Michelson visits the Grand River several times a year at Six Nations Reserve in southern Ontario, where a younger sister and other relatives now live and where her grandparents grew up. Narratives of colonial subjugation and indigenous existence form the backbone of some of his most powerful works.
His “To Cry II” (2005), a monumental video piece, is based on Kasavantha, a sacred wampum belt Which embodied the trade agreement of 1613 between his people and the Dutch. Michelson was filmed from a Canadian cruise boat on the Grand River, which separates non-native cities on the US side from the reserve in southern Ontario. The piece captures competing narratives from both sides of the river: silverware is paired with a soundtrack of original elders talking about the river amid a guided tour of a dinner cruise captain.
The brutal military campaign that forced Michelson’s ancestors to be removed from their homeland was captured in video work “Hanodaga: Yes,” or “Town Destroyer,” was the name Houdenosouni gave to George Washington. It describes the destruction of about 50 towns, farms and orchards that led to “the situation of being refugees in our own land”, the artist said. debuted in 2018 piece Woodland Cultural Center in Brentford, Ontario. The center is on the east site Mohawk Indian Residential School, the boarding school that his grandmother Eleanor Green, who died two years earlier at the age of 105, was built to attend and where she was trained to be domestic, an occupation for an indigenous woman. was deemed appropriate.
Thinking about oyster shells, Michelson reflected on the cultural history of shells in native art, ranging from abalone jewelry to wampum belts used for diplomacy, and hundreds of smaller shells. All express the indigenous worldview that “time and memory are embodied in something that was alive,” he said, in contrast to the European view that “everything that is alive is extractable.” “I think he missed a lot,” he said. “They weren’t too keen or interested in what was here and rejected cultures that were in very good balance with land and water. It’s a way of living.” with. It is perceiving oneself as being in a relationship of kinship with something greater, rather than isolation and dominance. “
The Billion Oyster Project is a cause for hope, he said, although as a recurring venture, he argues, it would not have been necessary under Lenpay stewardship.
In recent years, the tribes have been on the front lines of environmental activism, most famously in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and the risks to water, land and sacred cultural sites. With wildfires raging in the West, some government officials have begun to partner with tribes, acknowledging the wisdom of regularly controlled burning to clear underbrush and encourage new plant growth.
“It would take people to understand how the dots connect,” Michelson said. “I think things are so bad they keep coming back to us.”
Greater New York
From October 7th to April 18th, MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Avenue, Queens; (718) 784-2084; mom.org. Admission to MoMA PS1 is by advance timed ticket.