Fragmenting the psyche

Contradiction and duality explored in unSacred exhibition

  • “unSacred” by Scott Benesiinaabandan, digital print on canvas under resin. – Scott Benesiinaabandan

  • “unSacred” by Scott Benesiinaabandan, digital print on canvas under resin. – Scott Benesiinaabandan

  • “unSacred” by Scott Benesiinaabandan, digital print on canvas under resin. – Scott Benesiinaabandan

Contradiction, irony and duality are often notable themes in today’s postmodern world.

We sometimes find ourselves questioning the way the world around us works, trying to rethink our understanding of concepts and presumptions.

The figure of the Wendigokaan, a “contrary” or “sacred clown” in Anishinaabe cosmology, is central to these ideas of contradiction and duality.

The contrary in aboriginal mythology is a figure that expresses the contradictions within a society, often by doing the opposite of what others say, almost like a western jester.

In defying cultural norms, the Wendigokaan at the same time manages to affirm these norms.

This is central to Scott Benesiinaabandan’s newest exhibition, unSacred, on display in Gallery C103 at the University of Winnipeg.

Benesiinaabandan is an alumnus of the University of Winnipeg, where he studied psychology of religion. For four years, he worked at the Urban Shaman gallery, while collaborating with other artists on the side.

UnSacred is his first solo show. It includes recent digital images and a single channel video installation.

I’ve always been fascinated by contrariness

Scott Benesiinaabandan, artist

Benesiinaabandan found himself unable to refuse such a fascinating figure as the Wendigokaan.

“I’ve always been fascinated by contrariness,” he said.

This is the central theme, and logic would dictate it would influence the way in which the art was presented. Benesiinaabandan agrees.

“It deals with the fragmentation of the psyche,” he said.

This is clear, looking at a sample of the work.

The sample consists of several panels superimposed onto an image of the full ceremonial Wenkigokaan garb, put together to form a full image. This is easy to tie to the idea of fragmentation previously mentioned.

The exhibition explores the idea of the sacred, and what constitutes the sacred.

In exploring the “unsacred,” Scott effectively addresses the same issues as the classic Wendigokaan, in a manner that contemporary audiences can understand.

unSacred is on display in Gallery 1C03 at the University of Winnipeg until Saturday, Feb. 19.

Published in Volume 65, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 20, 2011)

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