About Sovereignty Performance

Interview with Jordan Bennett

Can you please introduce yourself? Where you are from?

My name is Jordan Bennett, I am a Visual Artist of Mi’kmaq and french descent and I am from a small town called Stephenville Crossing in Western Newfoundland.

When creating a new piece, which materials do you gravitate towards and why?

Usually when I create a piece I never limit myself to materials, usually when I have an idea of what I want to do I allow the material to do the talking. That being said I have used everything from Moose antler to Acrylic paint, and any media from performance to video installation!

Who or what inspires you the most?

Inspiration comes to me from many places. Usually it comes from talking with friends, fellow artists, skateboarding, and taking part in my Aboriginal community. A lot of my inspiration also comes from being current with issues in and around popular culture, and political issues around Aboriginal Culture.

Can you tell us what motivated or inspired this piece?

This piece came about when I felt there was a need to promote Aboriginal Sovereignty Week here in Newfoundland. It was around the time that many people of aboriginal decent in the area were applying for the “Qalipu First Nations Band”. I wanted to make a point to the people of the area by writing out the rights and rules involved with becoming part of the “Status Indian” agreement that they were about to sign. Corner Brook and western Newfoundland do not get a whole lot of exposure to issues faced by indigenous Canadians, especially in the form of Performance Art so I thought it was a great way to get an important point across to my fellow Newfoundlanders, and in particular my fellow Mi’kmaq people.

What would you like viewers to take away from viewing ‘Sovereignty Performance’?

I would like people to take away some knowledge about Aboriginal Rights, the rules and the reason we have that day. It is very important that Canadians realize that the rules that were originally put in place were obviously not explained to or understood by the people who had signed the agreement. I as an educated individual, and at the time in 2009 had a hard time keeping track of what I was reading and writing, as it all blended together sentence after sentence and page after page.

For ‘Sovereignty Performance’, why did you choose to do a performance? As you were re-inscribing the words of the Indian Act on the TeePee, what was the public reception like?

The reason I chose to do the piece as a performance was to actually put a physical presence out here in our small City, and to challenge the public. I wanted people to walk by, ask questions and even take part. The public reception was very positive in person! There were a large number of people that came by, hung out and even took part. I was even interviewed and was the front page story in“The Western Star” a local newspaper that covers all the news of Western Newfoundland, this is where the public reception changed some. There were a mass amount of comments on the Newspapers website, most being negative and ignorant. The comments flooded for a solid week, each person either understanding, fighting with each other about what it meant, or simply wanting to voice their inappropriate comments about issues that were not even remotely related. In the end it was great to have input, be it negative, positive, or completely off topic, it was nice to people in the community speaking their minds.

Jordan Bennett Artist Statement

Jordan Bennett is a multi-disciplinary visual artist of Mi’kmaq decent who calls the west coast of Newfoundland home. His work is derived from a combination of popular and traditional cultural reflections, which he portrays through his passion for and knowledge of pop culture, traditional craft, and his own cultural practices. He has recently developed an affinity for language, mainly directed towards learning his ancestors’ native tongue of Mi’kmaq. Through the processes of sculpture, digital media, text based media, installation, painting, endurance performance and various others, he strives to push boundaries and play with the ideas of re-appropriation, reclamation, participation and the artifact within traditional aboriginal craft, ceremony, and contemporary culture.

In May/June 2010, Jordan participated in an artist residency at Manitoba’s major alternative space, Plug In ICA, in Winnipeg and was accepted to a thematic residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts—Towards Language, led by visual artist, Greg Staats. Jordan’s work has been featured in a variety of publications including the world wide published Skateboard/Lifestyle magazine COLOR.

Over the past few years Jordan has had the honour to meet various artists that have influenced him in the past, and has keep contact and even collaborated with a number of them. In 2009 he had the opportunity to participate in the recreation of Rebecca Belmore’s performance “Speaking to their Mothers” and last fall, Jordan put his skills with film and photography to good use when he acted as film and photography assistant to internationally renowned native artist, Brian Jungen. The film documented Jungen’s and Duanye Linklater’s trip to Northern Ontario to hunt. He will be joining Jungen and Linklater again this upcoming summer to assist in this project in Northern British Columbia.

Jordan has been the recipient of several awards and honors including: being selected for the National Artist Program at the Canada Winter Games in Whitehorse, Yukon, in 2007; winning the Memorial University Medallion for Academic Excellence in Visual Arts; being selected for a work-study position at The Walter Phillips Gallery at the Banff Centre for the Arts; receiving the RBC Youth Excellence Scholarship to attend a visual arts residency at Banff Centre for the Arts; and in 2009 receiving both a Canada Council Travel grant and a Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council Project Grant.