There is a cultural change happening in the Canadian north. It's happening now.
This piece focuses on the West Baffin Cooperative in Cape Dorset, Nunavut. Produced
in 2010, it covers the change in the art being produced today vs. the 'traditional'
material produced in the last half of the 20th century. This 'edgy' art includes
representations of what the artists see today (e.g., helicopters). While this
troubles southern collectors who are continuing to increase demand for the
'traditional' representations, they are living in the past. The reality is that
the intervention of the south into the north, including the very act of setting up
the West Baffin Cooperative, is what has inevitably led to the cultural shift which
is represented by the 'edgy' modern art pieces.
This conflict of representing the traditional vs. the influence of southern culture and
technology is far from new. Artistic representations of the uneasy interplay of the different
cultures dates back at least as far as 1978 in Pudlo Pudlat's Modern Life and the Old Way.
It also arises in Etidlooie Etidlooie's 1981 piece Aircraft Becoming Sea Animals.
In fact, the cultural change lamented in the documentary likely dates back to the
actual establishment of the co-ops themselves, which provided non-traditional media
for the Inuit (e.g., screenprinting) to actually serve as the art forms.
Art reflects life. We should not lament the changes in the art, but instead the
losses of values that the changes in the art represents. I wonder what the future of
Inuit life, and the art that reflects it, will look like. I expect it will embrace the
digital age, but perhaps keep some grounding in traditional values. Whatever form it
takes, I don't expect it's future is etched in stone.
Darryl McMahon, RESTCo