Finally, a visitor from Vancouver
My friend Rebecca Belmore is coming into town for that opening next week, the Mendel has a bunch of different shows going on at once, and she’s showing. I love Rebecca, she’s so fun. I have her panties but that’s another story (she’s straight, to my knowledge, which is why it’s funny). She was the second Aboriginal to represent Canada at the Venice Biennale, my dad was the first. She and I used to hang out at The Grunt in Vancouver, which was probably the only gallery scene I was able to appreciate in any meaningful way. I think because they showed a lot of aboriginal art and yet didn’t classify themselves as an aboriginal art gallery. Plus they were unpretentious and you could stand out in the rain smoking joints with staff and other artists, and then stay after hours and get drunker and drunker. They were the most aboriginal friendly gallery in town, so it makes sense that that is where I ended up.
There were other decent galleries, but they seemed to be mainly concerned with catering to the white hipster crowd of wannabe art stars. In fact when Video In started heading toward the wannabe art star crowd I kind of got disengaged with it and felt marginalized again. The irony of that is Video In, which is the oldest artist run centre in Canada, had a really strong mandate for doing community based activist work around issues like sexuality, race, sex, class, gender, disabilities, more sex, etc. So as you can imagine the membership was pretty diverse. But now I keep hearing disturbing stories of aboriginal members being treated in racist and offensive ways. I haven’t experienced it myself, but that’s the word on the street.
I sometimes don’t know if racist shit is going down because people forget I’m aboriginal, or never knew it. So if they hate brown people, I’m sometimes just off the radar to not see it firsthand and know somethings up. Sometimes it’s so fucked up that I almost want to say “Don’t be racist to my friend, be racist to me! Spread your all encompassing racism around and stop singling out the obvious brown faces.” It sounds weird I know. I have brown skin envy.
Which brings me to another thing. I hate it when white people say racism is hating someone based on their skin colour. It goes WAY deeper than that, it’s about hating cultures and POC histories and projecting white guilt into a more manageable form of hatred that comes out in words like “I’m not responsible for what happened hundreds of years ago” even when they still benefit from it, or “Don’t tell me about colonial history because you’ll hurt my feelings and I’ll run to your superior and tell them you’re racist towards white people!” Ugh! Just dumb. And I’m not the same as a full blooded European because I have a very different personal history rooted in Cree culture. Looking white does not make me care less or know less about being Cree.
I’m glad Rebecca’s coming to remind me of the Grunt that I miss.