collaboration with The Emphermals (Jaimie Isaac, Niki Little, and Jenny Western)
Socially-engaged project resulting in a Zine and public performative intervention wearing a “localized” garment, designed and created on site utilizing locally-foraged natural dye stuffs.
“A collaborative project, “The Four Amigos” was undertaken in August 2014 with the collective The Ephemerals. This was part of the Institute of American Indian Arts’ Museum of Contemporary Native Arts’ Social Engagement Arts Residency Program. We spent two weeks in Santa Fe, New Mexico for this residency.
Through reoccurring artistic collaboration, we come together to explore notions of cultural identity, representation, and appropriation within contact zones, especially as they are related to material culture, such as dress.
We were invited to expand this exploration during this residency program. We were directed to interact and collaborate with the community, and utilize local resources and materials, with the expectation of something being produced by the end of our time there, which purposely coincided with Indian Market. Indian Market is an annual market of Native American arts, which has been taking over the downtown streets of Santa Fe every August for 93 years.
This specific context led us to consider the close cousin of cultural appropriation: cultural tourism or cultural consumption. To address this we tried to fully acknowledge our position as visitor in every aspect of our work; looking closely at how one enters into a new space and gains knowledge and experience through a non-hierarchical engagement with a myriad of knowledge holders and knowledge banks, from institutional to the quotidian.
We set about producing site-specific material culture that reflected our experience of place back to the place itself. We wanted to make a visual representation of this experience, and have it directly reflect the material facts of the place itself, and our interpretation of it. For most of the two weeks, only half of our collaborative collective could be present in New Mexico, so we sent stories of our experience home to our remaining collaborators. These messages home took the form of emails, texts, photos, and drawings of the experiences and knowledges gained, the challenges faced, and the bigger picture that was starting to be constructed. Ultimately, this communication home, this negotiation of representation of experience, was made into a Zine which we handed out as part of our public interventions.
The other large component of our work was through the construction of garments that were worn in these public interventions. We wanted the land itself to dictate components of the physical item made so we dyed all the fabric naturally with native plants gathered in the territory. These plants, their colours, and their history within the place became part of the outcome. Based upon all of our experiences with local dress, including visits with local Indigenous fashion designers, we designed a multi-layered garment, each layer being dyed with a different plant. It was a material manifestation of experience. Each layer held meaning, to us and to the place.”
excerpts from a conference paper, “Contact Zones in Community Engaged Arts” that I delivered at the Cultural Convergences II: Alliances Conference, Concordia University, September 2014.