This exhibition is presented as part of Tending Land, a program marking the 40th anniversary of the Digital Arts Resource Centre (DARC), and bringing together several artists from around the world, whose works relate narratives about the ways in which land may be perceived, connected with, and cared for. The program honours the fact that questions concerning land and sovereignty are of particular significance in Canada, where traditional territories have been expropriated by the settler-colonial state, and historic treaties around Indigenous Peoples’ land rights were often reneged upon. The exhibition also draws links to the centrality of land in the struggles of many communities around the world, especially the global majority who have experienced colonialism in various guises, and who continue to endure its troubling aftermath today.
The Black Case* tells the story of a young girl and her infant cousin who endure a harrowing experience while quarantined in the infirmary of a residential school for Indigenous children. In this fictionalized depiction, based on real events, Caroline Monnet and co-director Daniel Watchorn raise questions about the ideological claims, as well as the policies and systems devised by settler-colonialism to assert its control over land—by attempting, through forced assimilation, to erase the traditions and social ties that bound Indigenous communities together. Evoking the familiar horror and film noir genres, the work mixes a nightmarish reality with reveries to portray how this dark, and conventionally repressed, chapter of Canadian history was normalized. The work likewise presents well-rounded characters to hint at what it might take for regular people to commit atrocities, while giving a glimpse of the terrors experienced by innocent children. Made several years ago, the work resonates even more deeply today, given the recent attention given to the mass graves of hundreds of Indigenous children who perished at the hands of these institutions.
Tending Land is curated by Amin Alsaden.
Caroline Monnet is a multidisciplinary artist from the Outaouais region, Quebec. Her work has been presented around the world and is present in numerous collections, including those of the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec, the National Gallery of Canada, the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art and the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts. Past major exhibitions include the Whitney Biennale, the Toronto Biennale, the Shirn Kunsthalle and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. One of the 25 winners of the Sobey Art Awards 2020 and the winner of the Pierre-Ayot Prize 2020, Caroline Monnet is a major figure in contemporary Quebec and Canadian art. In her practice, the artist revisits the patterns and canons of the history and history of art to demonstrate a keen interest in communicating complex ideas around Indigenous identity and bicultural living through the examination of cultural histories. Her work grapples with colonialism’s impact, updating outdated systems with Indigenous methodologies.
* Caroline Monnet, The Black Case, 2014. Video, black/white, sound, 13:00 mins. Cree with English subtitles.
Written and Directed by Caroline Monnet and Daniel Watchorn.