Geronimo Inutiq’s alter ego, madeskimo, is known in Montreal for his array of experimental practices at the DJ table, so it makes sense that his first new media installation would compile a body of material almost as vast as the great north that his piece is centered around.
Sourcing audio from Glenn Gould’s 1967 CBC radio documentary, The Idea of North, in which an anthropologist, a sociologist, a nurse, and a surveyor discuss the harsh realities that residents of Canada’s northernmost communities are subjected to, Inutiq blends the nearly 50-year-old monologues with audio and video footage from the Isuma Archive, the country’s first media distribution company specializing in Inuit and Aboriginal films, which contributed part of its collection to the National Gallery of Canada. Material from his personal archive is also used throughout the piece.
Upon entering the gallery space, digitally altered imagery is projected onto three walls, with the central wall being the most prominent. Sounds and voiceovers from The Idea of North play through speakers as viewers are drawn to the gallery's back room, where more images and video clips are shown on an embedded television.
“The challenge was to be able to reference the work of Glenn Gould and to do it in a creative way where both of the works are being respected,” said Inutiq in a telephone interview earlier this week.
Inutiq’s unique approach and background drew the interest of curators Yasmin Nurming-Por and Britt Gallpen, who then submitted the installation to grunt gallery, where the piece is now on display.
Inutiq says that in exhibiting ARCTICNOISE, he seeks to start a conversation among viewers about national identity. Born in Iqaluit to an Inuit mother and a French-Canadian father, Inutiq knows that "being Canadian" can’t be contained to just a few different titles.
“If we speak in terms of Canadian identity, I’m French-Canadian, I’m Anglophone, I speak French just as well as I do English, but Inuktitut was my first language,” he said, referencing his own diverse background.
His artistic sensibilities were informed by witnessing the work of his parents as a child. His mother spent many years working as a broadcaster for CBC’s Arctic news segment in Montreal and Iqaluit, and his father, a professional artist by trade, lived in Quebec City, and is responsible for exposing Inutiq to digital music production.
Beyond exploring identity, Inutiq is at first hesitant to admit that the piece is also a reflection on the state of politics in Canada’s North.
The 15-minute installation video begins with audio excerpts from The Idea of North during which “pretentious, high society people share their ideas of the Eskimos”. The audio is layered over video of a young woman being raped, and then being comforted by an elder.
“I don’t want to be the one that talks about politics, but the context is there, and I can’t pretend it isn’t,” said Inutiq. “The discussion is always about identity and politics. It’s always going to inform what I do. That context is what I like to be able to use an instrument.”
For Inutiq, ARCTICNOISE is the beginning of a much larger process, and in the future, he says the evocative piece will expand to take on new forms.
His hope is that, through support like the Mobilizing Inuit Cultural Heritage grant, a project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council which artistic advisor Anna Hudson received to help Inutiq create the installation, other young Inuit artists will be able to explore their identities through art and new media as well.
“I started young, and it’s important to promote culture and creativity at a young age to get the tools early, so that when we’re forming our identity, we have those tools available to us.”
ARCTICNOISE will be on display as part of the International Symposium for Electronic Art (ISEA2015) at grunt gallery until August 22. Inutiq will also perform as madeskimo during the Vancouver Art Gallery’s FUSE event on Saturday (August 15) at 8 p.m, and he’ll be part of a panel discussion next Wednesday (August 19).
For full event details, check out grunt gallery’s website.