OFFERINGS/OFFRANDES - An Installation by France Trépanier
GUEST ARTISTS: Charles Campbell, Cathi Charles Wherry, Krystal Cook, Bradley Dick, Farheen HaQ
OPENING: Friday, January 15, 2016 at 7:00 p.m.
ARTIST TALK: Saturday, February 6, 2016 at 3:30 p.m.
RUNS: January 15–February 20, 2016
LOCATION: Open Space, 510 Fort Street, 2nd floor
ADMISSION: By donationThe holiday season is behind us for another year. Some of us loved it; others recoiled at its many pressures. Did you feel that there just too many presents?
OFFERINGS/OFFRANDES invites us to contemplate ‘presence’ instead of presents, when we consider the gifting process. What is a gift? Is the most important consideration its price, its market-value? Does a gift have to be bought? What is an offering? Why do we make them? What is our intention when we offer them? Should we be attached to whether or not an offering is accepted?
As an artist and curator of Kanien’keha:ka and French ancestry, I would like to acknowledge the traditional territory of the Lekwungen people where this exhibition is presented. I would like to thank the WSÁNE? (Saanich) people on whose traditional territory I have lived for the past 15 years.
In 2005, I had the opportunity to participate in a 7-week Aboriginal New Works Residency at the Banff Centre. During that period, I created a two-part installation piece entitled Vessels. The vessel is the central object in this installation. The first part is contemplative. It is composed of 4 video projections and 4 large wax vessels. The second part is participative. It is composed of 144 small wax vessels placed on the ground.
During every exhibition of Vessels, visitors are invited to bring an object of cultural significance to be placed in one of the bowls. The meaning of each object is affected or transformed by the presence of other peoples’ objects. Their objects have stories attached to them—sometimes extraordinary stories. They have spirit. The objects and their journeys become part of the gift.
In an unplanned and unforeseen way, some people use the installation as a safe place to make an offering. And as they do, the installation transforms. Not only do the objects visually interact with each other, but each ‘aura’, each story starts to inhabit the installation. Instinctively, visitors lower their voice when entering the exhibition space.
I was emotionally overwhelmed by the stories that were told to me. This led me to explore the meaning of gifting and offering from different cultural perspectives. And so in 2012, during a residency at artist-run centre Vaste et Vague in Gespe’gewa’gi (Gaspé Peninsula, Québec), I created and exhibited, for the first time, a new installation Offerings / Offrandes.
Offerings / Offrandes is grounded in collaborative authorship. It pays homage to relational aesthetics. It welcomes the presentation and interpretation of practices rooted in different cultures. The installation is space-based. It establishes a connection to specific artists and their communities—both Indigenous and non-Indigenous—that inhabit this land.
In many Aboriginal cultures, offerings are gestures filled with spiritual, social and political meaning. We offer a feast to the members of the community or to visitors. We offer stories. We offer songs to the plants that we harvest and to animals that feed us. We offer tobacco to elders, to spirits. Offerings were at the heart of the exchanges that took place during contact with Europeans. We offered refuge. We offered knowledge of the territory. We offered medicine to cure the newcomers. We offered to share the land.
Offerings are also present in many different cultures. They are based in the spirit of giving without a time frame or self-interest. They can take the form of rituals, of ceremonies or of communal exchanges. They are sometimes private gestures.
With Offerings / Offrandes it is my intention to create a gathering space and engage Indigenous and non-Indigenous audiences to consider what has been offered in the past and what can now be offered, both individually and collectively.