Exhibition

Powerful Glow

November 26th, 2022 – April 9th, 2023

Mike MacDonald, Touched by the Tears of a Butterfly, digital video, seven rocking chairs, air ionizer, silk scrim, 1995. Installation at Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, 2022. Documentation by Darryn Doull. Courtesy of the Estate of Mike MacDonald.

Join us at the Winter Exhibitions Opening on November 26, 2022, 1-4pm.

If we think of land and waterways as readable with a range that is fluid and ever changing, living and legible, then we can see how one’s understanding of land grows over long periods of time.

Gathered around the medicine and butterfly artworks by the late Mi’kmaw artist Mike MacDonald, this exhibition brings together artists whose works are rooted in and stem from specific plant and land vocabularies that reflect place-based knowledge and nuanced perspectives of medicine.

MacDonald was a documentarian and media artist who also created garden artworks. Through documenting medicine plants for Elders in Gitxsan territory, MacDonald came to consider flora and butterflies as his teachers. Over several years, he planted more than twenty garden artworks across the land known as Canada. Through these plantings he developed a detailed vocabulary of medicinal plants, butterflies, and their diverse ecologies. Medicine takes material form through plants and food, but this exhibition invites you to imagine medicine as care and teaching; as continuance and memory; as mentorship and learning; and to consider that medicine can manifest as courage to defend land and resistance against ongoing colonial state violence.

The conversations exchanged among these artworks create a powerful glow made possible through a commitment to reciprocity, remediation and remembering. Reciprocity evokes the acts of offering and then doing, where remediation contends with the context at hand and is about being from and for. Remembering, whether through one’s body or material archives, can be painful, nourishing, interpretive and reflective ways to access ancestral knowledge.

Reciprocity, remediation, remembering – fluid, ever changing, living.

Looking Back

Rooting into Mike MacDonald’s work with butterflies, butterfly gardens and the passionate defence of the environment that inspired his life’s work, we invite you to explore this archived version of the artist’s website. This site was recognized with the Aboriginal Achievement Award for New Media in 2000, alongside MacDonald’s essay “Indians in Cyberspace.” Engage materials about plants, butterflies and some of the work featured in Powerful Glow.