Now that the exhibit Adasla: The Movement of Hands is open at the Legacy Downtown and the Big Button Blanket has had its inaugural dance at the opening ceremonies of UVic’s annual Diversity Research Forum at First People’s House, the focus now shifts to the next performance on February 22.
Featuring a special contemporary performance collaboration between Governor General’s Award winning performance artist Rebecca Belmore—a former Audain professor for the Department of Visual Arts—and blanket co-creator, Tahtan Nation artist Peter Morin, this remarkable experience will begin at 2pm on Saturday, February 22, at Legacy Downtown, 630 Yates. All are welcome to witness this free event.
The Times Colonist ran this article previewing the February 22 performance, summarizing the history of the button blanket and this blanket’s specific intention.
We talked to Morin recently about his upcoming performance with Belmore. “Button blankets are used as teaching tools—younger artists get told its story, how it was made, what it was made with, who made it, the importance and significance of it in relation to the larger community—so our collaboration will be about acknowledging the blanket as a metaphor for indigenous knowledge practices,” he explains. “Her art has fundamentally changed how I see the world. A lot of my practice is about the places where indigenous and western knowledge intersect or collide, so it’s exciting we can work together on this.”
Morin doesn’t hesistate when asked about the idea behind the project. “I want people to understand and think differently about button blankets. This is an this art form that has been practiced for more than 150 years over a large geographic region. They are just as beautiful and significant as totem poles—and, in fact, I wanted to make a button blanket the size of a totem pole so people can see them better. It’s an invitation to see this art form differently.”
Morin, who recently returned to Victoria as the keynote speaker for the annual History in Art graduate student symposium Visual Impetus, is now with the Visual Arts faculty at Manitoba’s Brandon University.
An ambitious collaborative project between Morin, History in Art professor Carolyn Butler Palmer, local indigenous blanket makers and HIA students, there has been a great deal of media coverage about both the exhibit and the blanket itself. CBC Radio’s All Points West featured this interview with Morin and host Jo-Ann Roberts (scroll down to the January 7 entry). Local visual arts writer Robert Amos also ran this Times Colonist article about Adasla, describing it as a “stimulating and multi-faceted show.” The exhibit is also featured in the February/March issue of Preview: The Gallery Guide magazine, was written up in this article for the UVic student newspaper Martlet and Morin is featured in this interview for the February issue of the UVic newspaper The Ring.
The Victoria News also ran the article, “Big Art Emerges From A Big Blanket,” focusing on how the 300-pound blanket will be a logistical challenge for the Legacy Gallery. “It’s easily the biggest art object we’ve received or displayed here,” Caroline Riedel told reporter Edward Hill. “The sheer weight and logistics to hang an object of this size is a challenge. The buttons are extremely fragile.” Riedel also explains how they had to enlist Royal B.C. Museum exhibit designer Allan Graves to design a scaffolding for the blanket. “It’s a new challenge with the installation, but it opens up new ways to think about this as an art form,” she says.
For both Morin and Butler Palmer, the exhibit Adaslā—a Tahltan word referring to the act of creation—hinges on the lack of general knowledge surrounding button blankets. “It’s a textile art form, and that’s often associated with women, and textile arts have been suppressed in their recognition in art history, as has indigenous art forms,” explains Butler Palmer. “Even if they are recognized, they’re often configured more as ‘craft’ than art. So we’re challenging both the absence and suppositions of button blankets as an art.”
Adasla: The Movement of Hands continues to April 25 at Legacy Downtown, 630 Yates. The gallery is open noon to 4 p.m., Wednesdays to Saturdays.