World-builders, shapeshifters

November 18th, 2023 – April 7th, 2024

Installation of World-builders, shapeshifters at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, 2023. Photo by Toni Hafkenscheid.

Dreaming of the worlds we want to live in allows us to take the first steps towards creating them. How can we use what we know today to collectively envision a better world for tomorrow? When you imagine the future, what do you hope to change about the past?

World-builders, shapeshifters is a group exhibition that invites us to gather, dream, and speak about love, grief, and togetherness. It braids together six early and mid-career Indigenous artists making speculative work about where they’ve been to better understand where, together, we can go. Exploring themes of decolonial love, joy, kinship, and abundance, the exhibition uses Indigenous Futurism as a device to imagine and believe into being, a world where everyone’s sovereignty is respected, our success is shared, and our flourishing is mutual.

Alex Jacobs-Blum is a Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ (Cayuga) and German visual lens-based artist and curator. Her research focuses on Indigenous futures and accessing embodied Ancestral Hodinöhsö:ni’ knowledge. The core of her practice and methodology is a strong foundation in community building, fostering relationships, empowering youth, and Indigenizing institutional spaces. Her creative process is rooted in cyclical storytelling and challenging hierarchical power structures. Jacobs-Blum endeavours to facilitate transformative change infused with love and care, guided by anti-oppressive and anti-racist modalities.

Jacobs-Blum received a Bachelor of Photography at Sheridan College in 2015, where she was awarded the Canon Award of Excellence for Narrative Photography. Her work has been exhibited at the University of Ottawa, Centre[3] for Artistic + Social Practice, the Woodland Cultural Centre, and Critical Distance Centre for Curators.

Kat Brown Akootchook is a Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe visual artist and educator belonging to the Oneida Nation of the Thames, Bear Clan. She is a multidisciplinary beadworker and creator known for her printmaking and design. She blends contemporary & traditional elements with a sense of humour and a heart for activism. She often uses her art to call attention to Indigenous rights movements and youth education.

Kat currently splits her time between Southern California and her homelands of Southern Ontario. She is most known for her “Land Back” design, which she created at the Native Action for Mauna Kea, and can be seen on t-shirts across Turtle Island. Her beadwork and designs are used for authentic contemporary Native representation on television and by musicians.

One of her biggest goals is to be that auntie who helps and breaks down the gatekeeping that can sometimes prevent Native people from accessing traditions which have been forcibly taken from us – reclaiming our land, ways, and expression is an honour and a joy.

Kay Nadjiwon is a two-spirit/non-binary Anishinaabe lens-based artist working in Treaty 13. They are currently completing their BFA in Photography at Toronto Metropolitan University and are an MFA candidate. Their artistic practice focuses on issues of identity, memory, trauma and belonging. Nadjiwon uses archival materials, alternative processes and interdisciplinary methods to situate feelings of grief as a site for social connection. Their practice includes photography, video, collage and installation.

Natalie King is a queer interdisciplinary Anishinaabe (Algonquin) artist, facilitator and member of Timiskaming First Nation. King’s arts practice ranges from video, painting, sculpture and installation as well as community engagement, curation and arts administration. King is currently a Programming Coordinator at Xpace Cultural Centre in Tkaronto.

Often involving portrayals of queer femmes, King’s works are about embracing the ambiguity and multiplicities of identity within the Anishinaabe queer femme experience(s). King’s practice operates from a firmly critical, anti-colonial, non-oppressive, and future-bound perspective, reclaiming the realities of lived liv es through frameworks of desire and survivance.

King’s recent exhibitions include Come and Get Your Love at Arsenal Contemporary, Toronto (2022), Proud Joy at Nuit Blanche Toronto (2022), Bursting with Love at Harbourfront Centre (2021) PAGEANT curated by Ryan Rice at Centre[3] in Hamilton (2021), and (Re)membering and (Re)imagining: the Joyous Star Peoples of Turtle Island at Hearth Garage (2021). King has extensive mural making practice that includes a permanent mural currently on at the Art Gallery of Burlington. King holds a BFA in Drawing and Painting from OCAD University (2018). King is currently GalleryTPW’s 2023 Curatorial Research Fellow.

Nishina Shapwaykeesic-Loft is Kanien’kehá:ka from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. She is a 2S queer, multi-disciplinary artist in a wide spectrum of mediums. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts with Honours from York University in Theatre Production and Design.

She works in the theatre industry with a specialization in costuming. She is a mural artist working with StART as a project coordinator and an indigenous advisor. She is the Associate Programmer for the Toronto Queer Film Festival and has worked in programming for imagineNATIVE Media + Arts Festival. She continues to grow within her field and explore new opportunities.

Sheri Osden Nault is an artist, community worker, and Assistant Professor in Studio Arts at the University of Western Ontario. Their work spans mediums including sculpture, performance, installation, and more; integrating cultural, social, and experimental creative processes. Their work considers embodied connections between human and non-human beings, land-based relationships, and kinship sensibilities as an Indigenous Futurist framework. Methodologically, they prioritize tactile ways of knowing, and learning from more than human kin. Their research is grounded in their experiences as Michif, nêhiyaw, and Two-Spirit, and engages with decolonizing methodologies, queer theory, ecological theory, and intersectional and Indigenous feminisms. They are a member of the Indigenous tattoo revival movement in so-called Canada, and run the annual community project, Gifts for Two-Spirit Youth.

Recent notable exhibitions include bringing to light what came from inside, as part of the Images Festival, Toronto; BEHOLD|EN, at the Art Gallery of Alberta, Kwaatanihtowwakiw – A Hard Birth, at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, 2022; Hononga at Hoea! Gallery in Aotearoa (New Zealand), 2021; Where the Shoreline Meets the Water, the ArQuives, Toronto, 2020; Off-Centre at the Dunlop Art Gallery, 2019; and Li Salay at the Art Gallery of Alberta, 2018.

Installation of World-builders, shapeshifters at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, 2023. Photo by Toni Hafkenscheid.

This exhibition is presented with support from the Maada’ookii Committee, Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation, the Downie & Wenjack Foundation and Hudson Bay Foundation through Oshki Wuppowane: The Blanket Fund, and the Government of Ontario through the Tourism Relief Fund.