When Veins Meet Like Rivers; ᑲᑎᓐᓂᖅ / okhížata / maadawaan at Plug In ICA, Winnipeg
By Mariana Muñoz Gomez
My recent visit to Plug In ICA’s new exhibition, When Veins Meet Like Rivers; ᑲᑎᓐᓂᖅ / okhížata / maadawaan, brought to mind how much I appreciate art that is made and shared through deeply personal processes. I had anticipated that the participating artists – Kite, Dayna Danger, and asinnajaq – might exhibit together not only as artists, but also as friends. Impressions of impermanence, presence, flow, and evocation come up throughout their works, which were created in reciprocation with each other and with relationships beyond each other. As someone positioned outside of these relationships, I left the gallery with a quiet, but indescribable stillness that I felt had transferred to me from the unique nature of what has been assembled here.
Something that struck me about Montreal-based asinnajaq’s Cradling River Piece was the series of contrasts in her choice of medium, material, installation, and actions: weight vs lightness, the physical vs the imperceivable, resistance vs acceptance. In this video installation, the artist is seen walking in a river against the current. Moments later, she floats downstream before the video loops and she’s walking against it again. During all of this, the water flows steadily and with purpose. The screen it’s played on floats in front of a large, translucent fabric banner printed with an image of the moment water crashes against itself and creates a white foam. The banner trickles down onto an image on the floor of lichen and berries.
In Kite’s installation Iron Road (a collaboration with Corey Stover and Becky Red Bow), a recording of family conversations can be heard. Gentle drone footage of some place I suspect the artist calls home plays on a screen on the floor, prompting me to bow my head slightly as I listen to the audio. A collection of small stones sits a few feet away from the video, carefully arranged into a geometric motif. The audio recounts stories of dreams and stones significant to the artist’s family. Part of the narrative involves Kite’s great-great grandmother escaping the Wounded Knee massacre on foot and finding safety through shared language when another person speaks to her in Lakotah.
As liminality is suggested by the dreams in Kite’s recording, it is also reflected in the aspects of performance and offering in Danger’s work. The artist presented a performance on the exhibition’s opening night to family and friends. I only saw a snippet on an Instagram story, but the gallery displays its remains. One of Danger’s beaded bondage masks sits on a plinth, pointed towards an animal skull and antlers on the floor. These are entwined in blue cord and attached to a colourful wooden frame propped up on stones, at the base of which is an offering of cigarettes. Death and movement coexist in the bones: they look like they could have just been dragging the frame or come out of the centre of it.
Throughout When Veins Meet Like Rivers; ᑲᑎᓐᓂᖅ / okhížata / maadawaan, there is a tinge of something difficult to put into words: something that connects loss, nurturing, care, and a sense of recognizing one’s spirit. The presence of land and ancestors is inherent in each of the works: asinnajaq as she floats in the water, Danger as they perform for and with family, and at Kite’s home around the kitchen table (or wherever her stories were recorded). With artwork like this that is so personal, one might wonder why or how the artists came to the decision to share it. All I can say is, when the world is on fire, the generosity of vulnerability and relation is especially poignant.
Mariana Muñoz Gomez is an artist, writer, and curator. She is a Latinx settler of colour based on Treaty 1 Territory in Winnipeg. Their work is concerned with language, representation, diaspora, displacement, and identity within post- and settler colonial contexts. Mariana’s recent graduate research focused on the potentiality of art and language in challenging colonial hegemonies and (re)envisioning temporality, relation, and place. Mariana works with a number of collectives including Carnation Zine and window winnipeg, and holds a Master of Arts in Cultural Studies: Curatorial Practices from the University of Winnipeg.