The Video explains 'what' and 'why' this Art Installation was created, and also shares some of the accompanying videos that are with the Silhouettes.

THEME

On Indigenous Children –- we have too much ‘talking’, not enough ‘walking’ - from ALL Leadership - both Indigenous and other.

The 'Silhouette Project' is based on the 13 Ojibwe Moons and has 13 videos of Indigenous Elders & Artisans teaching Indigenous Children culture and traditions with 13 life size Children Silhouettes, clothed in ‘speeches’ ‘reports’ & ‘promises’ that are merely 'words'. The Silhouette Project seeks to open dialogue, be a place to talk and a place to gather people, and exchange knowledge. Conjointly, it seeks to be a place to be part of reconciliation from the legacy of colonization, a place to recognize we are all treaty people. The Silhouette Project is a place to forge a path forward.

With the silhouettes one will see individual stories that contain elements of frustrated hopes and dreams, let downs, angst. Yet they are narratives of agency, not laments of victim hood, most true stories of resilience with ‘small acts of living’ that are positive. Here there is NO forfeiture of self-ownership and agency.


 

the Silhouette Project

Artist Statement

The ‘illumination stage’ for this art installment project crystalized in the late spring of 2018. “the Silhouette Project” is an artistic response to my taking part in filming stories for a group in Edmonton, Alberta, which was created to serve - with a phrase that is a bit odious - ‘young adults who have aged out of government foster child care’.

And interestingly enough, the ‘adult leaders’ of this group are also people who have ‘aged out of care.’ And looking at these young adults through the lens – and through the pejorative branding of kids in care, in their stories there was no ‘woe-is-me’, nor easy surrender to despair, or capitulation to the stereotypes, labels which are oftimes brimming with low expectations placed on ‘kids in care.’ They were impressive, generally kind and respectful folks who were realistic and most optimistic. Most were in post-secondary education or more, building lives, moving past the canard of ‘troubled kids’ in care making troubled adults. That being said, even more and more of our Indigenous kids are in care, notwithstanding, years, decades of ‘words’.

I have also been moved/inspired by community members like Jackie and Sandra, grandparents are in a long and arduous fight for their grandson who was taken into care, away from his family, culture, and home. Endless stone walls and ‘nice words about the best interests of this young boy’ is so far all they have, yet they continue, head down pushing against the harsh winds of indifferent government bureaucracy, they like many are not dissuaded nor abandoning this child.

The reality we are in - the youth ‘aged out of care’, Jackie and Sandra, and endless others -- is juxtaposed with seemingly ceaseless lofty, but infertile, pronouncements from multiple levels of government, including of note, Indigenous Leadership. A poor replacement for our kids is the gluttony of black and white promises to ‘do better’ for our youth that we are supposed to feast on.

In the car home after the initial filming, back to the bush, team member and Métis Elder Mabel Howse, said ‘you know, we aren’t responsible for those people who abused any of these kids, but you know, I think we, like the rest of us we, we failed these kids in not being able to figure out, like adults, to create a world where all kids are safe and cared for, especially our Métis and Indian kids, but lots of talk, mileage and per diems, and conferences’. I think she is, as always, wise and correct.

I worked as an emergency paramedic for a number of years, and now am in my 6th decade, so I have seen much raw pain and suffering, much death and disorder. I have told many fellow citizens that their loved one, parent, spouse, sibling, child or baby, are dead. Emergency services is a cornucopia of lives changed, or forever mutilated in a moment, often unjust and unmerited. Such is the way of things. All of which has caused me to be disinclined to first world complaints of ‘suffering’, and ‘misadventure’. Yet, here I did not encounter what society is now calling ‘snow flakes’ – or which my Auntie would call ‘crybabies and weenies’.

In speaking to the group leaders and some of the youth about a conference presentation they are working on, and a possible documentary, I very seriously suggested they title both “WHY I AM NOT AN AXE MURDERER” – sadly the consensus is that the government would likely not think this a good title idea. I suggested this title in response to the stories heard about what ‘did not work’ and what ‘did work’ – the key to both usually an individual in power doing either, what is good, or remiss. In any event, given the life narrative of these folks, it is worth while asking, ‘so why aren’t you an axe murderer?’

True, these ‘aged out youth’ (hopefully one of these days we will not have a need for this phrase) and their stories contain chapters, which would justify anyone to become disheartened or awash in discouragement. Listening to some of their tales of lost hopes and dreams, abounding with letdowns and angst, at the end of the day were chronicles of agency, not ‘problem-saturated’ accounts and lamentations of victimhood, but rather stories of resilience, ‘small acts of living’ depicting exploits of agency against constraints that could legitimize any forfeit of self ownership (or axe murdering, just saying).

Like the rest of us, to a one, they are imperfect noble beings living a life. So who would not have an artistic response to same?

We have endless ‘nice words’, lots of nice talking, but little effective walking. What our communities and we Indigenous people don’t have is a large number of our children. ‘the Silhouette Project’ seeks to distinguish from all the nice words, the reality of Indigenous children and people in Canada where more Aboriginal children are in the care and control of government child welfare agencies, than all of the children who went to the residential schools historically. This installation entitled ‘the Silhouette Project’ is a response to an incubation of frustration and hope for a better future for all our children, for us.

the Silhouette Project’ seeks to open dialogue inspired by the display which serves also as a place to gather people together to talk and engage in knowledge exchange about the unfolding legacy of colonization, historically and presently and to forge a path forward, recognizing that we are all treaty people.

As always, nothing comes out of the wind.

In addition to the group who grounded the inspiration for this project -- connected by Dr. Jean LaFrance, PhD and driven further by Dr. Dorothy Badry, PhD (both of the University of Calgary Faculty of Social Work) the depth of the installation is surely enhanced by my accomplice and partner Mabel M Howse, and the Elders and youth who took part in this endeavour. Terry H, my red seal carpenter guy, a ‘real carpenter’, who listens to what I want to create and tells me what is possible and best. Paul A, our local Home Hardware guy whose store seems to have a million things anyone would need, has been able to come up with a hardware solution or knowledge that grounds most of the physical part of this project. And still, I continue to work with the Marshall Conspiracy, a group of skilled artisans who continue to take part in many of my artistic musings. Additionally, and as always, Kim Fjordbotten, a well-known artist and owner of the Paint Spot in Edmonton (https://www.paintspot.ca), has, as always, been supportive and a wealth of knowledge and encouragement in this project.  There are many great advocates for all the artist voices out there -- who are like about once a week WTF? am I doing this, I should just go get a desk job?

 

GALLERY OF PHOTOS: CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE

 

 

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