Next Year’s Country exhibit at the Remai Modern sheds light on settler life
- Julia Peterson | February 13, 2020
Saskatoon gallery ‘Remai Modern’ is hosting a new exhibition dedicated to artistic examinations of place, belonging and history on the Prairies. The title of the exhibition, ‘Next Year’s Country,’ is a specific reference to Saskatchewan’s settler history, drawing attention to the stories that are often emphasized and ignored in dominant narratives.
“The expression originates from [settlers’] experiences of learning to live and farm on what they considered to be a land of promise, even though neither success nor survival could be assured,” said curator Sandra Fraser. “The common refrain ‘next year things will be better’ conveys both a tireless optimism and a struggle to belong.”
“Such an attitude has shaped the province’s political, social, economic and cultural activities. However, it fails to address the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities and the displacement and assimilation associated with settlement.”
The first piece in the exhibition is Wally Dion’s Steel Star, a stainless steel sculpture that references a traditional star blanket. Dion says his intention for this work was to hold up a literal and figurative mirror to everyone who looks at it.”
“What I really started saying with this piece is that Saskatchewan is a beautiful place – it’s where I was born and raised and I love it there,” he said. “But perhaps, to maintain beauty, sometimes a person needs to come up to a mirror.
“Society needs to have some kind of reflective surface. And the steel star is reflective. … And in some ways, when you look at yourself in it as an Indigenous person, you can see this hard, rigid shape. It has razor-sharp edges. It looks like we’ve become very protective, kind of hardened.”
Fraser hopes that the works in this exhibition and the whole installation’s larger narratives about colonization, settler history and Indigenous lives will serve as a call to action for visitors to the gallery.
“My loftiest goal would be for visitors to take those moments of connection or familiarity to open themselves up to the works that might be more challenging or confusing,” she said. “Take some time, use your empathy to make new connections.
“Persistence doesn’t just happen. If you are working towards making a better world (or even a better you), you are doing the right thing.”
‘Next Year’s Country’ features works by over 30 artists including George Hardy, Ann Newdigate and Lorne Beug. It will run until October 2020.