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Rebecca Belmore – last chance

October 16th, 2018

Install view of Belmore's work At Pelican Falls

Installation view, Rebecca Belmore, At Pelican Falls, 2017. Video monitor, sculpture, wall text, photos, variable. Organized and circulated by PLATFORM centre © Rebecca Belmore

Have you seen our exhibition Rebecca Belmore: Facing the Monumental? Closing Sunday, October 21, this incredible exhibition of stunning works by Rebecca Belmore explores pressing issues including water and land rights, women’s lives, violence against Indigenous people and the role of the artist in contemporary life. Don’t miss the exhibition The New York Times calls “striking and provocative.”

In a ceremony to close the exhibition, Rebecca Belmore and exhibition curator Wanda Nanibush, the AGO’s Curator of Indigenous Art, invite you to join them at 11 am on October 21 for a round dance to celebrate the grace, strength and beauty of Indigenous women. The round dance, inside the AGO’s South Entrance by Grange Park, will be followed by an exhibition tour led by the artist and curator.

Before we say goodbye to this powerful exhibition, let’s take a close look at one of the compelling works in it. At Pelican Falls is a multi-media tribute to residential school survivors. Government-sponsored residential schools systematically contributed to the attempted cultural genocide of First Nations culture, and disrupted families for generations. Many survivors experienced horrific violence.

At Pelican Falls was inspired by a 1955 snapshot of a group of boys from the Pelican Lake Residential School, the school near Belmore’s home community. In the photograph, seven boys wear residential school uniforms made of denim, likely sewn by girls at the same school. The boys, who face away from the viewer, huddle on a rock watching a white man fish.

Beside this photograph, Belmore has placed two other photographs – this time the boys face forward, showing their faces. “For the artist, this was about looking at the people in the photo, honouring them and centring them,” says Nanibush.

Installation view, Rebecca Belmore, At Pelican Falls, 2017. Video monitor, sculpture, wall text, photos, variable. Organized and circulated by PLATFORM centre © Rebecca Belmore

In addition to the photographs, Belmore created a sculpture from one large piece of indigo denim, inspired by the boys’ uniforms. At Pelican Falls is on loan from Platform Gallery in Winnipeg. Each time the work is shown, this sculpture’s shape varies. At the AGO, thanks to a narrow hallway, Belmore folded the denim to resemble the river adjacent to the Pelican Falls residential school. The fast-moving rapids were a barrier, trapping children at the school. But in the sculpture, a figure emerges from the water – escaping.

Installation view, Rebecca Belmore, At Pelican Falls, 2017. Video monitor, sculpture, wall text, photos, variable. Organized and circulated by PLATFORM centre © Rebecca Belmore

Overlooking the photograph is a powerful quote from Belmore’s sister, an excerpt from a story she wrote called Little Brother.

Installation view, Rebecca Belmore, At Pelican Falls, 2017. Video monitor, sculpture, wall text, photos, variable. Organized and circulated by PLATFORM centre © Rebecca Belmore

Nearby, a video shows a boy from Sioux Lookout emerging from water and then slipping under the surface. “It’s a cleansing,” Nanibush says. “He washes away his experiences.”

Installation view, Rebecca Belmore, At Pelican Falls, 2017. Video monitor, sculpture, wall text, photos, variable. Organized and circulated by PLATFORM centre © Rebecca Belmore

See this powerful exhibition it before it’s gone. Rebecca Belmore: Facing the Monumental is included in General Admission and runs until Sunday, October 21. The exhibition is on Level 5 of the AGO’s Vivian & David Campbell Centre for Contemporary Art, and extends throughout the AGO.

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