MANIFESTIPI: A Contemporary Community Art Installation

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

“I was Free Before, in Spaces to the Stars” – Poems of Rita Joe, 1978

I had the pleasure of interviewing local aboriginal artist Kevin Lee Burton about a contemporary community art installation, which will be located near the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR), called MANIFESTIPI developed as part of The ITWÉ Collective.  The ITWÉ Collective was founded by Kevin Lee Burton, Sébastien Aubin, and Caroline Monnet. It's a trans-disciplinary art collective dedicated to research, creation, production and education in the field of Aboriginal digital culture. They are Aboriginal creators who work with digital technologies, foster collaboration among diverse artistic disciplines and communities, establish partnerships with industry and educational institutions and promote its members at home and abroad.

The project brought together visual artist collaborators Eric Lesage and Kevin Lee Burton, and sound artist Michel Germain, to compose a multifaceted installation that reignites the relationship between the different communities that use the Forks.  By reimagining and recreating an encampment at The Forks, MANIFESTIPI challenges perceptions, encourages dialogue and discourse, and promotes individual perspectives about shared spaces. 

I met Kevin on-site at The Forks to talk about the art project and upcoming event day.

ITWE Collective
Founding ITWÉ Collective members: Sébastien Aubin, Caroline Monnet, and Kevin Lee Burton

Tell me about this project. What are you doing?  

We’re building a plastic encampment –a temporary home environment as they may have had hundreds of years ago.  The tepee is the most iconic Aboriginal symbol so why not then mesh with the modernized materials – plastic tepees with lasers as an indication of who we are as Aboriginal people and how we utilize technology.  Historically, the tepee is about efficiency and portability.  Today, we are using plastic and lasers to create the tepee encampment.  

Why are you doing this and what is the intention?  

This is a community project using art as means to tell a story, and express an idea.  The ITWÉ Collective installation project will be used as part of a larger story and documentary taking place in Quebec. The ITWÉ Collective is focused on collaboration.  We are aboriginal artists who emphasize the value of collaboration.  We are trying to re-enact the gathering and recreate the vibe and connect ourselves to a common place by reliving the communal effort that it takes to build a sense of place, together.  

Why here at The Forks?  

As aboriginal artists and as aboriginal people, it’s important for us to reclaim this space and time, and celebrate ourselves, to represent what we do as aboriginal artists. We present our identity: builders, creators, and as collaborators. –.  It’s 2013, we are resilient people, a resilient culture making the best of ourselves, our lives and celebrating.  Why here? Because it’s been done for thousands of years – so why not?  Aboriginal people use this space, The Forks support us, Parks Canada support us, and the community supports us in using this historic space. It’s about respect and common understanding that, still today, people see this place as a common meeting ground for gathering.  

What is the link to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights?

Aboriginal identity and human rights are a dance and I do believe a balance can be met – whether positive or negative – depending on where your perspective lands, whether political or not.  To spark the dialogue, we are here modernizing a version of an encampment and bringing in these modern versions of the tepee – using modern materials and technology to express ourselves in this time and place.  

How do you hope it will portray and promote human rights?

SOMETIMES we have to let our heaviness down. We have to step back from it and celebrate the resiliency. To re-assert our confidence, we need this type of art project. We aim to breed hope, cultural respect, understanding, and togetherness. Moments like these inspire us to do things that are fun and playful and that does not mean that we are negating what has happened to us - but rather activates a conversation.  Continuing the dialogue, whether intense or restating the obvious, keeps it alive. There is heaviness and irony that brings back old politics, but creating the dialogue is the main focus looking forward.  

Tragedies are normally at the forefront but so are the triumphs. It’s important to activate the positive communication and deeper understanding of each other and to promote that.  

The encampment under construction

Check out MANIFESTIPI.  This is not a traditional encampment, but rather a gathering and celebration.  Come out and share food!  There is bannock and stew and people are invited to join in in hopes of igniting a sense of place and knowing of what it felt like to congregate at this specific site at a time past.

Friday, August 23rd 2013
Stew and Bannock @ 7:30pm
Laser Lights On! @ 8:30 pm

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