Towards Accountability: Art and Institutions on Indigenous Territories

Towards Accountability: Art and Institutions on Indigenous Territories is an event series curated and moderated by Jordan Wilson, ICI’s Inaugural Indigenous Curatorial Research Fellow.

The series will bring together artists, curators, and other thinkers who will share experiences and engage in conversation with one another over three sessions on the actions and responsibilities of contemporary art institutions, public art on Indigenous lands, and Indigenous curatorial and artistic practices. Throughout the series, the guiding concerns are Indigenous participation, actions, and desires in relation to contemporary art and its respective institutional practices.

Foregrounding the contexts specific to Indigenous peoples in North America, the discussions will aim to resonate more widely, connecting with the concerns of Indigenous peoples internationally and non-Indigenous marginalized communities. Respondents will be invited to draw connections across and beyond all three sessions and will share their written reflections following the discussions.

Participating speakers: asinnajaq, Lori Blondeau, Emily Johnson, Ange Loft, Kimberley Moulton, and Jackson Polys.

Respondents: Eva Mayhabal Davis, Denise Ryner, and Liz Park.

Session 1:
Contemporary Art Institutions
Tuesday, September 28, 2021
6pm EDT

ICI Online
Register here

In response to the activism, scrutiny, and expressed concerns of diverse community voices, contemporary art institutions are increasingly examining their infrastructures and practices in order to support broader decolonial efforts and to shift their behavior and values. Indigenous artists and community members are steadily challenging institutions within their territories and beyond to better represent Indigenous artistic practices and to engage with communities in more sustained and meaningful ways. This session will account for the progress made thus far, and the ways in which this may be built on. How can different art institutions and arts professionals demonstrate accountability and responsibility in context-specific ways, and to local Indigenous nations in the work they do? What responsibility do they have to Indigenous artists and to communities more broadly conceived? In other words, how might arts institutions move beyond performative gestures such as land acknowledgments toward materially supporting the needs and desires of Indigenous communities and artists? How do decolonization efforts in contemporary art connect to broader interconnected struggles for justice and equity?

Participating Speakers: Emily Johnson and Jackson Polys.

Session 2:
Public Art on Indigenous Lands
Tuesday, October 5, 2021
6pm EDT

ICI Online
Register here

The installation of public art frequently initiates conversation and even polarizing debate about the role of art in community; the artworks, artists, curators, and institutions often face intense scrutiny and critique from a broad array of community voices that may otherwise not typically engage with contemporary art. With growing public and civic recognition of Indigenous assertions of territory and sovereignty, these instances and the subsequent discourse are further complicated. What are the ‘limits’ of artistic freedom in regards to public art on Indigenous nations’ asserted territories? How have artists, curators, and institutions (whether galleries or cities/municipalities) navigated this terrain – and how is it shifting? How can Indigenous protocols, histories, and understandings of both place and relationality inform the development of public art projects?

Participating Speakers: Ange Loft and Kimberley Moulton.

Session 3:
Indigenous Curatorial and Artistic Practices
Tuesday, October 12, 2021
6pm EDT

ICI Online
Register here

This final convening will examine the ways in which Indigenous artists and curators have drawn on their community and family backgrounds in their respective practices, and how these distinct (and diverse) approaches may impart alternative modes of working in the context of contemporary art. In other words, how has an Indigenous ‘sensibility’ (to borrow from Nêhiyaw artist/facilitator Elwood Jimmy) informed artistic and curatorial practices, and in turn, how have these practices shifted institutional behavior? What lessons might Indigenous protocols, values, and ways of knowing to provide to not only Indigenous but also non-Indigenous professionals and practitioners in making the field of contemporary art more equitable and beneficial for BIPOC peoples? Alternatively, to what extent are such approaches translatable, or, put otherwise, should they be subject to cross-cultural exchange?

Participating Speakers: asinnajaq and Lori Blondeau.

This program was supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

September 28, 2021 - October 12, 2021


Jordan Wilson

Jordan Wilson is an emerging curator and scholar and is currently a Ph.D. student in Anthropology at New York University. He is a member of the Musqueam First Nation, in what is now Vancouver, British Columbia, and holds an MA in Anthropology and a BA in Indigenous Studies, both obtained at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Prior to starting graduate studies, Wilson was a Curatorial Intern at UBC’s Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery (2017-2018), where he contributed to the exhibition Beginning with the Seventies: Collective Acts (2018). Wilson’s current research examines the politics of Indigenous language revitalization, the legacies of anthropological collecting, the practices of collecting institutions, as well as questions concerning Indigenous sovereignty and settler colonialism. His curatorial practice often involves considering the forms of relationships contemporary Indigenous peoples maintain with their ancestral art, material culture, and immaterial heritage currently held by colonial institutions, and the potential of Indigenous art in the public realm. This work is informed by desires for structural change in institutions with regard to Indigenous representation and engagement, as well as a commitment to the well-being of his home community. Wilson was a co-curator of c̓əsnaʔəm, the city before the city (2015), an exhibition developed collaboratively with Musqueam; and the long-term exhibition In a Different Light: Reflecting on Northwest Coast Art (2017) at the UBC Museum of Anthropology. His writing has appeared in Inuit Art Quarterly, The Capilano Review, Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly, and Museum Worlds. He is also a writer and co-editor of the forthcoming book Where the Power Is: Indigenous Perspectives on Northwest Coast Art (Fall 2021).

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