DRPT Thesis Exhibit May 2018
Inspired by Amour-Lynx’s personal lived experiences, Home Fire was a heavily researched material investigation on the transparency and institutional accountability of OCAD University. This body of work connects themes of relational aesthetics, social systems theory with narrative approach trauma therapy, by creating an immersive space for spectators to share community dialogue on experiences of personal violation and institutional violence.
Home Fire is in conversation with various institutions and how their bureaucratic processes and procedures impact individuals on the margins and consists of four in situ live performances, virtual livestreams and an interactive art installation featuring redacted documents from the artist’s personal records. Institutional forms and documents cross reference each other in jumbled timelines, echoing the alinear fashion of trauma recovery. An immersive white-walled wheatpasted room showcases the materiality of something that is usually invisible, bureaucratic erasure.
In the room, redacted documents graphically describe how Amour-Lynx navigates seeking sustainable support systems following a sexual assault that occurred in May 2015. Seen pasted on the walls include court transcripts of the offender’s crimes, support letters from Assistant Crown Attorney, psychiatric assessments and notes, failed ODSP application forms, academic petition forms for extensions and withdrawals on compassionate grounds, emails depicting instructors’ resistance to student accommodations, human rights violation incident reports on an instructor’s colonial violence, student survey reports and statistics on anti-Indigenous harassment, bullying and racism experienced on campus, student disability accommodation letters, committee notes and minutes from upper level administrative bodies and peer letters of resignation from OCAD’s institution-wide 5 year reconciliation plan. The visuals depict the dehumanization that occurs when one’s survival needs rely upon the signing and processing of inaccessible paper forms, and the subsequent bureaucratic processes connected to receiving adequate support and care.
Home Fire is about survivance, regaining selfhood after traumatic experiences, and recovery from institutional erasure. Home Fire was named in honour of an elder teaching I received on sacred council fires, funeral pyres and the ritual act of maintaining community accountability in councils, and visioning transformative justice and Indigenous futurities.
Council fires are a ceremonial fire to be kept burning while First Nations hold their councils. The fire is considered sacred in guiding the intentions of the political sphere and ensures dealings are made with honour. Sacred fires are built in sturdy tiers that are made to last, where once lit it should require no tending for its entire life, as levels burn they fall in on themselves. They are a gathering place, a storytelling place, and home to cultural ritual. Sacred fires honour our dead, funerary pyres are blessed with offerings for the bereaved. Council fires are referred to in wampums such as the Treaty of Niagara (1764).
I met with a healer in 2018 who had a vision of me in an empty room. She said she saw me with a stack of square sheets of blank white paper. The papers were to signify a fresh start, and new roads ahead where I can liberate myself from notions that were imposed upon me.
This healer did not know me at the time or that I had a stack of papers at home that have been dictating my life for years.
“You need to find your home fire. A home fire is a place just for you, that you can call upon for strength. They are your ancestors, your familiars, your sacred objects. They are memories that remind you of the loved ones who supported you. You may not know this but you have many guides, they are like an army. They are with you all the time, even if you can’t see them. And they are talking with you right now. Remember you have survived and you will get through this, too.”
“Do you think your ‘Indianness’ will get in the way of your education?”
In various lecture panels, Rebecca Belmore tells the story of her withdrawal from OCAD university with this anecdote where she was stopped in the hallway of (then) O.C.A. by one of her professors and asked this question. This lingers with me and echoes down the hallways in the past six years I have studied here, a lump forms in my throat filled with bittersweetness. Her accounts of direct racism make me ache, as it fades forgotten on the wind, with the institution’s assumed mastery of equity and touted inclusivity in their current Academic Plan, which boasts Belmore’s global success as an ‘alumni’ in an introductory list of accomplishments of the ‘institution’, with exaggerated significance.
Performance art documentation from Home Fire, Grad Ex 103, May 5, 2018, an installation that challenges institutions' complicity in systemic oppression and violence.
An award ceremony was conducted in the Drawing and Painting chair's office, with an impromptu photobooth, acknowledging OCAD University's various departments, structures, faculty, staff and administrators for maintaining a culture of silence around issues of inequity and mismanagement of student concerns over the span of multiple years.
Awards were written based on student testimony and disclosure as a socially engaged arts project whose aim was to rebalance the power structures and regain autonomy to students who have been shoved out of the institution for identity-based reasons, as well as unresolved cases of harassment and human rights violations, misconduct within student services, registration, shop and studio provisions, including improper cultural training by staff, faculty and administrators and repeated failure to accommodate students with disability or identity-based barriers.