Tania Willard’s Gut Instincts

A lasting component of Woven Together, an exhibition guest curated by Jaimie Isaac

Summer 2018 to summer 2019

Gut Instincts, 2018, Digital mural on adhesive textile, laser cut silk and satin ribbon, copper welding rods, wood stumps. Courtesy of the Artist.

Gut Instincts is an affirmation of women’s intuition, gut instinct and ancestral voices that collapse the past, future, and present into an embodied and visceral experience of the present. This work takes its origin in a design from a cedar-root basket collected as part of the North Pacific Jesup Expedition (1897-1902) from Stl’atl’imx territories. In many collections, basketry from this period is unattributed to a maker. As an expression of Indigenous women’s art forms, this disappearance of named makers and ancestor artists represents the colonial disappearances and dispossession of Indigenous women, communities, and lands.

Ethnographic framing of basketry as an art form has meant that these art objects have been isolated in museums as artifacts of a culture of the past. My works seeks to bring these ideas, expressions, and questions, that challenge the legacy and histories of anthropological framing of Indigenous art, into connection with lived Indigenous experiences. Digitally altering the museum photograph of the basket emphasizes the ‘entrails pattern’, the design was acknowledged as in the work of anthropologist Livingston Farrand’s, Basketry Designs of the Salish Indians. In this publication, informed by the North Pacific Jesup Expedition, Farrand examined the lineage of abstraction from natural observation to cultural motif. He recorded a number of basket designs and their origins with largely unattributed sources.This piece marks out space to value intuition and ‘gut feeling’ as they relate to ideas of this unique design. Farrand’s text sheds some doubt on the attribution of this as an ‘entrails pattern’.I see, in this design, a deep reciprocity with Indigenous lands and sacred acts of  interrelationship with animal and other non-human worlds.

In this artwork the courtyard space itself is considered as a basket, a container of potentiality and possibility to value and acknowledge the invisible role of the ancestral in our daily and future lives. Small silk ribbon flags with laser cut text employ equally intense colour and saturation as in the exterior digital print, marking out the autonomous spaces of ancestral honouring. Like the flags used to mark out buried gas lines, hazards, herbicides or archeological finds, these flags serve to mark out space for acknowledging the orbit of other worlds, non-human, non-linear, non-binary and the possibility of the constellation of liberated orbits of belonging.

Tania Willard, of Secwépemc and settler heritage, works within the shifting ideas around contemporary and traditional, often working with bodies of knowledge and skills that are conceptually linked to her interest in intersections between Aboriginal and other cultures. Public Art projects include, Rule of the Trees, a public art project at Commercial Broadway sky train station, in Vancouver BC and If the Drumming Stops, with artist Peter Morin, on the lands of the Papaschase First Nation in Edmonton, AB. Willard’s ongoing collaborative project BUSH gallery, is a conceptual land-based gallery grounded in Indigenous knowledges and relational art practices. Willard is an MFA candidate at UBCO Kelowna, BC and her current research constructs a land rights aesthetic through intuitive archival acts.

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