A Canadian city has pulled a public art project over concerns that a pair of towering bronze statues could be seen as pro-colonialism — the opposite of the intended meaning of the work, according to the artist.
The work, which cost C$375,000 (US$285,000), consisted of two large bronze figures who were supposed to stand at either end of a pedestrian bridge in Edmonton. On the one hand, a 13-foot-tall bison had to stare above the water. At the other end, a colonial fur trader, measuring 11.5 feet, was sitting atop a pile of bison skins.
But 12 years after it was started – and six years after it was completedAnd the The Alberta capital announced last week that it would suspend plans to display the sculptures on the shelves.
“While some audiences may find the artwork thought-provoking, it may cause harm to others and lead to painful memories. For this reason, it is not considered inclusive of all Edmonton residents,” the city said in a press release.
The artist responsible for the sculptures, Ken Lum, said that after waiting years to see his sculptures exposed, he was shocked by the decision.
This has implications, both for artistic expression and the authoritarian way in which this decision is made. You can never have a complete consensus on anything. Is this enough to refuse to publish a work or promote a work to the public space? “
Lumm, chair of the department of fine arts at the University of Pennsylvania’s Stuart Weitzman School of Design, said the merchant’s statue was upright. on a famous photo Picture a similar scene shortly before the collapse of the bison population.
In the mid to late 19th century, colonial settlers were hunting the plains bison, which had once been an abundant food for indigenous communities, on the verge of extinction. The pursuit was motivated by profit and the broader political end of subjugation of the indigenous communities.
“For the people crossing the bridge, I wanted them to experience palpable tension with the turbulent gaze from one to the other,” Lom said.
“I don’t really see how a photograph based on a notorious photograph, taken at the height of the Buffalo Massacre, can be interpreted as confirmation of colonialism. Neither the city nor the Arts Council has ever explained this to me. It would be nice and polite of them,” said Lum.
A city spokesperson cited a better understanding of “historic grievances over indigenous peoples” as a factor in the decision, which came as Canada continues to grapple with the dark legacy of colonialism.
blame, which is part of scam laba US-based nonprofit that studies how to tell history in the public landscape, said he met with senior Aboriginal people throughout the process and consulted communities.
But Lewis Cardinal, a member of Wicihitowin Talking Circle who has advised the City of Edmonton and the Edmonton Arts Council, said the bison was not an appropriate symbol of the area’s past. The cardinal said that beaver skins – not bison – were the main driver of the region’s economy.
“If you’re going to consult Aboriginal people, you really have to listen,” he told CTV News.
The city’s position sparked a larger dialogue about public art, history, and meaning. As Edmonton pulls the plug on Loom’s work, a statue of Winston Churchill is set to be erected in Calgary.
“Anything that is placed in a public place will have a range of responses, based on literacy, and many other factors,” Lom said. “But I think art should be a challenge. That challenge includes asking the audience to actually invest in trying to interpret the work and invest in trying to read the work.
“it’s a shame [the city] I chose to frame it in a certain way, because I believe the dialogue that would have followed my work would have been very useful and fruitful for everyone.”