UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Wrapped in wool and copper : encountering Musqueam art at Vancouver's Granville at 70th development project Ariss, Alison


Musqueam artworks are not an unusual sight in Vancouver: wool weavings and carved sculptures welcome visitors to major public institutions throughout the city. The recent cəsna?əm: City Before the City exhibitions that opened in January 2015 drew attention to the ongoing work of Musqueam people in maintaining their territory, language, and cultural practices in the face of colonial settlement and urban expansion. At Granville at 70th, an urban development project completed in 2014, Musqueam weavings and sculptures are set into an architectural environment that is wrapped in copper cladding, a material signified by the developers as one highly valued by Indigenous peoples. The project specifically references copper belongings in an ancient ancestor burial, from the nearby cəsna?əm village. However, copper is not a material considered especially valuable by Musqueam people, although it is central in ceremonial, social and political practices of some First Nations whose territories lie further north on the Pacific Coast. What then, is activated in this intersection of art, cultural practices, urban development and daily life in Vancouver? This thesis aims to provide a critical analysis of the art installation and urban redevelopment project, where the purposefully associated ideas about materials, place and “Indianness” make instances of misrecognition visible. The concept of recognition presented in Glen Coulthard’s Red Skin, White Masks contextualizes the analysis of the complex structures of colonialism enacted in this location. Alfred Gell’s “nexus of intentionalities,” is set into dialogue with Coulthard to address how the social agency indexed by the copper and the Musqueam artworks are subject to misrecognition. Informed through these aforementioned ideas, a reading that risks a renewal of the hierarchization of Coast Salish art within the historic construct of Northwest Coast Native art is presented, simultaneous to one that risks the hegemonization of Indigeneity through “Indianness.” However, through the words of the Musqueam artists, the agency of the artworks is legible as “everyday decolonization,” within a nexus that affirms the Musqueam people’s presence and continuity. This thesis will address how and by whom and through what means the project’s envisioned “sense of place” is informed and constructed.

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