SHAPESHIFTERS, TIME TRAVELLERS AND STORYTELLERS at the Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queen's Park), to February 28, 2008. Kent Monkman performance, Friday (October 19), 7 pm. $20, stu/srs $17, Friday 4:30 to 9:30 pm $10, stu/srs $8.50. 416-586-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Curators Candice Hopkins of Vancouver's Western Front and Kerry Swanson of ImagineNative have put together a moving, multi-layered exhibit of works by eight Aboriginal artists and items from the museum's collection. These time-travelling curators and artists turn their gaze to the Aboriginal past, commenting on and wresting themselves free of colonial representation.
Faye HeavyShield's Hours, a pocket-Bible-sized book constructed entirely of white beads, is a prayer wiped clean of language, poignantly recalling the sorry role played by Christian missionaries in First Nations communities.
The ROM's small drawings made for Robert Flaherty during the shooting of Nanook Of The North in the 1920s, displayed with ink works by third-generation artist Suvinai Ashoona, strikingly represent the history of the Inuit encounter with contemporary art. The tiny sheets of paper bearing tinier sketches give a sense of people isolated in the Arctic vastness, while Ashoona's drawings of a tent tied down to rocks assertively fill the page and verge on abstraction, part of a now established tradition of Inuit art works on paper.
Trickster Kent Monkman provides a teaser for his solo show at MOCCA next month. In addition to very funny concoctions like his Louis Vuitton Quiver and Dream Catcher Bra, he brilliantly sends up Paul Kane in a duel in which he responds to a Kane painting with one of his own, using the dead white man's own words in a dead-on parody of museum-exhibit text material.
Thirteen 30-minute videos by Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn's Isuma Productions and pieces by Alan Michelson, Brian Jungen, Cheryl L'Hirondelle and Nadia Myre all add to the resonance of this wonderful show, in which every work narrates its own story of past, present and future.