Canada revisited at the Art Gallery of Ontario The museum pushes back with Canada 150 offering Every.Now.Then, a fiery update to a tight nationalist tale.
“A century is only a spoke in the wheel of everlasting time” reads a quote on the wall of the Art Gallery of Ontario, attributed to Louis Riel.
It’s a poetic statement, but the fiery 19th-century Indigenous civil rights leader might like to refine the metaphor, had he the chance. If “Canada 150” is a spoke and a half, just how many do the wheels of history have here, anyway? Dozens? Hundreds? With an Indigenous presence here dating back at least 15,000 years, we could outfit an entire Tour de France.
The statement is embedded as a touchstone in Every.Now.Then: Reframing Nationhood, the museum’s response to this blithely nationalistic moment, and it makes clear the show’s driving force: to resituate the blip that is Canada in a gapingly broad continuum of both time and difference, with flag-waving pushed aside.
“We knew right away we weren’t doing a celebratory project,” says Andrew Hunter, the gallery’s curator of Canadian art. “We have a history in Canada of telling the same stories over and over, and ignoring other stories. We wanted to make space in this institution for stories that haven’t been told.”
For the project, Hunter enlisted independent curator and artist Anique Jordan, and their joint mandate is clear from the exhibition’s opening salvo. Michael Belmore, an Anishinaabe artist, offers Rumble, a blackened copper sandwich of Trans-Am hoods, with effigies of spiritually significant creatures — a Thunderbird on one side, water panthers on the other — glowing from within.