Unpacking the Female Indigenous Body: Opening Remarks and Performances

Apr 23, 2010



Grand Luxe Hall, Western Front


7:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.


Unpacking the Indigenous Female Body was a symposium and performance event moderated by Dana Claxton as part of her fellowship as the Ruth Wynn Woodward Endowed Chair at Simon Fraser University. Focusing on creative celebration and critical investigation, the program explored how the Indigenous female body has been represented in both historical and contemporary media.

The first evening of the symposium took place in the Grand Luxe Hall, and opened with remarks from Catherine Murrary, chair of the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University, followed by an introduction to the keynote performances by Claxton. The event featured new works by Skeena Reece and Lori Blondeau developed in response to Claxton’s research on the representation of Lakota Sioux women in the film trilogy A Man Called Horse (1970). 

In Becoming (2010), artist Francisco-Fernando Granasto stood silently onstage in his undergarments next to a nude feminine mannequin. Over the course of the thirty-minute performance, Skeena Reece applied gold spray-paint to his skin and gradually dressed him in a black collared dress shirt, a white silk tunic, a black wig, and beaded regalia. She then dressed herself in a patterned dress and a back balaclava before disassembling the mannequin—a gesture that signalled the end of the performance. Throughout the work, footage from a video camera positioned at stage left was projected on the wall behind Reece, providing the audience with an additional view of her gestures. 

Following a short intermission, Lori Blondeau and Clark Ferguson performed Unpacking the White Man (2010). The twenty-minute piece began with a short video showing Blondeau in a mini dress and red stilettos, and Ferguson in nothing but a pair of socks and white briefs, chasing each other across a prairie field. The cinematic universe of the video extended from the screen into physical space as Blondeau entered the stage dragging Ferguson in a blanket bound in rope. Various stone materials for starting fire and crushing berries were laid out across the front of the stage; actions Ferguson performed while tethered to a leash Bloneau punitively tugged to assert authority. Through silent gestures, Blondeau instructed Ferguson to cross the audience to deliver a CD to the sound technician. To close the performance, Blondeau freed Ferguson from his leash to perform a waltz to “The Black Hills of South Dakota” by Dorris Day, a song featured on the soundtrack to the western musical Calamity Jane (1953). 

The performances were followed by a reception in the Grand Luxe Hall.

Presented in partnership with the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University. 

Video documentation of this event is available upon request.

Related People

Western Front is a non-profit
artist-run centre in Vancouver.

We acknowledge the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations as traditional owners of the land upon which Western Front stands.