Soundings: Greg Staats

Posted on February 17, 2021

Greg Staats
Do’-Gah – I Don’t Know [Shrugging Shoulders], 2020
Archival canvas matte print, oil, earth and indian tobacco ash, edition 1 of 3
Collection of the artist

“If the hodinosho:ni perception of monument relies on the good mind, and if our values are realized in the daily acknowledging behaviour of Thanksgiving Address, which places our minds bodies and footsteps in creation, countervailing the diverse effects of trauma, can this process itself be seen as monument?

Land is the hodinosho:ni monument for where we place our feet. Earth is where we remember. To sustain the integrity of my good mind and cultural safety when dealing with trans communal relations, it is imperative that I remain hyper vigilant that misinformation is assimilation. Our ways are dependent on the ability to express our values in relation to the Land and its truth. It is with this in mind that I created Do’-gah, a multi layered response and relational strategy brought forward from my on reserve lived experience.

Do’-gah – I don’t know [shrugging shoulders], is a performative gestural mnemonic work whose source comes from my grade school Mohawk lessons and experiential perceptions within my community. The viewer is requested to perform all 60 phrases with and without the gestured shrugging. Carrying many levels of meaning, the work speaks to a systemic forgetting, lateral violence and trauma.” 


  1. I do know but I refuse to tell you, just for today.


  2. I need to remind you, that you can’t know everything


  3. I don’t know, and because you asked me and expect a detailed answer, I feel shame and anger at once for the irony of the colonial systemic deficits and for your extractive expectation of presumed knowledge.


  4. I don’t know, and I refuse to find out for you.


  5. I’ve heard you, and will think about it. Time and reflection for considered response of what I shall tell you on my own time and to ensure cultural safety.


  6. I do know and I need to tell you the protocols of our relations moving forward.


  7. I don’t know – my language.


The above is a written transcription of Greg Staats’s piece, Do’-Gah – I Don’t Know [Shrugging Shoulders]. This work was performed on September 8, 2020 by Lorna Brown in her role as the Belkin’s Associate Director/Curator. What follows is video and photographic documentation of this performance.

Photos: Rachel Topham Photography
Video: Aya Garcia

Lorna Brown Recites Greg Staat’s Do’-Gah – I Don’t Know [Shrugging Shoulders], 2020
3 minutes, 43 seconds

Greg Staats, Do’-gah – I don’t know [shrugging shoulders], 2020.
Photo: Rachel Topham Photography

Lorna Brown performing Greg Staats’s Do’-gah – I don’t know [shrugging shoulders], 2020 on September 8, 2020. Photo: Rachel Topham Photography

Greg Staats, Do’-gah – I don’t know [shrugging shoulders] (detail), 2020.
Photo: Rachel Topham Photography

Soundings: An Exhibition in Five Parts is a traveling exhibition curated by Candice Hopkins and Dylan Robinson, and organized by Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s University, Canada and Independent Curators International (ICI). The exhibition and tour are made possible, in part, with the generous support from ICI’s International Forum and the ICI Board of Trustees. Additional support has been provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Canada Council for the Arts’ New Chapter Program, the Isabel and Alfred Bader Fund of Bader Philanthropies, the Ontario Arts Council, the City of Kingston Arts Fund through the Kingston Arts Council, and the George Taylor Richardson Memorial Fund at Queen’s University.


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