Duane Linklater: they have piled the stone / as they promised / without syrup

This exhibition of new work by Duane Linklater (Omaskêko Cree) explores the architecture of the Bishop Fauquier Memorial Chapel in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, a small Gothic and Tudor style sandstone chapel built in 1881. The chapel is the last remaining original structure on the site of the former Shingwauk Residential School for boys. It was built by hand, in part, by the children who were forced to attend residential school there.

A google map image of the rear outside façade of the chapel was used as a primary source for this new project. Linklater broke this image into nine parts which were then printed onto linen and sewn together and stretched. Further delineating the image with charcoal, cochineal, tea and other dyes, Linklater’s process-driven manner points at the labour of the children who lived and worked there. The linen panels are accompanied by a new installation of porcupine quills that sit directly in the gallery walls, and a media work titled primaryuse, made by Linklater in collaboration with his partner and three children, as they engage in cultural activities on land in northern Ontario. The score for this film which was shot on 8mm film was composed by eagles with eyes closed, a sound project by Tobi Linklater and Duane Linklater.

“On July 1, 1881 Bishop Fauquier outlined the perimeter of where the external walls were to be built. The male students then placed stones along the perimeter as a pledge of their assistance in the construction of the chapel. The students also contributed in other ways. Three-quarters of the student population went without their ration of syrup during Lent, so that they could contribute 10 cents a week to the chapel fund.”(source)

The exhibition title, they have piled the stone / as they promised / without syrup derives from the above anecdote that reveals the contrived and deceitful circumstances within which the children laboured. In recent decades, the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association have been committed to the restoration of the true intent and spirit of the residential school’s namesake, Chief Shingwaukonse, whose vision was one of cross-cultural education and learning—a vision that was quickly lost due to the supremacies of colonization. Today the Alumni Association is committed to the reinterpretation of the site as a place for healing and reconciliation—a concept Linklater celebrates as a mark of Indigenous sovereignty, reflected in his consistent creation of projects that focus on sharing, healing and learning.

“The experience of visiting this site many years ago and in particular this small chapel, had a lasting and profound affect on me, as many of my family members were forcibly sent to other residential schools in northern Ontario. … At the Shingwauk Residential Schools center [that now exists there], I learned that the chapel was built by Indigenous children who were forced to attend Shingwauk. This ironic and bitter piece of information has stayed with me until now.” – Duane Linklater, artist’s statement

Duane Linklater (Omaskêko Cree, b. 1976, Treaty 9 territory, Canada) lives and works in North Bay, Ontario. Linklater earned a BFA in fine art and Native studies from the University of Alberta in 2005 and an MFA in film and video from the Milton Avery Graduate School of Arts at Bard College in 2012.

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