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Jordan Bennett

Corner Brook
March 01, 2012

Jordan Bennett is a multi-disciplinary visual artist of Mi’kmaq decent who calls the west coast of Newfoundland home. He has shown extensively over the past few years across Canada and abroad, in places such as the Ottawa Art Gallery, Modern Fuel Artist Run Centre, and The Rooms. His work can now be seen in the recently opened Beat Nation: Art, Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture at The Vancouver Art Gallery, and in upcoming shows at Alternator Artist Run Centre and The Museum of Art and Design in New York. His work is derived from a combination of popular and traditional cultural reflections, which he portrays through his passion for and knowledge of pop culture, traditional craft, political issues, and his own cultural practices. Through sculpture, digital media, text-based media, installation, painting, and endurance performance, he plays with the ideas of re-appropriation, reclamation, participation and the artefact in traditional aboriginal craft and ceremony, and contemporary culture.

1. Urban-Indianism

As an artist of aboriginal descent, I find that there is a rise in involvement in a number of communities to preserve and revive traditional ways. As the communities are now largely concentrated in urban centres, youth have come to find their place in so many avenues, educated not only by elders or peers, but by creating new subcultures and giving a new perspective on what it means to be an aboriginal youth. One such avenue that sticks out in my mind is music. Cats like A Tribe Called Red and The 1491s have brought music, humour, and video works into the mix to grab youth by their traditional roots and show them how to adapt. I love it.

2. Hip hop/skateboarding/indigenous cultures

All these things tug at my heart strings. I don't think I could go a day without at least two of these things. Hip-hop has fuelled me for hours as I work on new sculptures and paintings or prepare for performances. I really like to combine these things; it came as a mistake, I guess. One day a few years ago, after not getting accepted to art school (I later did), I was pretty upset, so I set out with my skateboard, headphones and a new playlist. I was determined to skate away the frustration. I was riding along an old road near my house and after a Dr. Dre song, on came a traditional Mi'kmaq song that must have snuck into the list somehow. I felt like my body was moving the same way for both genres of music; it seemed like a connection was made. Now I even dance the same to both – ha, ha! You can catch me cutting the rug with the same ol’ two step to both Jay-Z or A Tribe Called Red.

3. DJing, music, and the parallels with visual art

I have fallen in love with DJing. I started out just practicing, now I play mostly at an amazing bar in Corner Brook called The White Horse Whisky Lounge. It’s locally owned and the vibe in there is comparable to any venue I've been in across Canada. I have been a Fine Arts performance artist for a while now, but damn, I have Never! Ever! Felt the way I feel when I perform live with music! There is a sense of instant appreciation, the energy and the vibes are out of this world. Don't get me wrong, I love making art for galleries and exhibitions, but you work so hard on a piece and in most cases never get to see the audience’s reaction. You get reviews, you hear about people liking the work, but hardly ever, besides the opening, do you see the person’s face. With some of my new and upcoming work I am aiming on closing that gap through interactive works.

4. Pushing the Do Not Touch envelope

I am a very tactile person. I like the feeling of different materials. I feel like you can connect to an object so much easier by feeling what it’s made of. In a gallery, however, you hardly ever get to do that. Between red tape, vitrines that cover work, and that security guard who’s just waiting for you to place one finger on that precious art, it’s damn near impossible to feel what the artist felt when handling the work. I have come to love making art that is touchable and interactive, as can be seen in one of my recent works, Turning Tables, and in some newer work that you will see on my website soon.

5. Adventures, near and far

Travel!!! I can't stress this enough: I haven't stopped travelling since 2006. I have met so many amazing people, including artists I have only wished to meet, and seen art I have only dreamt of seeing. Since the majority of people reading this are on the mainland (not Newfoundland), it’s way cheaper for you guys! Do it! A fellow artist, Shirley Moorhouse, from a small town in Labrador once said to me: “Just because you live in the sticks in the middle of nowhere doesn't mean you can't stick you head out the bush to show people you’re still alive!” I have lived by that motto ever since. Since I have left the island on adventures, I have come to discover how amazing it is right here in my own backyard. Doing everything from hunting down icebergs and fishing on the Northern Peninsula to surfing the shores on the west coast of the island, Newfoundland holds a strong place in my heart. Come play! You can crash on my couch ;)



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