Settlerless art:  Daria Sleiman, ‘A Little Give and Take: What Garneau’s Paintings Give When They Take, and Other Stories From Future Past’, International Journal of Canadian Studies, 59, 2021 


Abstract: This article examines the possibilities related to conciliation that are closed, and those that might be opened, through Métis contemporary visual artist David Garneau’s paintings, Aboriginal Curatorial Collective Meeting and Aboriginal Advisory Circle Meeting. I argue that Garneau’s explicit and manifest exclusion of settlers and the colonial gaze on his paintings is also, at the same time and in actuality, a form of invitation into something else. To do this, I first briefly explore how thinkers have problematized settlers’ recognition of Indigenous knowledge, ways of knowing, and art. I then pose the question of what ought to be the normative limits around settlers’ access to Indigenous knowledge and spaces, using Garneau’s own written work about his paintings. I then bring several scholars into conversation around why certain spaces should remain exclusive, some or all of the time, to Indigenous peoples. Finally, I conclude by explaining how the existence of these spaces—and the communication of their existence—is a necessary and otherwise impossible step in the conciliation process. Indeed, I propose in this paper that to experience and confront our own limits to comprehension, as settlers, is a gift; that by creating and sharing his paintings with settlers, Garneau simultaneously reveals settlers’ exclusion from Indigenous spaces to ourselves and invites us into new imaginary spaces of conciliation—ones that are actually possible, because not predicated on an ongoing colonial system of power distribution, but instead on uncertainty, a condition of continued and active relatedness.

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