On Being Illiberal

works by Carl Beam, Merritt Johnson and Fallon Simard
Prefix Gallery, Toronto
October 4 - November 24, 2018

Reception: October 19, 8-10pm

Despite the public perception of improved Indigenous/state relations - most often contained, referred to, and promoted in terms such as reconciliation, as well as economic and social partnership and consultation - Indigenous people continue to live and work under conditions contained by the normative and acceptable standards and definitions of Western society. The territorial sovereignty claimed by settler nations is facilitated by ideas drawn from Western liberal thought, within which Indigenous re/claiming of lands through acts of political presence grounded in an ancestral knowledge of rights and responsibilities to the land, and either related on a nation-to-nation basis or superseding settler nations relationships to territory, are rendered illiberal. In other words, Indigenous people are often perceived as "bad liberals," incapable of managing the conditions of modern life and calling into question the freedoms and equality of so-called "everyday citizens."

This exhibition problematizes these conditions by orienting audiences towards an understanding of the ways in which perceptions of Indigenous political knowledge have been constructed along historical lines that are deeply influenced by relations of power. Artists included in this exhibition contribute to this conversation, through the illustration and denaturalization of systems of colonial thought that continue to inflect upon Indigenous peoples' expressions of political agency in the present. They accomplish this through the use of photo- and digital- media through which they imagine new modes of engagement and expressions of political agency. Their works identify and challenge the above conditions, while offering solutions for creating more just forms of co-existence that are based within Indigenous thought.