Haida manga creator and activist artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas is featured in a new book from UBC Press.

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Doing Evil: Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, The Art and Seriousness of the Game, by Nicola Levell.
Doing Harm: Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, The Art and Seriousness of the Game, by Nicola Levell. Photo by UBC Press /PNG

Mischief Making: Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, the art and seriousness of the game

Nicola Levell (UBC Press)

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$ 29.95 | 168 pages

Art and activism have always been closely linked, especially in the work of contemporary Indigenous artists.

From reflecting on the countless horrors engendered by the assimilation policies of colonization to the rise of revitalization, rights and reconciliation underway today, Indigenous artists play a key role in righting wrongs. of the past and preparation for the future. Naturally, this means that new traditions are created by artists seeking to reflect the continuing evolution of their national cultures as they confront the past and move forward.

One of those creative forces is Haida multimedia scholar Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas. The creator of the ingenious hybrid known as manga Haida, which mixes topical Asian comic illustration with traditional storytelling and design, is at the forefront of the First Nations response to the global intercultural dialogue that is currently taking place in many countries.

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As Japanese scholar Nobuhiro Kishigami notes in Mischief Making by Professor Nicola Levell, author and museum of visual anthropology at the University of British Columbia, Yahgulanaas’ art “addresses the collective memory of historical colonization; conflict; war; social, economic and cultural disparities; development of industrial resources, identity and climate change.

Bringing in many examples of the artist’s multimedia creations, Levell’s text addresses the concept that hybridity in art can lead to new ways of seeing the world and what can be done to make it a better place. . It is both an interesting read and a visual treat to watch.

By documenting Yahgulanaas’ journey from the environmental leader of the 1970s during the Haida struggle for sovereignty to the staging ‘interventions’ by disruptors in exhibition spaces such as the Museum of Anthropology, where his brass Hood contemporaries made from discarded car hoods have garnered much public attention, Mischief Making manages to deeply examine his art both from an academic and personal perspective. What emerges is a portrait of the artist’s career, incorporating the intergenerational “joking relationship” that one finds in his society in works of great importance and not a little humor.

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Preferring to attach the term hybridization to his work because it allows for a fluidity between the traditional and the modern that is much less limiting than modern / postmodern, Yahgulanaas has developed a form that Levell notes can “challenge the idea that the art can be categorized and confined by national discourses, histories and boundaries. His work manages to sidestep the easily applied denominations of the “western / non-western” classification, as well as dismantle the elements of colonial systemic supremacy inherent in applied category constructs such as “native” or “ethnic” art.

The artist frequently notes the ways in which today’s Canada tries to sell itself internationally on the “cultural currency” of Indigenous art and societies while failing to resolve the outstanding issues of the relationship. between them and existing government structures. Her job is to reject singular cultural exclusivity as interpreted and reinforced from first contact, noting “…

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From his many Haida manga books to large-scale installations or designing costumes and sets for cross-cultural performance pieces, Yahgulanaas’s work is meticulously analyzed by Levell to expose deeper levels of motivation in the work of the artist. one of the most inventive contemporary Indigenous artists. work in today’s world.

The Levell’s Mischief Making book launch will take place on November 30 at 6 p.m. at Massey Arts Gallery, 23 East Pender St. The event is free, but registration is required at eventbrite.ca. Copies of the book can be purchased or ordered at massybooks.com.

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