(Travels Great Distances)

Click on the masks and canoe for more information.

(Travels Great Distances)

by David Neel

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 at 604-872-1666
                                email: onedge@shaw.ca

Venice contact: Nuova Icona at 041-521-0101
                                email: nuovaicona@iol.it

    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.

    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.

David Neel
ARTIST : David Neel is a professional artist,
photographer and writer. His creative
media includes wood, sculpture,
photography and writing. He works within
the "tradition" of Kwagiutl art in
addition to contemporary works that deal
with current history. His photography
appears in magazines and books, as well as
in museums and galleries internationally.
      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

Check out David Neel's web site: www.neel.org/dneel/

CURATOR : 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.

La Biennale di Venezia

    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.