Michael Farnan: Canoe Fight: From Reverence to Redress

July 26 to October 24, 2021

Canoe Fight: From Reverence to Redress by Michael Farnan. Photo: Andre Beneteau

Michael Farnan
Canoe Fight: From Reverence to Redress
July 26 to October 24, 2021
Gallery 3
Curator: Emily McKibbon

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.