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Behind the mask

July 27th, 2018

Co-Curator Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory inside Tunirrusiangit

Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory inside Tunirrusiangit, Image by the AGO.

Walk into our current major exhibition Tunirrusiangit: Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak, and one of the first things you’ll see and hear is Silaup Putunga. This captivating video installation features Laakkuluk Wiliamson Bathory, an artist and one of four Inuit co-curators of the exhibition that explores Ashevak and Pitsiulak’s legacy through a contemporary lens.

Last week we chatted with Williamson Bathory about what she’s learned from Ashevak and Pitsiulak, two artists who pushed the boundaries of Inuit art. Today we find out what inspired the two artworks she contributed to the show.

AGO: The video installation Silaup Putunga is very moving and powerful. Is there a story you are telling through this work?
Laakkuluk: The core of my artistic practise is uaajeerneq (Greenlandic mask dancing). In Silaup Putunga, Jamie Griffiths and I tell a story of peeling through layers of skin and reality in order to see an inner landscape. In the process of telling this story, I reach through to a dream world, like Kenojuak did with her drawings and prints. The phrase ‘Silaup Putunga’ means “the portal into the universe/atmosphere/intellect/weather.” It’s fitting this work appears at the start of the show, a portal into the exhibition on Ashevak and Pitsiulak.

AGOThe exhibition includes a performance of your poem, I am the light of happiness. What links the poem to Kenojuak Ashevak?
Laakkuluk: I wrote the poem in 2013, the year that Kenojuak died. That same year, Alianait, an annual summer festival in Iqaluit, was dedicated to Kenojuak. I coordinated a collaborative performance for the final concert of the festival with a group of international artists. We created a musical tribute to Kenojuak and that’s when I first performed I am the light of happiness. As Tunirrusiangit honours Kenojuak’s legacy, the poem seemed a good fit here as well.

AGO: AGO visitors are so lucky to see your work. What’s next for you?
Laakkuluk: It’s a busy time. Thanks to the Inuit Art Foundation’s inaugural Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award, I’ll be an artist in residence and working with my collaborator Jamie Griffiths on a performance that will use light, colours and shapes as a complement to uaajeerneq (Greenlandic mask dancing).

I’ll also be performing with my dear friend Tanya Tagaq. Working with the organization Qaggiavuut, we’re getting ready to tour our play, Kiviuq Returns to Nuuk, in Greenland and at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre. I’m so excited to bring Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools, a performance piece I co-wrote with Evalyn Parry and our friends, home to Iqaluit before we start a cross-Canada tour. And I’m going to fish and hunt and camp and eat and sleep and laugh and cry with my beloved family.

Want to know more about the Inuit artists and co-curators of the exhibition? Read our recent blogs about Koomuatuk (Kuzy) Curley, Jocelyn Piirainen, Taqralik Partridge and Williamson Bathory whose experiences putting together this show we’ve shared over the past few weeks.

Don’t miss Tunirrusiangit: Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak. On now until August 12.  Free with General Admission.

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