Rebecca Belmore is a member of the Anishnaabe, currently living and working in Winnipeg (Manitoba, Canada). Through a variety of media, including performance, sculpture, video and installation, she confronts Canada’s continued colonial impact on First Nations peoples and through her practice subverts both historical and contemporary power structures to release and empower her people.
Belmore created the video work Private Perimeter during her second residency at La Galerie du Nouvel-Ontario (2013). In the video an anonymous figure, dressed in the common uniform of a construction worker, wanders the land. The figure passes and trespasses through different landscapes in various states of barren to broken, suburban to industrial and what appears to be the natural landscape of a nearby reservation. The work comments on our competing
interests for land use which often results in abuse and disconnection.
She is currently working on a major commission for the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg for their inaugural exhibition in September, 2014. She plans to create a 30 X 20 feet blanket of 10,000 clay beads, partly made by the public, including school children and elders. The clay comes from beneath the streets of Winnipeg, dug up by a construction
Perimeter, Rebecca Belmore, video, cinematography and editing by Darlene Naponse, music by Julian Cote, produced by Pine Needle Productions, (22:50 minutes), 2013
company laying pipes. For Belmore the piece acknowledges the use of the site as an historical meeting place predating the treaties which forced certain uses of the land between First Nations and colonizers. It is also a way of shaping the land directly and leaving a trace of the current community for the future community.
Belmore represented Canada at the Venice Biennale (2005) and as the first First Nations artist to ever do so. She was recently winner of the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts (2013). She won the prestigious Hnatshyn Visual Arts Award in 2009. The Ontario College of Art and Design University has awarded her an honorary doctorate (2005). Belmore is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and winner of the VIVA Award (2004).
Belmore has participated in both national and international exhibitions, including her solo show KWE at the Justina M. Barnike Gallery, University of Toronto (2014) which is a feature of Contact, the world’s largest photography festival. Rebecca Belmore: Rising to the Occasion was a mid-career retrospective shown by the Vancouver Art Gallery (2008). She has also had two solo touring exhibitions: The Named and the Unnamed at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, University of British Columbia (Vancouver, 2002) and 33 Pieces, Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto at Mississauga (2001). Her group exhibitions include but are not limited to: Global Feminisms at the Brooklyn Art Museum (New York, 2007); the Sydney Biennial (Australia, 2006); Intertidal: Vancouver Arts and Artists at the Museum for Contemporary Art (Antwerp, Belgium, 2005-06); Tirana Biennial (Albania, 2005); Houseguests at the Art Gallery of Ontario (2001); Longing and Belonging: From the Faraway Nearby at SITE Sante Fe (New Mexico, 1995); Land, Spirit, Power at the National Gallery of Canada (1992); and Creation or Death: We will Win at the Havana Biennial (Cuba, 1991).
Her work has been collected by major institutions, such as the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Canada Council Art Bank and the Canadian Museum of Civilization among others.
Rebecca Belmore Artist Statement
Perimeter is a visual illustration of the ordinary and extraordinary lines that are continually drawn, erased and re-drawn between peoples and all of our histories.
It is a video that begins with a physical line, in the form of a long length of plastic, fluorescent flagging tape, being drawn from the “fresh” water located on a First Nation's reservation, trespassing through private industrial mining property and then into a town. Considered a city by Canadian standards, this particular town hugs its industrial heart close as is typical of many places in this country.
A lone figure, walking barefoot and wearing a surveyor's safety vest, is anonymous in this mysterious yet familiar place. The lone figure drags a visual line from rocks blackened years ago by earlier mining practices and sits by a cool torrential waterfall that is ultimately connected by groundwater to the tailing ponds hidden by the man-made hills across and above the highway. Walking quietly through a small neighbourhood built near the base of a large smokestack, as workers begin to awaken and prepare for the early morning shift change, the silent one wearing an “X” on his/her back quietly draws a line through all these spaces.
The line drawn in Perimeter highlights the interconnectedness of humanity and the earth; the effects of that physically close, yet sometimes emotionally distant and always complex relationship between peoples, the land, the past and the present. As an artist who is indigenous to Canada, my work continues to be invested in understanding how we have come to the places where we find ourselves today.
There are three legally recognized Indigenous groups in Canada: the First Nations, the Métis and Inuit.
• The First Nations have treaty relations with Canada or the British Crown that involve the provision of legal title
to a tract of land or territory, called a Reserve.
• The Métis trace their descent to mixed Indigenous and European heritage.
• Inuit are a group of culturally similar Indigenous peoples who inhabit the Arctic regions of Canada, Greenland and
the United States.
The Flower on the Cliff’s Edge, Andy Patton, oil on canvas, (198.12 x 274.32cm), 1990
Fringe, billboard installation for Plan Large, Quartier ephemere (corner of Duke and Ottawa, Montreal), (3 x 8 meters), 2007
Photography: Henri Robideau
Painted Road, performance still, performance in honour of artist Daphne Odjig’s painting From Mother Earth Flows the River of Life, on a road behind Laurentian University, created through a performed action where the artist scrubbed the surface of the road with a mixture of iron oxide, paint pigment and sand on a wet road while Daphne Odjig watched from a parked car, (Sudbury, Ontario), October 11, 2007.
Photography: Michael Belmore
Rising to the Occasion, performance still, Rebecca Belmore, now a remade performance artifact, a copy of a gown the artist wore for a performance event titled 12 Angry Crinolines conceived by Lynne Shaman with a parade and tea party in response to the visit by the Duke and Duchess of York, 1987 and 1991
Photography: Michael Beynon