1997 – 2007 The Art Practice of Thirza Cuthand
2007 marks the end of a ten year span of Thirza Cuthand’s practice using confessional interventions, both public and anonymous, to reflect the psyche of the world. In 1997 during her first year at Emily Carr she created a site specific installation in downtown Vancouver to address the general tone of isolation, fear, and loss of hope. Using selections from diaries she has written since 1984, she wrote parts onto tags which were glue gunned onto eggs she had cracked, cleaned, dried, and glued back together. These eggs and their accompanying diary selection were placed within the downtown core. Within 24 hours every egg had departed without a trace.
Her confessional practice continued after her positive disintegration moved into a kundalini awakening in 1998. During that time she continued using personal stories in her video practice, which garnered her international attention. Her short video works have screened in festivals across North America, Asia, Europe, South America, and Australia. She has attended the prestigious Oberhausen International Short Film Festival twice and won an honourable mention for “Helpless Maiden Makes an ‘I’ Statement.” She has also screened work at Mix Brasil in Sao Paolo, Transmediale in Berlin, Bienniale de Image et Mouvement in Geneva, Frameline in San Francisco, and various other festivals world wide. Due to government restrictions on travel grants she was often unable to attend her international screenings.
She also began to post anonymously on various diary sites such as Open Diary, Bloop Diary, and Livejournal since 1998 when she finally got internet access. These anonymous confessions briefly stopped in 2002, when she returned to Saskatchewan and began following Riel’s journey to Montreal. She lost contact with the online community until 2003, after she had endured extreme abuse in the hands of the Quebec psychiatric care system. She began writing publically under her own name in her confessional, personal, and ultimately political blog Fit of Pique. Between 2003 and 2007 she went from a psychiatric consumer to a psychiatric survivor and ultimately achieved Secondary Integration after withdrawing from her medication.
During her journey she reclaimed her identity as a Gifted woman, and spoke openly of Positive Disintegration, spiritual searches, abuse, colonization, and the experience of growing up with multiple, sometimes contradictory identities.
The last short film of her very public Positive Disintegration process takes on fascism in contemporary psychiatric care. “Madness In Four Actions” marks a departure from her earlier work. She used collage to tell a story no one would listen to in her own voice. It debuted at the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon in the middle of January 2007.
Now 29 years old, Thirza is outlining plans for a Gnostic Soteria house in Saskatchewan for future Louis Riel’s. She is also continuing to write feature screenplays and hopes to some day get funding for her 35mm projects. She is also learning her Cree language and plans to take guitar lessons. She considers herself a modern poet and is a 5th generation survivor of the Northwest Rebellion. Her mother, Ruth Cuthand, is descended from the Cree uprising. Her father, Edward Poitras, is a descendent of the Red River Metis. Both have made enormous contributions not just to the Aboriginal art world but also to the international art world in general. She hopes her work has served in some ways to heal both families. She was raised within the Aboriginal art community and has acquired the affectionate appellation of Art Brat. In 2005 she went back and completed her BFA in Film and Video at Emily Carr Institute in Vancouver BC. She does not claim copyright over the egg intervention and encourage’s it’s use in areas of the world where suffering occurs.
Her next project is a feature documentary charting her bloodlines through DNA, oral storytelling, historical research, and travel to various parts of the world where her ancestors can be found, including Ireland, Scotland, France, Blackfoot territory, Cree territory, Saulteaux territory, and the migration route which led us here.
She believes the military maneuvers of colonialist enterprise have changed little over the millenia, and can now be seen in the current Iraq conflict.