Forward by Nadine Changfoot
Phantom, stills & vibrations immerses viewers, into multilayered visual and aural worlds, enveloping and penetrating the senses. As the threshold is crossed into Artspace artist run centre, you are brought into fragments and traces of Pelican Falls/Lake Indian Residential School and Kramer’s bloodland of the Ontario north (Lac Seul). Settlers are compelled to confront the brutal and complex relationships between Indigenous peoples and colonial society through seven Elements comprising objects sculpturally arranged throughout the space.
Immediately, the soundscape draws the listener into the north. There is the subtle yet recognizable buzzing of insects, the whisper of the wind, bird calls, and the drone of a train-like machine. The soundscape orients one to the visual dimensions which appear in “elements” thoughtfully placed throughout the large gallery space. The spaces in between the elements are filled with sound, the sound connecting the elements also as one’s body moves between them. There is also the trace of Kramer’s performance that connects the Elements with added pastelled sheets in Element 7.
A sweeping glance of the gallery, together with the soundscape, induces feelings of (dis)connection, (dis)location, and a sensitivity for the (un)seen), (in)visible violence and trauma. There are ephemeral encounters with a female figure (images of Kramer) throughout the space. The focal point of the installation features a 20’x 8’ photograph of a woman (Kramer) draped in a large white sheet from the chest down, with red rope wrapped around her neck and left upper arm, connecting at her left wrist which clenches a large conifer tree. The female figure throughout the installation stares with riveting eyes and when you allow your own eyes to reach hers, there is a moment of connection and implication, between the past and the present, between you, her, three generations of her family, and the Indigenous children who attended Pelican Lake Indian Residential School.
Three of the Elements have their own audio accompaniment, featuring Kramer’s voice. These “inner” audio stations provide narratives of Pelican Falls/Lake Indian Residential School. One “inner” audio is placed in a setting with objects of comfort: fur pelts, blankets, a beaded pouch. It is titled “Kookum’s Wigwaam/Grandma’s Cabin,” its contents suggesting a place of refuge from a colonial world that destroys Indigenous culture, land (a canoe is cut in half and separated with its bow pointing skyward), families (there are white sheets too neatly folded in stacks), and murders and disappears women and children (photos of spectral images of a woman on a wall, and an area where sheets are piled with the shavings of brown oil pastel enmeshed with metal fencing) and dirt.
Kramer’s performance, to a soundscape that becomes near deafening, has the audience uncomfortably view her slow movements along the floor toward a kneeling settler (collaborator Stefan Petersen) self-involved in his own industry and oblivious to the elements of violence, trauma, and refuge of Indigenous knowledge around him and of which he is part. One’s viewing of Kramer’s movement transitions into staring, giving a gift to the settler within, if open to the vibrations and violence of colonialism, to feel deep down, reflect upon the brutal intergenerational legacy of the Indian Residential School system, and surface new possibilities for justice.
By Nadine Changfoot, 2017-18 Ashley Fellow Artist Residency Curator and Producer