Janice Hladki


Image practices have significant resonance under global conditions of visual scrutiny, securitization, and continuously emerging biopowers (Lazzarato, 2006; Magnet 2011; Puar, 2007; Zimmermann 2000). Nation states deploy visual media to determine national insider/outsider status and citizenry, to guard borders, and to regulate access to resources. Artists who seek to generate work that sustains a democratic public sphere find access to funds, histories, and public memory constrained by global neo-liberal politics (Zimmermann 2000). Nevertheless, alternative/experimental film and video art has been particularly important to the re-invigoration of a democratic public sphere, and such art by Indigenous makers is notable for how it contests and re-imagines cultural discourses about nation-state commemorations and the territorial claims embedded in these celebrations.

This paper explores how contemporary, Canadian-based, Indigenous short film and video by artists thinks or generates ideas (Bennett 2005) about memory in relation to settler colonialism and its devastating affects. The artists mobilize historical and contemporary experiences of geography as well as translocal memories to examine multiple losses, but particularly the legacies of land expropriation. Their creative practices re-terriorialize by countering normative constructions of national belonging and national borders, and they de-colonize by unpacking representations of the Indigenous "other." I draw on Roger I. Simon's (2005) notions of "remembering otherwise" and "remembering obligation" to consider the pedagogical potential of Indigenous witnessing of historical trauma. To situate and make visible these ideas, I examine the work of Dana Claxton (Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux), an artist who is at the forefront of Indigenous film and video art and who produces political memory work of counter-commemoration and re-territorialization. Exploring reconstructions of history and time through strategies such as abstract and disjointed imagery, altered archival footage, ambient and computerized soundscapes, interrupted narratives, and motion changes, Claxton deploys memories of Indigenous pasts to insist upon their rupture of the present and the future.

The artistic practice of decolonizing through the testimonial re-codification of colonial relations of power is a pressing one, and, certainly, there is urgency to Claxton’s decolonization projects. Such artwork makes evident what Simon calls “the insufficiency of the present” (8) and the assumptions through which histories are memoried and commemorated.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1344/regac2014.1.07

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