2014-ONGOING: Mi’kwite’tmn (Do You Remember)

2014-ONGOING: Mi’kwite’tmn (Do You Remember)

2015 Grenfell Campus Art Gallery, Cornerbrook, Newfoundland
2015 Confederation Centre Art Gallery, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
2014 Kenderdine Art Galleries/College Art Galleries, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
2014 Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery (Host Gallery for National Canadian Tour), Halifax, Nova Scotia

The performance Processing (view here) is also part of this nationally touring exhibit hosted by St. Mary’s University Art Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Etched and Sandblasted Hand Assembled Acrylic Vitrines of Various Sizes (12 in total) along with Custom-Made Birch Face Plinths, Various O’pltek Forms (40 Ash Splint Mi’kmaw Basket Hybrids), Chrome Shelving Units, Custom Made Work Tables, Mac Mini Computer Terminals with Monitor, Mouse and Barcode Scanners, Multimedia Archive Database of the Various O’pltek Forms, Refinshed Heirloom Tools for Processing Ash Wood for Basketry (Shavehorse, Little Tom Splitter, Axe, Hatchet, Sledgehammer, Spoke Shave Knives, Crooked Knives, Anvil, Pounding Stump) Aluminum Basin, Performance Costume (Steel-toe Boots, Blue Demin Jeans, Black T-Shirt, Safety Goggles, Safety Gloves)

Ursula Johnson’s interdisciplinary practice ranges from fine craft and traditional Aboriginal art forms through performance and installation. Mi’kwite’tmn (Do You Remember) examines ideas of ancestry, identity and cultural practice. Johnson deconstructs and manipulates the function and image of Mi’kmaw basketry, using traditional techniques to build non-functional forms.

In Mi’kwite’tmn, Johnson creates three distinct spaces, A “Museological Grand Hall” displays empty plexi vitrines bearing hand etched sand-blasted diagrams of traditional Mi’kmaw baskets made by the artist’s great-grandmother, Caroline Gould. An “Archive Room” is crowded with mutant basket-type objects from the series O’pltek (It is Not Right). Visitors may put on white gloves and scan the tags attached to the baskets to see more information about them. In the “Performative Space”, the artist presents an endurance performance of splitting, pounding and shaving an ash-wood log to produce a mountain of splints, as traditionally employed in Mi’kmaw basket-making. She further shaves the splints to make them unusable, to emphasise the current generation’s disconnection from material culture.

Johnson recalls a conversation with her great-grandmother in which she asked whether the art form would survive. Gould replied, “If these kids enter into the forest they cannot tell you the difference between a red maple, a sugar maple or a striped maple, let alone tell you what time of year the tree is to be harvested or how to properly process it…. The weaving is only one step, this understanding of the resources is what is needed for the art to survive.”

Weaving Mi’kmaq history (Herald Arts & Life, June 4, 2014 by Elissa Barnard)

Ursula Johnson: Traditions and Transformations (Canadian Art, November 25, 2014 by Daniel Joyce)

St. Mary’s University Art Gallery website
Grenfell Campus Art Gallery website
Confederation Centr e website
Artist Statement
Curriculum Vitae

Grenfell Campus Art Gallery Install Images: Lucas Morneau
Stills of O’pltek Forms from ‘The Archive Room: Edgewood Studios
Screenshots of Archive Database: Layout/Design by Adam Kelly