Organizers: On Edge (Vancouver) and Nuova Icona (Venezia)
Curator: Elspeth Sage
Venice Producer: Vittorio Urbani
Opening Date: Thursday, June 10, 1999.
Time: 12:00 noon
Location: Palazzo Dandolo-Priuli-Bon, Campo San Stae
1979/a vaporetto N. 1, stop "San Stae" Grand Canal, Venice, Italy
Vancouver contact: On Edge email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Venice contact: Nuova Icona email: email@example.com
Wealthy One (International Commerce) (1998)
alder, paint, gold, silver, currency, copper, cedar, bark
70.2 x 30.4 x 17.7 cm (30" x 12" x 7")
Collection of the artist.
Funded by The Canada Council Exhibition Assistance Program, Dept. of External Affairs in Ottawa, the Canadian Embassy in Rome, B.C. Gaming Commission and the British Columbia Arts Council.
(Travels Great Distances)
A traditional dug out ocean-going canoe carved by the artist from a 500 year old red cedar from Vancouver Island.
Completed in 1995, the canoe is paint with a Thunderbird on the bow and a Killer Whale on the stern. It is 26 feet (8 meters) in length.
On Edge (Vancouver) and Nuova Icona (Venezia) will present an installation and performance based on carved wooden (red and yellow cedar and alder) masks and a traditional dug out ocean-going canoe by Kwagiutl artist David Neel in a site-specific context at the opening of the 1999 Venice Biennale under the title Walas-Kwis-Gila.
The installation will present Neel's work within the dialogue that he currently finds himself and within the specific context of the city of Venice. His work is not completely accepted
by traditional practitioners because of his subject matter and questioning of traditional norms, nor is it understood outside the field of "the Native Art market" by the contemporary Canadian art community. His masks are subject to the same kind of commodification for the tourist market as the omnipresent tourist masks of Venice. The intention is to present his work outside its commodification as highly saleable and collectible, and rather as a part of challenging living work.
Venice is known as the City of Masks and like the carvers of the North West Coast of British Columbia, Venetians do not view their mask tradition as one of just an art form. The fetishizing of these masks by collectors and museums alike is a foreign concept to both Venetians and the people of the North West Coast.
The name of the exhibition is that of Neel's ocean-going canoe, Walas-Kwis-Gila (Travels Great Distances). This canoe, 26-feet (9 meters) in length, was carved by Neel out of an old-growth red cedar log from Vancouver Island in the traditional method of his ancestors. Like his masks, Neel's canoe is used as a working vessel. He lives near the water in North Vancouver and uses the canoe to teach his young children about their culture. It is frequently used for fishing, recreation or paddling excursions up the West Coast, just as canoes would have been used hundreds of years ago. The project includes shipping the canoe to Venice for a ceremonial opening performance along the Grand Canal.
David is working on concepts of how to attach significance to the event through undertaking a journey from the Giudecca - the location of Nuova Icona - into the Grand Canal. The Italian sponsor is the Nuova Icona Gallery, a contemporary gallery in Venice. The Canadian organizer is On Edge, an artist-run centre based in Vancouver that was formed in 1985 to present art work from the margins. The site is a 12th century palazzo near S. Stae on the Grand Canal with a docking space for the canoe.
His work has been exhibited at numerous museums and galleries including the Smithsonian Institution, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Kamloops Art Gallery, The Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Vancouver Museum and the Seattle Art Museum. He currently has two publications: Our Chiefs and Elders (1992) and The Great Canoes (1995), is working on a new publication on the Pow Wow. He trained as a photographer in the U.S.A. for several years with some of that country's top professionals. Besides assignment work he has always completed personal projects. Today he photographs contemporary Native Indian culture for publication and exhibition. As a traditional carver, he trained with Kwagiutl artists Wayne Alfred and Beau Dick, as well as conducted extensive study of museum collections. Neel draws on his Kwagiutl heritage for artistic direction. From his father, Dave Neel Sr., he inherits a rich artistic heritage. Dave Sr., a Fort Rupert (Tsaxis) Kwagiutl, was taught to carve by his mother, Ellen Neel and her uncle Mungo Martin. Both Mungo and Ellen received their instruction from her grandfather, Charlie James. Neel uses the work of his ancestors as the starting point for his own artistic interpretation.
Check out David Neel's web site: www.neel.org/dneel/
Elspeth Sage is a co-founding director of On Edge, curator, writer, producer and arts critic. Her articles have appeared in Video Guide, Impulse, Vanguard, FUSE, V Magazine, Parallelogramme, Media Arts, HARBOUR Magazine, CIRCA, FRONT and Artists' Newsletter. She was the Associate Curator of Yellow Peril: Reconsidered - national tour of film, video and photography by 25 Asian Canadians (1990-91), and curator of Feng Shui - photoworks by 4 Asian Canadians in Newcastle (1993), curator of Auslander Video new film and video from Berlin by auslanders (outsiders) (1993). She produced the post- exhibition publication of Feng Shui (1994) and was co-curator with Daina Augaitis at the Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff of Jan Wade's exhibition Epiphany (1994), and the curator of the monumental mural project by Nhan Duc Nguyen Temple of My Familiar in Belfast, Northern Ireland (1994). She was Executive Producer of the post- exhibition video of the Temple project, directed by Paul Wong, and Executive Producer of Sovereign, the first videotape by Belfast artist Philip Napier. She produced installation and performance work by artists Jon Bewley and Simon Herbert of LOCUS + (Newcastle) in Vancouver in October, 1995 and was the curator of Vancouver to Santiago - 2nd Bienal de Video in Santiago, Chile (Oct 1995).Her text "Anatomy of a Thriller" appeared in Paul Wong's exhibition catalogue On Becoming A Man, published by the National Gallery of Canada in Sept. 1995.
She was the author of an essay for CIRCA Magazine (Dublin) entitled "Cultural Axis" on international exchanges and co-productions. She presented a video installation of On Edge productions at Exchange Resources at the Belfast Arts Festival in November, 1995. She curated a new site- specific installation and performance work by Jan Wade Jazz Slave Ships, Witness, I Burn presented in October, 1996 in Whitehaven, Cumbria and Hull, U.K. dealing with England's involvement in the slave trade. She co-directed with Paul Wong the videotape documenting this project released in January 1998 and she is co-producing with Paul Wong an electronic publication of 14 years of On Edge productions. She is currently producing the Vancouver premiere of Nguyen's Temple of My Familiar for the 2000 Dragon Boat Festival. She is co-author with Elizabeth Vander Zaag of the Cougar Site - an award- winning site dealing with post-feminist practises.
In odd-numbered years, Venice hosts its famous Biennale --a biennial modern-art exposition that features painters, sculptors, and performance artists from around the world. The next Biennale will take place in 1999. Most sanctioned events take place in the Giardini Pubblici, which has some 40 permanent national pavilions, and at the Corderie dell'Arsenale, a short distance away. Some works are being displayed in other locations around the city, ranging from the Armenian monastery on the island of San Lazzaro to the
Palazzo Vendramin, which normally serves as the winter quarters of the Venice municipal casino. Unofficial shows and performances take place all over town during the Biennale, especially between mid-June and mid-July.
Mask of the Injustice System (1991)
cedar, horse hair, paint, currency
61 x 45.7 x 25.4 cm (24" x 18" x 10")
Collection of Mr. Rick Erickson