Forgotten Language

Works by Amanda Amour-Lynx

05 March – 25 April Trinity Square Video

Forgotten Language is a collection of works by Amanda Amour-Lynx which are performative acts of cultural reclamation. It documents the pursuit for radical self-acceptance, evident by the messy, untangling process that ensues when recovering lost histories. Stories are embedded linguistically through mnemonic and symbolic coding, abstraction, body movements and stored memories. Language is place. Place is being.

These studies are stories of returning to a knowledge that was taken away, and are reactions to how colonialism has affected the artist personally and intergenerationally (focusing on matters concerning the relationship to time and place; the difficulty of familial roots; complex blood memory; being of mixed heritage; lateral violence; and internalized racism). Forgotten Language is Amanda’s intent to heal ancestral wounds through acts of restoring cultural literacy in herself, existing on various planes of being, undoing and reclaiming.

Territories spill off the map

Invented names for the state I’m in

Your boundaries have the word of law

And mine, imagined

I summon the stories under the earth

And the secrets of the sky

You lay another brick

You dig another mine

But these boundaries,

These Boundaries are mine

Where my skin touches air

And my blood touches bone

This place is for me alone

– Amanda Amour-Lynx

Play


Title: Land Is Body

Medium: Video Performance Art

Duration: 2 minutes 21 seconds

Year: 2017


Land Is Body is a performative video artwork that explores themes of identity politics, cultural erasure, the colonized body, and the impacts of urban development. This artwork indirectly converses about Canada’s land treaties with the Indigenous and more directly, to contemporary experiences of structural oppression within capitalist government systems. This video is a digital composite of found footage, an original digital animation and a video of myself performing the act of “erasing myself from the landscape” using green screen key effects in an editing program. As the video progresses, my body disappears into a time lapse of a high rise development being built in downtown Toronto, Ontario, juxtaposed over opaque pink tetrahedron forms.



The act of erasing myself intends to engage with dialogues surrounding my experiences of cultural and social assimilation as an urban-indigenous woman. Assimilation tactics historically were a means to eradicate cultural knowledge from the First Nations, however, the act of blending into the landscape or urban culture represents a survival strategy to eliminate structural inequities, racial targeting, and to thrive in adverse conditions. This work tackles issues regarding my identity, gender and the discrimination faced on a regular basis in a society that excludes such voices.

I want to raise the concern that consent is given and not taken. In the act of existing outside of the landscape via acts of ritual, I reclaim agency over my body, resisting systems of power that seek to erase me.

Title: Sacred Preserves
Medium: Resin casted cedar in antique Crown mason jar
Year: 2016

In an effort to learn the four sacred medicines, I went on an urban foraging trip in downtown Toronto. I had looked in texts and diagrams beforehand to aid me in identifying the leaves of a cedar tree, but found myself confused. After some time, I located some in a city planter along Bloor St. W in the Annex neighbourhood. The clippings were casted in resin, illustrating my sentiments toward the colonial practices of Canada. The mason jar reads "Made In Canada" and is branded with a crown logo. The cedar suspended in plastic delivers an adequate metaphor of my pursuit to reclaim my indigenous identity and yet being unable to access the information the way it was intended. Indigenous culture maintains to be viewed as an antiquated commodity, a distilled moment of our history's shameful past, to be marveled at in our museum culture yet displaced from modernity. Our people exist right now. I beg the viewer to question how things may never return to their original state, if preserved in captivity and forever altered by industrial development.

Sacred Preserves (gif)

Title: Wkamulamun I (Heart of the Tree)
Medium: Acrylic and flowers
Dimensions: 6x6
Year: 2016

Sakura blossoms flower ephemerally in Spring, usually in late April and early May. After cold, desolate winters, people flock to see the dreamy orchard-scapes abound, creating a haze of mystical pale pink flowers. Sakuras bloom abruptly, and only for about a week. People participate in Sakura Hanami, which is Japanese for "cherry blossom viewing party".

I have submerged sakura flowers in acrylic polymer medium. It has been a year since I have revisited the memories that are contained within the flowers. I confront the memories in which I cannot speak in words through the ritual of capturing the blooms and placing them in captivity. As the paint seals the flowers and dries, I observe the beautiful rosy hues turn brown and dull. The visual metaphor of returning to a trauma site can be observed in its aesthetic manifestation.

Wkamulamun is the Mi'kmaq word for "heart of the tree".

Title: Black Snake

Medium: Acrylic on wooden panel

Dimensions: 6x8

Year: 2016


This artwork responds to emotions felt regarding resource extraction, fossil fuel consumption, exploitation, specifically towards the Dakota Access Pipeline and its inevitable construction despite unconstitutional denials of land and treaty rights on Sioux Territory. It is also in acknowledgment of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline and Enbridge’s Line 3, spanning across Alberta and British Columbia, which were approved for expansion under the Trudeau-Trump government November 2016, although it was previously rejected by the previous governments due to concerns around safety, emissions, spills, and toxicity levels.


I Made a Nest Where No Bird Could Ever Rest
Basket, String, Wood
2016

I explore traditional basket making for the first time. A sense of loss and despair is felt in the visual evidence of several generations of isolation from family and traditional systems, a byproduct of Canada's assimilation and erasing procedures. Drawing inspiration from Mi'kmaq visual artist Ursula Johnson's deviant basket sculptures, this piece documents my emotional and physical frustration of having little to no access to the mentorship, stories, tools or talent to learn this skill. This piece was created with up cycled and found materials that were readily accessible. Basketry and weaving is a foundational element of first cultures- clothing, and carrying vessels were early methods for sustenance and survival. 


The title for this work was inspired by Amber Dawn's poem, Autophobia.

Title: Body Is Land

Medium: Deer hide, beads, cowrie shells, ashes, leather cording, acrylic enamel paint

Dimensions: 6x31

Year: 2017


I integrate several mediums to create a narrative. I engage in an autobiographical storytelling through a mapping exercise with implicit symbolic meaning from my chosen materials. Specifically, I have decided to bead a map of Toronto’s High Park onto a white acrylic paint skin that has been textured by ashes I have collected of sacred Indigenous medicines and medicinal herbs between the months of August 2016 to March 3rd 2017. These ashes include white sage, sweetgrass, tobacco, cedar, lavender flowers, rose buds, fennel, and catnip. The textures created by the ashes infer topographical qualities. The white paint can relate to ideas of purification, blankness, vastness, and snow. The ashes reiterate and contrast some of this imagery- the ritual act of spiritually cleansing oneself, however, residues and evidence remains of this act (the ash) and sullies the whiteness or smoothness of the paint. High Park beholds sacred sites for the Haudenosaunee including burial mounds and land-based cultural knowledge, however, these stories have been largely erased in our current day. I have chosen to bead a modern map of High Park with primary colours (that hold various meanings and additionally refer to colours used in urban maps, subway lines, etc). I incorporate cowrie shells, which historically have been used by many earlier cultures (as currency, wampum belt beads used for treaty agreements, ritualism, occult works, etc). The form of the shell visually can also represent the female archetype, fertility and the genitals.


With these symbols in mind, I map out locations in High Park that attempt to pin my trauma site. This trauma mapping revisits the moments when I directed detectives while in their police car to the location of a sexual assault that occurred in May 2015, and enter the space of fight/flight/fawn/freeze, a biological shock response. In those moments, I failed to guide them to the location in the dark, despite being there only moments earlier. Through the process of beading, I try to reclaim my relationship to the park, and reconcile with the land. The object acts performatively to emulate a PTSD treatment called exposure therapy that aims to help individuals reintegrate into society. Psychological changes happen in the brain post-traumatically that impact the visceral organs and stress responses. I’ve pursued research since 2015 about the body-mind-spirit relationship; namely, the connections I have found between internal communication pathways: excessive hormone production (cortisol) causing late onset adrenal fatigue, the route of the vagus nerve, the cerebrospinal relationship to emotional processing, the gut microbiome, and the endocrine system. The final product resembles a ceremonial object in which I document a rite of passage from a past experience.

Play

Title: Trading Post

Medium: Wall to Floor Installation, soil, slime, projection, digitally edited audio

Duration: 6min 36 seconds

Year: 2017


Trading Post
trading post

noun
noun: trading post; plural noun: trading posts
a store or small settlement established for trading, typically in a remote place.

Trading post is a wall to floor installation that combines sculptural elements, digital projection and sound art that critically examines the dialectics between early settler-colonialism, modern resource extraction, the economy, and news media.

Clipped and composited audio overlays describe early portage routes, trade agreements, the origins of the Hudson Bay fur trade, news clips reporting on recent nuclear oil spills, tailing mines in Canada, ambient found sounds, and the US financial crash of 2008, as reported by dramatic TSX CNN news anchors. These audio overlaps prompt us to recall repetitions in history, linking past events into the scope of current politics. The narrative shifts back and forth from two polemic ideologies, exploiting their stark contrast from one another. The collaged sounds shift the lens back and forth in an uncomfortable manner, aided by creative sound experimentation. The work becomes multi-sensorial, as the audio accelerates into a crescendo of discomfort that is occasionally broken through the subtle humour, irony and trickster tactics of how the chosen excerpts interact with each other.

(Audio citations in progress)






Title: Reincarnate
Medium: Otter fur, moss, soil, acrylic, hot glue
Year: 2016

Nothing is discarded. Society hides, buries and removes what it can no longer use. Consumption culture devours the sacred. What is unseen, therefore ceases to exist. Nothing is finished. Nothing dies. What has been rejected, stifled and left for dead, will always come back

(Reincarnate Detail 1)

(Reincarnate Detail 3)

Title: Sacred Knowledge

Medium: Vintage encyclopedia, golden wax beans, soil

Dimensions: 9x12

Year: 2016


History has been written by those in power, to the exclusion of those deemed inferior. History speaks of discovery, victory, wars won, nations claimed, yet only through the eyes of the dominant culture. The western world dictates what is civilized and relevant, erasing the histories of all who have been colonized. Post contact, First Nations ways were ravaged and erased. Languages were lost with the inception of the residential schooling system in 1870, forcing English literacy and religious reform by rule of the Anglican church. What has become of indigenous ways of knowing and telling have been endangered, and almost entirely lost through this process. In this artwork, a 1954 edition of The New Pictorial Encyclopedia of the World has been made into a vessel for growing golden wax beans. The English text mutates and becomes undecipherable with soil, water log damage as the object breaks down, decays and deforms from its original state. Indigenous language and syntax is deeply rooted in the cycles of nature and the knowledge contained within human relationships to them. The book returns to sacred record-keeping and caretaking, intended to be spoken with not words, but through embodiment of ideology.

(Wkamulamun Detail 1)

(Wkamulamun Detail 2)

Title: Wkamulamun 2 (Heart of the Tree)
Medium: Acrylic and flowers
Dimensions: 6x6
Year: 2016

Sakura blossoms flower ephemerally in Spring, usually in late April and early May. After cold, desolate winters, people flock to see the dreamy orchard-scapes abound, creating a haze of mystical pale pink flowers. Sakuras bloom abruptly, and only for about a week. People participate in Sakura Hanami, which is Japanese for "cherry blossom viewing party".

I have submerged sakura flowers in acrylic polymer medium. It has been a year since I have revisited the memories that are contained within the flowers. I confront the memories in which I cannot speak in words through the ritual of capturing the blooms and placing them in captivity. As the paint seals the flowers and dries, I observe the beautiful rosy hues turn brown and dull. The visual metaphor of returning to a trauma site can be observed in its aesthetic manifestation.

Wkamulamun is the Mi'kmaq word for "heart of the tree".

(Wkamulamun II Detail 1)

(Wkamulamun II Detail 2)

Title: Not Missing, Not Murdered


Medium: Vacuumform crop top on wooden panel

Dimensions: 12x12


Year: 2016

On the night of being sexually assaulted, I was driven by the police to Mt. Sinai hospital in Toronto, ON to complete a rape kit test. They opened a box with various envelopes with a sticker label for my file. I gave them swabs and cultures from my body, my undergarments and the shorts I was wearing that night as forensic evidence. I did not give them the shirt I was wearing as it hadn't come into contact with the perpetrator. The shirt remained on a hanger in my closet for a year, as it felt unsavoury to wear, donate or destroy. Quite like the packages used as forensic evidence, I sealed this shirt in plastic to cordon myself off from the memory, to encase and give closure to the event as a moment in time no longer in need of accessing, and to honour the energy and vibration of symbolism in the garment. I use it to tell my story.

(Not Missing, Not Murdered Detail 1)

(Not Missing, Not Murdered Detail 2)

Title: Abalone

Medium: Acrylic, holographic paper, plastic, fabric on stretched canvas

Dimensions: 8x11

Year: 2016


Title: Conception

Medium: Acrylic, fabric, beads on wooden panel

Year: 2016

Beadwork is used in indigenous craft, jewelry, ceremonial regalia and in government documents such as wampums. Wampums have been used in treaty agreements and preserve knowledge of historical events and cultural stories. Bead patterns operate like mathematical equations. Deep spiritual knowing is incorporated into the construction of beaded objects.

Conception is an attempt to connect with the process of beading and documents my first interactions with the medium. It is an exploration of my inner frustration and eagerness to learn this meticulous practice. It is a plea for mentorship from elders and knowledgekeepers so that I may preserve the practice for the next generation and connect to my ancestors. The meditative and ritualistic nature of beading demands patience, stillness and calculation. Emotional, physical and spiritual processing occurs in repetitive acts of making, opening the channel to have a conversation with the higher self and garners reflection upon one’s actions. The outcome of this work is how such things have manifested during this process.

Applying beads to the surface of acrylic paint skin performs as a flesh-like substrate. It infers didactic themes and concepts, merging the parallels in my identity and attempts to weave together unlike characteristics. It is a conversation with both my Mi’kmaq ancestry and my European roots. Within this identity I find peace and anger, matriarchy and individuation, self-mutilation and self-love, Contemporary art education reconciles with traditional indigenous knowledges, femininity and masculinity, violence and nurturing, direct and subliminal, creation and destruction.

This work is an act of forgiveness and apology to myself for not having elaborate beading skills. One must start somewhere. One must begin healing from a broken place. Conception is a dedicated effort to learn to bead, not for pleasure but as a political act.


(Conception Detail 1)

(Conception Detail 2)

(Conception Detail 4)

(Conception Detail 5)

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