August 28 - September 26, 2009
Ted Hiebert is a Canadian visual artist and theorist, and a founding member of the Noxious Sector Arts Collective. His artworks have been shown across Canada in public galleries and artist-run centers, and in group exhibitions internationally. Recent collaborative projects have included Electronic Shamanism (InterAccess Electronic Arts, 2009) The World Telekinesis Competition (The Ministry of Casual Living, 2009; Deluge Contemporary Art, 2008) and Dowsing for Failure (Open Space Arts Society, 2007). Hiebert’s theoretical writings have appeared in The Psychoanalytic Review, Technoetic Arts, Performance Research and CTheory, as well as in numerous catalogs and exhibition monographs. Hiebert has just completed a Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship at the Pacific Centre for Technology and Culture at the University of Victoria. He currently (2009) lives in Seattle, Washington.
Jackson 2bears is a Kanien’kehaka (Mohawk) multimedia artist based in Victoria, BC. He has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions across Canada, including EMMEDIA, Calgary; the Vancouver Art Gallery; Interaccess, Toronto; SAW Gallery, Ottawa; The North American Indigenous Games, Cowichan; The New Gallery, Calgary; and internationally in festivals and group exhibitions such as Digital Art Weeks, Zürich, Switzerland. 2bears is currently (2009) a PhD candidate at the University of Victoria.
by Jackson 2bears
A number of years ago I found myself on a peaceful drive along a desolate stretch of highway just outside my hometown. It was a warm fall evening and the sun was slowly setting on the horizon when I happened across the carcass of a wolf lying by the side of the road.
For some reason I was strangely compelled to stop, reaching for my camera as I exited my vehicle. I approached the body with caution, it being visually absent of trauma appeared to be sleeping, at any moment ready to leap at me and enact its revenge. In the moment I remembered my Grandmother’s apprehension of having her picture taken when I was growing up, something I had always chalked up to superstition. Yet, as I stood there I couldn’t erase from my mind that old saying about the photograph's natural ability to steal souls... I found myself unable to snap a single shot.
In my culture we have many stories about Shapeshifters, unique individuals who possessed the ability to voluntarily transform themselves into different animals. To the Navajo people they were called Skin-Walkers, the difference being they came into their power only through being cursed. As legend has it, Skin-Walkers used the pelts of animals to enable their transformation, and had the added ability to steal human ‘skins’ and possess the bodies of the living.
Shapeshifting is akin to what Deleuze and Guattari call becoming-animal1 , where an individual comes to share a co-existing psychic identity with another species. Becomings are about the metamorphosis of the self into something less differentiated and are, as they say, always doubled: as the human becomes-animal the animal simultaneously becomes... something else.
Yet the kinds of becomings we find in Deleuze and Guattari’s writings always occur between living entities, which is not the case in Ted Hiebert’s photographs. Instead of what they call a ‘line of flight’, in Hiebert’s work we have a becoming-specter with the spirit of the wolf, which invokes the mythology of the Skin-Walker in what the artist calls a ‘death-masked’ performance. In this sense Hiebert’s images are about conjuration, where the other side of becoming involves the undead spirit of the wolf ‘stealing’ a human skin, and possessing the body of the artist -- this being the curse of the Skin-Walker.
The difference between my wolf encounter and Hiebert’s images is that in my case it was about the objectification of my subject, the photographic violation of the dead body of the wolf on the side of the highway. Hiebert’s images involve a different kind of relationship and instead become about spirit-invocation, the conjuration and resurrection of the wolf under the sign of hauntological-[UN]becoming. Hiebert’s works do not steal the soul of the work but instead gesture an offering of ‘living’ flesh, which is what we see here, where photographic self-representation is rendered through the spectral order of animal-phantomality.
1 Delueze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. University of Minnesota Press; Minneapolis, London. (p.232-310)