life and death or the yet known.
I believe that objects hold energy; the combination of elements—windows, feathers, light, shadow, bed and bison robe—forms objects and ideas that speak to history, culture, genocide, absence, presence and fragmentation. Together they form a space in which to contemplate our present being. In doing so, we can examine our selves and our relationship to the past, present and future. For me, creating this installation has been a way to exorcise and transcend the colonial project, a way to forgiveness, healing and obtaining a state of grace.
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