Dance to the Berdashe

Dance to the Berdashe 2009 Artist: Kent Monkman Publisher: Urban Shaman Gallery Writers: Steve Loft, Barry Ace, Mike Hoolboom ISBN: 978-0-9731935-2-7 Description: This commissioned work was made possible with the extra support of the Winnipeg Arts Council and Canada Council. Based on an oil painting of the same name by painter and pseudo-ethnographer George Catlin (1796 - 1872), Dance to the Berdashe is a five channel video installation that re-imagines a lost honour dance to the man/woman of the tribe. The Berdashe tradition was described by Catlin as “one of the most unaccountable and disgusting customs that I have ever met in the Indian country...and where I should wish that it might be extinguished before it be more fully recorded.” The Berdashe is triumphantly and sensually interpreted by Miss Chief Eagle Testickle (Monkman’s alter ego) as a powerful and glamorous icon. Miss Chief resurrects another Aboriginal persona obscured by colonial history, the Aboriginal Dandy, who was emphatically described, but never painted by Catlin. Igor Stravinsky’s exploration of Primitivism — the ballet score Rite of Spring — is remixed into a powerful soundscape by Phil Strong as virile Dandies, from the four directions, invigorate the Berdashe with the vitality of their honour dance. Through this reciprocal and performative rite, the Dandies and Berdashe renew each other’s spirits, thereby refuting their obfuscation by colonial forces, and Primitivism’s reductive pillaging of indigenous cultures. Text by Stéphane Aquin, Montreal Museum of Fine Art Born in St. Marys, Ontario, Kent Monkman is an artist of Cree ancestry who works with a variety of mediums, including painting, film/video, performance and installation. He has had solo exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Walter Phillips Gallery and the Indian Art Centre and has participated in various international group exhibitions including: “We come in peace…” Histories of the Americas, at the Musee d’art contemporain de Montreal, The American West and Compton Verney, in Warwickshire, England. Monkman has created site specific performancesat the McMichael Canadian Art Collection at Compton Verney, UK. and has also made super 8mm versions of these performances that he calls “Colonial Art Space Interventions”. His award winning short film and video works have been screened at various national and international festivals, including Sundance, Berlin, and the Toronto International Film Festival. His work is represented in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Museum London, The Mackenzie Art Gallery, the Woodland Cultural Centre, the Indian Art Centre, and the Canada Council Art Bank. A solo exhibition of his work was mounted by the Art Gallery of Hamilton in the summer of 2007 and will tour to museums across Canada including Art Gallery of Victoria, Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, and the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

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