Thoughts come to my mind residing in Tkaronto for the past 19 years. I reflect on never feeling quite home here; personal memories I accumulated, traumas, relationships and their contracts. My higher self often tells me I am a visitor here and cannot claim permanent roots. I feel cities have their own energy and vibration. Tkaronto feels frenetic, frazzled, eager, commercial, a bit jumpy, holding a wealth of secrets. Perhaps part of this wealth is the secret of what has been buried beneath concrete. The richness comes from a soil upturned too many times forced through urban development and yet remains prosperous. You can sense the soils are ravaged. The consumption of natural resources has been done with greed, lacking the consultation or planning of the first caretakers of this land. These first caretakers, knew the land deeply and the course of nature’s cycles. They helped settlers with wayfinding.
Many emotions and thoughts come to mind while digging up what can no longer be seen in the city with its towering skyscrapers, high rises, neon lights and heavily paved roads that have been built with a sense that resources are infinite and of no consequence. As a result, our infrastructure revolts and floods, as a reminder that our choices were not made with honour to nature’s considerations. In spite of what has been done, there is relief from understanding that this place has always been called the trading place. This was a place where people gathered from both ends of the lakes, Great Lakes to trade goods and make agreements. This was not intended to be a place of settlement, but a place to navigate through. Much of Tkaronto is built over marshland.
I poured and marbled paint directly onto a canvas and allowed it to dry for several days. I added colours to the marbled designs. Part of the studio floor was uprooted and large chunks of concrete stuck to the back of the canvas. I have been studying old portage routes in Ontario, underground waterways (the Garrison Creek, Don River, Humber River), early contact and pre-contact trade routes from Lake Couchiching and Simcoe, Lake Ontario as well as the development of Yonge street and the histories of the Mississaugas of the Good Credit. The name Tkaronto has roots in Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe for meaning ‘fishing weirs standing in the water’ ‘tall trees in the water’ as well as ‘the gathering place’ or ‘carrying or trading place’.
In Nta’tugwaganminen, placenames were analyzed via their linguistic structure. Indigenous languages are embedded with land-based knowledges and have distinct characteristics based on how words are structured. Specifically, words are often long clusters that comprise of a verb-phrase. In toponymy (how we name places), there are different ways of naming. A doublet is a set of two place names sharing identical lexical basis; one specified and one not (p.33). This can show what direction people were travelling, for example a lake may be small in comparison to another lake, comparatively and therefore would be named ‘the lake that is comparatively smaller than x lake’. This can show migratory patterns of nations or how the land was used. In this speculation, knowledge carried within names contain ethnographical information that further refines what was done in a particular place and how the land was used.
The formation of paint on the canvas was a meditation on the waterways and secrets we can no longer access, resembling the fluidity and pathways of water. At moments during the painting process, I lost my way in the design, unable to find routes and much data was lost in the rendering from of the initial pattern that was poured onto the canvas. I must impose my own imagination and choices onto a pattern that had its own distinct marks. This intervention stands in as a metaphor for grappling with what has been done, and asserting my presence over it. The longer I become acquainted with the painting and selecting portions of the design, I could grid and plan the movement and direction of the painting. This had to be done by creating stark lines of contrasting colour from the rest of the pattern. I reflect on this as a metaphor for wayfinding and uncovering lost histories. I think about what may have happened surviving in the bush, tracking, trapping and using place-markers to find my way and navigate the elements.
My colour palette and design was guided by studying the metaphysical qualities of crystals, geodes, precious stones and minerals. I wanted to see what would happen if I meditated on the the interconnection of all beings. I think about cellular division and how the micro is often an iteration of the macro. I think about topography from a bird’s eye view, and observing the minuscule under a microscope and how their similarities outweigh their differences. I think about how frequently in discussions about land and resource extraction, we consider water and women to be spiritually connected. I think about how the land and body is spiritually connected, and how the exploitation of Indigenous bodies is performed on the land via mineral and oil extraction. I consider human nature and desire. I think about our desire for an object of beauty and our complex relationship with this. Beauty and desire in its primacy stirs the emotions. I think about western philosophy and science’s deep roots in power and control. Most theoretic and ideological work is based in humanity’s fear of vulnerability and the inception of these ideologies were methods in which to control nature, explain the sublime and come out superior to it and conquer what cannot be controlled. Western philosophy has sought to understand the emotional drive and explain the metaphysical. This has been done through colonization, war, education and mass production.
“Don Was Here.” Don Was Here, www.donwashere.com/.
Frim, Monica. Secrets of the lakes: stories from the history of Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching. Lynx Images, 2002.
Kruzich, Noreen. The ancestors are arranging things. Borealis Press, 2011.
“Lost River Walks.” Lost River Walks, www.lostrivers.ca/.
Mi'gmawei Mawiomi, Gaspe'gewa'gi. Nta'tugwaqanminen Our Story evolution of the Gespe'gewa'gi Mi'gmaq. Fernwood, 2016.
Synthetic Identity II
What is identity and what is construct?
Identity seems merely just a collage of appropriations. Culturally backwashed assemblages of semi-conscious and subconscious attributes are glued onto the body vessel and its inner parts like adornments to the soul-body. Our materiality becomes our aggressor, leaving us on a strange mission to resolve our inner struggle with our own existence. The soul immaterial flails within the body seeking an expression: the corporeal moves from fictitious into the physical, energy transmutes and subdues itself in its material form and we react by creating language to soothe or serve its purpose. We seek ways to communicate based on determinate and non-determinate factors. I’m left wanting.
Add your dad’s hands, your momma’s eyes and the human genome. Add some clothes mass produced in China, add some gadgets, add some history books, add some wars and communicable diseases.
Add the sky, the planets, add the plants. Add man’s desire to fuck and make fires. Blah blah blah.
Add all these packages. Pack of lays chips, pack of smokes, big mac wrappers.
We are a hybrid of packaged goods.
I was asked to question my identity, my sexuality and my gender. I realized that I placate my existence by being a packaged good. Constructs and labels hold me firmly in place, granting me a sense of safety and protection- where I can accessorize my intellect, body and aesthetic worth with various appendages.
So I went around town pretending I was a man and wore a fake beard. People have been mentioning to me that I embody both female and male. I never questioned myself before then. We have two spirits in our bodies. So what the fuck is that other shit? Who made gender about GI-Joes and Barbies, pink and blue, warriors and peasants? What about all that other shit? I’ll only be able to peel the first layer of the onion on this one.
I realized that presenting as a man comes with it. a great power and responsibility I was never used to. Do you ever have a strange urge to just walk into a grocery store and just steal a bunch of blocks of cheese just because you could? Do you ever just feel like climbing up to the roof, leaning over the edge to look down? wondering perhaps what it’s like to dangle your body down from the railing, or maybe even jump off? Just because? BECAUSE YOU CAN? Same deal.
You can be as much of an asshole as you want when you don a persona. Persona can be anything. Not just a beard. But I found myself tempted to flirt with women in condescending ways and ask them stupid questions I get asked on the daily. Treat them like frail objects that I can overpower, that i must “treat RIGHT” by the hands of my own chivalry. I realized I could lurk and wink at them in disconcerting ways in dark streets. I realized that I could probably honk at them in cars and then come back around the other way to get a second look and honk again two minutes later. I could proposition them for sex or services. I could open doors for them, I could kiss their hands. I could make remarks about their feeble intellects.
And then, I thought: Well, I could be a DAMN GOOD MAN, and be all the things I wished one could be. I could be gentle and respectful and screw that binary of what macho is.
I found it challenging to keep character. My gait transformed every minute. One moment, I was swaggering and walking like I could take up space that mattered. I could hold my head upright with shoulders broadly apart. I could straighten my spine and not be hyper vigilant of where my entitlement to personal space ends and where another begins. I didn’t have to apologize for existing. I could look people in the eyes and not be afraid of sending SIGNALS.
I was never consciously aware of these posturing issues. How societally and experientally conditioned these social reactions were and so ingrained in my female identity. If I wasn’t cornered into situations, assaulted or preyed upon for my physical attributes and self-assertions I likely wouldn’t be so guarded. I realized how soft my voice was. I realized how I spoke so mild-manneredly despite feeling like I generally have strong convictions, confidence, moderate feelings of empowerment and am fairly educated. I realized that I live guiltily and apologetically for all that I am. I realized how much my vocal tone undermined everything my body was before gender mattered. I even realized how concerned I was with appearances, with my position in the world and everyone else’s positions as well. I wasn’t blind to it before, but I’d have never realized just how DEEP that line is etched into everything. You have the superficial layer where everyone’s just being a ‘this’ or a ‘that’, self-consciousness is surface level. Underneath self-consciousness becomes construct-consciousness and exactly how subconscious our identities are when we act as pawns and placeholders for a societal system constructed with delicate, wobbly jenga pieces of systems upon other systems upon other systems.
I was never complacent with my identity per se, but there was always a part of me that was always going to just follow my gut and go for what my desires tell me to. I had a basic understanding of my gender, sexuality and identity where I didn’t feel like the foundation was going to topple over with a slight movement of some block. At least not until I met a bunch of queer women uncomfortable with the vehicles they were born in and were ANGRY about being given flat tires, a loose muffler and a half tank of gas. I wondered why I wasn’t angry too. Why is it okay for me to be a human woman? Why is it okay for me to be a queer woman who will do as she pleases and follows her desires? What do the labels matter within the scheme of society and what others think, lest it be more than a tool for self-understanding? Why must we internalize such a primal force if the machine is working as we knew it to always work? How can we feign to be more than a body machine if all we choose is to operate within constructs that make us machines? Does this chalk up to privilege? Not everyone is born comfortable within their bodies. And damn right, maybe they shouldn’t be.
And then I woke up and realized I was just a series of social projections. I am an anatomical byproduct of everything that I consume, see, feel.
Synthetic waste, plastic, parabens, cosmetics, fake food, fake hair, fake flesh.
Packages packages and more packages.
Flamboyant descriptors of culture. Socio-specific reactions. A reaction to my environment. Swallowed by not knowing what is an original thought and what is regurgitated synthesis. Is perception fluid, malleable or concrete and binding? We are all walking logos, advertisements, living sex dolls, pieces of meat, living death. I piss out chemicals in the waters I drink. I piss out everyone’s flushed pills, I poop out GMOs, they go into the soil and ocean, and we synthesize via the synthetic.
When I cry it smells like plastic burning.
When I smile you can see the architects that built it and its lousy foundation. Fillings and whitenings and years of tooth grinding. Years of caffeinated motor fuel. Empty calories pleading substance. Dig deep and you see all that you are, an appropriation of everything that already was in a little body-sized vessel.
I realized that all the art I make is as appropriated and fake as all that I am surrounded by. Lended imagery, limited visual language that barely describes the internal or the external world in some universal form. They are cultural inflections. The language barrier kills me. I cannot communicate anything as well as I thought I could.