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Jenny Western
Boarder X at the Winnipeg Art Gallery
November 23, 2016

The third in a series of exhibitions produced by Jaimie Isaac, the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Curatorial Resident of Indigenous & Contemporary Art, Boarder X is what one might deem a “passion project.” Isaac spent much of her youth skateboarding and snowboarding, and in more recent years has been an active participant in the national Indigenous art scene as a curator, artist, and member of The Ephemerals art collective (of which I am, full disclosure, also a member). As such, the exhibition is significant for Isaac on a personal level, but it is also notable original programming for the WAG, which has struggled to adequately engage with First Nations and Metis art, artists, and audiences in the past. Isaac’s residency (which will hopefully become a permanent appointment) has engendered some optimism toward the gallery’s commitment to diverse communities and the curators who explore these spheres.

Jordan Bennett, Guidelines, The Basket Ladies (detail), 2014, carving with ink on wood and video installation.

Boarder X explores of our relationships to land and water by highlighting seven Indigenous artists working in a variety of media who also skate, snowboard, or surf. At a moment when the events at Standing Rock and elsewhere have brought questions of Indigenous sovereignty, water, and land rights to the forefront, this exhibition proves to be especially timely and effectively introduces its dialogue through an approachable pop culture format. Skateboarding-inspired artworks by Jordan Bennett and Mark Igloliorte hold a particular appeal for youth and a halfpipe was built in the WAG’s limestone-clad Eckhardt Hall for the exhibition’s opening reception. Local skateboarders flocked to the gallery and stood beside members of Winnipeg’s Indigenous community to watch boarders grind along the edges of a skateable miniature reproduction of the WAG building. For an exhibition that examines skate, surf, and snowboard culture as “vehicles to challenge conformity and status quo,” Boarder X crosses borders as its name suggests, attempting to subvert not only a mainstream mindset but push for inclusion and representation within the art establishment itself.

The Winnipeg Art Gallery:
Boarder X continues until April 2.

Jenny Western is a curator, writer, and educator who lives in Winnipeg. She can be followed on Twitter @WesternJenny.



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