Terrance Houle’s wryly subversive show GIVN’R opens this fall at AGYU

The Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) is “GIVN’R” this fall with an exhibition of works by Calgary-based interdisciplinary media artist Terrance Houle.

Called GIVN’R, this touring show opens Sept. 15 at the AGYU and continues to Dec. 5. It first appeared at Winnipeg’s Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art in the spring of 2009. GIVN’R – prairie slang for working and playing hard – features photos and short films in which Houle, of Blackfoot and Ojibwa heritage, explores – and wryly subverts – Hollywood stereotypes, cultural identity, alienation and assimilation.

Left: Terrance Houle’s Trails End End Trails

For instance, in his Urban Indian photographs from 2004, Houle, dressed in powwow regalia, is pictured going through the motions of daily urban life – leaving the house, kissing his family goodbye, lunching at a diner, grocery shopping, riding the bus and taking a bath.

For this particular show, Houle created an installation inspired by his father’s experiences growing up on the Sandy Bay reservation in Manitoba, attending residential school and travelling abroad with the Canadian Armed Forces, documented in his weekly letters to his Ojibwa mother. The work speaks of home, connections, place and time.

The show also features Landscape, a video that depicts barefoot, bespectacled Houle in red loincloth and feather headdress, leaping across a meadow, falling down and being kicked by a little girl dressed as a cowgirl and riding a stick pony.

Houle’s artwork has been shown in North America, Europe and Australia. His short videos and films have won Best Experimental Film at Toronto’s 2004 ImagineNATIVE Film Festival and been screened at the 2006 Native American Film Festival at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City. In 2006, Houle received the Enbridge Emerging Artist Award in Calgary.

Houle has been to York before. As a promotion for his upcoming exhibition, the AGYU invited him to teach a one-hour workshop on Indian leg wrestling in July (see YFile, July 5).

He travels throughout Canada and the United States to participate in powwow dancing and other native ceremonies. He lives and works in Calgary, where he volunteers as an Aboriginal youth mentor.

The AGYU and Plug In have co-produced a catalogue of GIVN’R. The first publication on the work of Houle, it includes essays by Emelie Chhangur, AGYU assistant director/curator; Richard Hill, Aboriginal arts professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts; and Anthony Kiendl, Plug In director and the curator of GIVN’R.

For more information, visit the AGYU Web site or contact Suzanne Carte-Blanchenot, AGYU assistant curator, at 416-736-5169 or scarte@yorku.ca.