Aidekman Arts Center / Medford
September 8, 2020 - March 2021
A video installation and series of letterpress takeaways, Ecologies of Acknowledgment by artists Sarah Kanouse and Nicholas Brown explores the question of how to write a land acknowledgment that goes beyond recognizing Native territory to accept the relationships and responsibilities that come with living on occupied land. With a focus on Deer Island in the Boston Harbor, the works explore eco-political relationships connecting past, present and future. Organized by Abigail Satinsky.
Sarah Kanouse and Nicholas Brown Ecologies of Acknowledgment
HD essay film, 9 minutes, 53 seconds
sound mix: Jacob Ross
Land acknowledgments, verbal or written statements that name the prior and/or current Indigenous occupants of the land on which an event is convened or institution resides, are increasingly utilized by cultural institutions and universities. Ecologies of Acknowledgment asks what it means to go beyond recognition and to accept the relationships and responsibilities that come with living on occupied land. This video and companion letterpress print focus on the land-use histories of Deer Island in the Boston Harbor. In the 17th century, Deer Island was a site of forced Indian removal and incarceration, comparable to a concentration camp, where 500–1,000 people suffered dire conditions. It is now the site of Boston’s wastewater treatment plant. In the video essay, three interviewed women of Nipmuc, Massachusett, and Natick Nipmuc origin, who chose to not identify themselves individually in order to highlight the collective experience of their peoples, speak on moving away from the commodification of land and people to thinking of ourselves as part of a larger whole. The accompanying print, a land acknowledgment of Massachusett territory, which Tufts University Art Galleries occupies, poses questions directly to viewers, guiding them in recognizing Indigenous claims to this territory and has been annotated by the venues in which it has been exhibited to specifically address those contexts.
Sarah Kanouse is an interdisciplinary artist and critical writer examining the politics of landscape and space, and Nicholas Brown is a writer and researcher examining the production of cultural landscapes in settler colonial contexts, focusing on how space and time are partitioned in ways that impose limitations on Indigenous political life. Frequent collaborators, they created this project for the exhibition Local Ecologies at the University Hall Gallery at UMass Boston, which commissioned the work.