Canadian Art: A New Kind of Land Acknowledgement

Featured image: Performance still featuring Kitsune Soleil during Talking Treaties Pageant, produced by Jumblies Theatre, at Historic Fort York, Toronto, June 2017. Courtesy Jumblies Theatre.

In an era when many Canadian institutions have land acknowledgments, are gestures that pay lip service to territorial recognition, often driven by performative identity politics, actually limiting meaningful relationship-building between Indigenous peoples and Canadian institutions? Worse still, given the recent public outcry over Toronto Pride’s land acknowledgement, have these become just another way to police one another? Ilana Shamoon, deputy director and director of programs for the Toronto Biennial, asked artist and biennial advisor Ange Loft to develop a land acknowledgment document that carefully considered place, space and land in Toronto. Loft’s document is living and reflexive, as Toronto Biennial senior curator Candice Hopkins contends that any land acknowledgment should be, and it’s grounded in community knowledge, relationality and oral histories—instead of authoritative colonial documentation. Loft has supported the work of the Biennial, its curators and its artists, with a document the embodies material relationships with land—ones based in site, story, symbols and imagery—just like the Indigenous material forms that were, and are still, used to record governance agreements.

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