Handwork as a political act: each bead is threaded and strung, attached by the hands of hundreds of volunteers who worked on this project, each page calculated and beaded. And under it, printouts of a downloadable version of the Indian Act, produced by computer and printer, infinitely replicable, which was, of course, its problem – its replicability in the minds of not just bureaucrats in Ottawa, but in every school system in the country, in every mind of every petty administrator, policeman and worthy. Did any of them actually read the text, the way the artists beading over it must have? The speed of reading, or scanning versus looking at every letter, every word, every loaded space between each word, each paragraph, choosing a red bead or a white one: this project was an intensely political process and act – truly an Indian act.
Entries in politics (3)
The introductory blurb about Resilient Cities outlines resilience in response to both climatological shock and systemic social problems. Dandy. I read on, I watch the videos – they are smooth, earnest, sophisticated; everyone dresses and speaks in the language of the boardroom. Such groomed spokespeople.
I find it something of a revelation to find that civic resilience is a project of 'partners from the private, public and NGO sectors'. It indicates that this is primarily an economic project that works on infrastructure and the delivery of services. This is big money. It gangs cities together to pool ideas and strategies: we can all learn from one another.
There is not a small dose of TED-talk enthusiasm here: what can possibly be wrong with all of this? Individuals shouldn't have to struggle on in isolation, always learning as they go, reinventing the wheel, cut off from advanced technological solutions; Resilient Cities is like a global think tank that all cities can access. Forget culture and history, cities are machines that can be fixed. Ultimately this is what it comes down to, these strategies for resilience. They are like strategies in war: always the same no matter who the antagonists, what the century, what the technology.
Two immediate questions: Vanuatu and Syria. Aleppo, Damascus, Port Vila: not on the list of selected cities. Montreal and Barcelona are however. I think resilience is relative. I worry when I am shown a diagram of what constitutes resilience. Can't imagine that it is all so tidy and universal. Shall think more about this.
Artefacts exist, but it is not necessary to 'see' them. Claxton is interested in the image, not the artefact, and how the image has a life much more insidious and invasive that the material thing. It makes one rethink the value of archives (all the originals) and their digitisation, free to use in a way the originals will never be.
Claxton's images in Indian Candy belong to an era before even my time, more like the 1920s-40s, the era of the Hollywood western. We used to see them at the Capitol Theatre on Saturday mornings when I was a kid, and on Fun-o-Rama, a kid's late afternoon TV program from Seattle in the 1950s: endless reruns of Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, the Three Stooges, lots of David Niven as a swashbuckler. But even then the white hat/black hat/Indian chief thing was remote, disconnected to all the kids from the Esquimalt Reserve that went to our elementary school. It never occurred to me that Donny Albany was an 'Indian'; it was something I learned much later, that he was the son of the Esquimalt band Chief. (old terminology, I know, but it was the 50s, sorry)
The power of Claxton's images is that they pinpoint an era and a process whereby the stereotypes were formed and then embedded in the American psyche via popular culture: the midway, movies, toys, games, TV. During the long era of residential schools in both the US and Canada which were gutting the structures of North America's indigenous peoples, they were portrayed as dangerous, fearsome and inscrutable – a portrayal that was, and still is used on any group resisting assimilation.
Forgetting that this was our Contact billboard, I first thought it was something to do with the Stampede which starts its advertising about now. However, violet is not a Stampede colour, nor is the dangerous allusion to difficult histories. Clearly, if this is Sitting Bull's signature, he was taught to write in commercial script. Is it shaky because someone else wrote it for the Wild West Show postcard and it seemed appropriate? Another act of embedded 'weakness'?
I don't think it is his signature. You cannot trust documents.