August 5 to August 31, 2020
(During regular opening hours of the museum)
Admission is free on Wednesday nights, from 5 – 9 pm with access to the permanent exhibition Wearing Our Identity – The First Peoples Collection
Jason Edward Lewis : The World That Surrounds You Wants Your Death
McCord Museum, Atrium, main floor.

Contemporary Native Art Biennial (BACA), 5th edition
Kahwatsiretátie : Teionkwariwaienna Tekariwaiennawahkòntie
Honoring kinship
Curated by David Garneau (Métis), with the assistance of rudi aker (Wolastoqiyik) and Faye Mullen.

Well-wrought words and carefully-crafted code form the basis of Lewis’ creative practice. Poetry is an intimate medium. It draws you in close, and whispers to you. You have to pay attention to the details, think through text and subtext, and feel your way through the words. It is these qualities that Lewis seeks to reproduce — visually, actively and computationally — in interactive media. Lewis’ abiding interest is in language, how it is constructed, used, abused and transcended as its structure is stretched into new shapes. The two Biennale works, The World That Surrounds You Wants Your Death and Smooth Second Bastard, engage questions on how we talk to one another, how we locate ourselves in wider cultural geographies, and how we authenticate ourselves against our own expectations and that of our Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

The World That Surrounds You Wants Your Death begins with words by the Laguna Pueblo poet Paula Gunn Allen: [W]hen you’ve gone through five hundred years of genocidal experiences, when you know that the other world that surrounds you wants your death and that’s all it wants, you get bitter. And you don’t get over it. It starts getting passed on almost genetically. It makes for wit, for incredible wit. But under the wit there is a bite.

The poem combines Allen’s words with two original texts from Lewis. The brown text, which moves upward when the reader drags their finger across the screen, is a poem written about Lewis’ struggles explaining to his young sons how the culture in which they find themselves has tried, systematically, to kill their ancestors; how that culture continues to treat Indigenous people as a nuisance and an anachronism that it wishes would just die and disappear; and how there are people that might hate them (the boys) and want to do them harm simply because of the color of their skin.

Jason Edward Lewis is a digital media poet, artist, and software designer. He founded Obx Laboratory for Experimental Media, where he directs research/creation projects exploring computation as a creative and cultural material. Lewis is deeply committed to developing intriguing new forms of expression by working on conceptual, critical, creative, and technical levels simultaneously. He co-directs Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace and the Initiative for Indigenous Futures, is co-founder of the Indigenous Protocol and Artificial Intelligence Working Group and holds the University Research Chair in Computational Media and the Indigenous Future Imaginary at Concordia University. Born and raised in northern California, Lewis is Cherokee, Hawaiian and Samoan. Lewis’ creative and production work has been recognized with the inaugural Robert Coover Award for Best Work of Electronic Literature, two Prix Ars Electronica Honorable Mentions, several imagineNATIVE Best New Media awards and six solo exhibitions. His research interests include emergent media theory and history, and methodologies for conducting art-led technology research.

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