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Reclamation: An Artist Talk

Please join us for an evening with artist Michelle Wilson on Thursday, November 7th beginning at 7:00 pm. Michelle will be discussing the multi-day performance completed in the Museum of Ontario Archaeology’s collaboration room between November 4th and 6th from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. The public is also welcome to visit MOA to view the performance.

This discussion will highlight how she employs her art practice to address her central research question: How does the patriarchal legacy of settler colonialism affect interspecies relations and how might we envision new ways of doing and being?

This performance, titled “Reclamation: A Performative Act”, entails installing a taxidermy shoulder mount and slowly and methodically separating the bison hide from its form. This act will destabilize the power of this signifier of colonial knowledge production as well as attempting to restore the ‘grievability’ of that individual non-human subject. The stripped taxidermy form that results from this performance will join five of Wilson’s life-size clay sculptures based on taxidermy forms to comprise a herd of monuments to the precarious lives erased by taxidermy. 

Wilson describes her inspiration for this performance piece:

This performance is inspired by the legend of William Temple Hornaday, a prominent taxidermist at the close of the 19th Century. Hornaday slaughtered around two-dozen of the less than one thousand remaining North American bison in 1886. He selected the six ‘best’ specimens and mounted them for display at the Smithsonian, believing this tableau would one day be all that remained of the great American buffalo. He disrupted some of the last remaining social groups to create his own projection of what a ‘proper’ familial assemblage of bison should be, complete with a virile male protecting and governing his docile cows and progeny. I decided to embark upon this project to reference this ‘original sin’, not only because of the destruction of lives, but because this construction of knowledge contributed to the misapprehension of bison sociality for years. Bison form matriarchal herds, which make decisions about movement and protect themselves and their young with relatively little interaction with sexually mature males. In trying to construct some lasting representation of knowledge about a disappearing species Hornaday only succeeded in conveying his own cultural values. These values were mapped onto the bodies of destroyed entities whose ways of being he never managed to really understand. 

As a PhD candidate at the University of Western Ontario, this work has taken on multiple forms including sculpture, new media, fibre, and text, examples of which she will be sharing with viewers.


Moccasin Making Workshop with Marjorie Henhawk – SOLD OUT!

This 10 November 2019 workshop is now SOLD OUT!

Create your own pair of moccasins from genuine hide in this popular workshop led by Six Nations artisan and moccasin maker Marjorie Henhawk!

This workshop requires pre-registration and spaces are limited!

Date: Sunday, November 10, 2019
Cost: $90 for moccasins up to size 7.5, and $95 for moccasins siz 8+. Members save 10%. Advance payment required.

Ages 14+.