Michael Farnan

Canoe Fight: From Reverence to Redress

Curator: Emily McKibbon

In Canoe Fight: From Reverence to Redress, Victoria Harbour-based artist Michael Farnan presents work that challenges the colonial legacies and representational practices that continue to privilege and empower settler history in this region

This exhibition highlights Victoria Harbour-based artist Michael Farnan’s recent work challenging the colonial legacies and representational practices that continue to privilege and empower settler history in this region. By featuring the canoe—an Indigenous technology that was deployed by white settlers to expand the colonial state into the Canadian interior—Farnan demonstrates how beloved Canadian cultural symbols actively inscribe Canadian settler culture as the natural inheritor of both land and power in this area and beyond.

Canoe Fight was filmed over several locations in the fall of 2018, including Algonquin Park, Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre and Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons. These sites celebrate the settlement and stewardship of the Georgian Bay area, and the ill-fated Jesuit settlement of the mid-17th century. Utilizing camp humour and simulated violence, the video satirizes the weighty pretensions of canonical Canadian history. Humour, here, is used as a pointing device: at a moment when communities demand action and intervention on important cultural and environmental issues, true reconciliation is required between settler and Indigenous nations. By satirizing our nostalgic attachments to the narratives that normalize the settlement of this region, Farnan seeks to decolonize our understandings of place and space in service of a more equitable and sustainable future.

This exhibition is complemented by a text by Leah Decter.

Michael Farnan’s work has been exhibited throughout Canada, with presentations at Museum London; PAVED Arts, Saskatoon; Doris McCarthy Gallery, Scarborough; and Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba, Brandon. The artist acknowledges the assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.

Images: Installation views of Canoe Fight: From Reverence to Redress. Photos: Andre Beneteau

The artist would also like to acknowledge Jeff Kearns (Principle Actor), David Hartman (Cinematography), Ashley Hamilton (Production Assistance), Joel Alain (vocals, guitar and song arrangement) and Tony Allen (violin) for their contributions to Canoe Fight. Special thanks to Jordan Poniatowski for post-production audio work, and to Kathy Foot for their generous patronage.


Family Activity

Due to the social distancing measures introduced to combat COVID-19, the MacLaren has created self-guided activities that families can do together at home. Through a variety of exciting games and challenges, this activity sheet is designed to help children and their caregivers have fun while learning about the content and ideas present in the exhibition. Families may also refer to the didactic text as a starting point to interpreting the exhibition.

Please download the PDF below to get started!


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