tanya pixie johnson: Sense of Direction
Residency: January 1 – January 31, 2012
Exhibition: Friday, February 3 – February 11
Opening: Friday, February 3, 7pm
Artist Talk: Tuesday February 7, 7pm
Open Studio: Thursdays 12 – 3pm
Visual artist, tanya pixie johnson, will be the artist in residence at Oxygen for the month of January and early February.
She will be using this space and time, 4 weeks, to move through a self created art ceremony acknowledging the four directions. This will be an exploration of the notion of time, its capacity to move sideways, its elasticity, and the present moment. At the beginning of 2012 wherein ancient prophesies have forseen massive changes on this planet, and wherein many can feel the quickening of time, johnson will be interpreting spacially the 4 directions and the centre point that is suspended on the axis between them. The centre that exists even as time speeds up. She will be attempting to harness presence.
She will be drawing on her experiences of indigenous ceremonial ways, those in which she has participated in North America, especially in this Sinixt territory, and in her native South Africa and also on her practice of yoga and meditation. The work will be informed by her familial relationship with the headman and spiritual leader of the Sinixt nation, Bob Campbell. It is with his blessing and request that she include certain information and ancestral knowledge shared by him, in her process of art making. Her inspiration is drawn from this landscape, this tum-ula?x (territory). Her intention is not to represent or depict these ideas or experiences, but to make art as offering.
For four weeks, tanya pixie johnson will be moving through the space in an anti clockwise direction, the way, Campbell says, of creation. This constant movement, he says, has the potential to make time stand still. The viewer, too, will be encouraged to move in this direction.
johnson, originally from South Africa, received her honours in Fine Art from the University of Cape Town. She finds inspiration in living close to the land and forming bridges with indigenous people, ways, ceremony and history. This identity is juxtaposed with her perception of herself as a “scatterling”, and the experience of growing up as an urban white girl in a segregated society. http://tanyapixiejohnson.com
A rich relationship to place informs Pixie Johnson’s work. This relationship has taken her on a path toward engaging with the Sinixt people, the original inhabitants of the river and lake systems of the West Kootenay valleys. Due to government policies and settler practices the Sinixt people of the West Kootenay region were forced from their northern territory to their southern territory below the Canadian / US border where they were protected on the Colville reservation which extended to the Canadian border. This practice resulted in the Sinixt being declared extinct by the Canadian government in 1956. Most of the Sinixt traditional villages and burial grounds were flooded with the damming of the Arrow Lakes in the 1960’s, destroying valuable archeological evidence of inhabitation. In 1987, during government road work, a Sinixt burial ground was discovered near the Slocan River in Vallican. Remains of the Sinixt were distributed to museums with no effort to contact the living descendents, now living in Colville, Washington. This event aroused the Sinixt people living in Washington State to return north and initiate an occupation of the sacred site. The occupation has now become the longest peaceful occupation on Crown Land in Canadian history. Despite a series of set-backs, the Sinixt have managed to repatriate and rebury 62 complete and fractured skeletal remains of their ancestors at the Vallican site. The Sinixt are working to regain their sovereignty as a First Nation within Canada.
Pixie Johnson’s work will contribute a poetic testament to the Sinixt inhabitation of the Slocan and Arrow Lakes valley and river systems. Through the identification and mapping of these traditional territories, the work will add to the accumulation of evidence, story and image, that is being drawn forth from the flooded valleys to bear witness to Sinixt presence both past and present.
For more information on the Sinixt see: sinixt.org