The Canadian Art Database


The Winnipeg Effect: Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

The Winnipeg Art Gallery, November 3-5, 2016


The Winnipeg Effect (those from here, who left or stayed)


Noam Gonick Moderator

Now, rather than discussing the educational or economic migrations of artists, which I suspect we'll hear much about this weekend… these topics bring to my mind the original inhabitants of this place — those from here, who left (a form of exile, if you will( and the newcomers who came and stayed. And I hope I won't be the only person to speak to this interpretation.

Because it's a recurring theme that keeps the Red River clay bed beneath us churning, revealing clues to the Winnipeg Effect. It's a term that's still undefined — but here's a proposal…

Janet Browning and Roger Jordan of York University wrote on the launch of the Liberal government's Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women that: “Canada's ruling elite is alarmed by growing signs of social opposition among the Native population, especially young people.”

Carmen Robertson's Mythologizing Norval Morrisseau (recently published by UofM Press) frames the role that local media play in disciplining and policing this discourse. Reading Carmen's book I thought about those few times we came between those who were told to leave and those who came here to stay with our work.

I thought of the film Stryker, depicting those from here, namely the Indian Posse, as avenging youth rioting against those who came. Using teenage arson to settle the score of wrongs done to ancestors and repeated to this day. The effect of putting this work out there, was interesting — 10 years later it's a North End classic and in the collection of MoMA but to read about it in the Free Press at the time — the project was dead on arrival. No other subject area I've looked at generates this type of response.

I also saw this Winnipeg Effect if you will in my brief practice as a curator, with an essay I wrote for Maison Rouge about Karel Funk's paintings of anonymous boys in hoodies, wherein I again conjured imagery of restless young gangsters roaming the streets of Winnipeg. This forbidden naming triggered indignation and moral panic from the same sectors. Several years later in a review of Funk's solo show here at the WAG, to garner popular outrage, my essay was dredged up, misrepresented and deemed “best-forgotten” by a local critic, who then went on to reprint a spicy passage at length.

In our supposed era of Reconciliation, this conference's discourse about leaving, arriving and returning is timely. Let us pull back the curtain of decorum and consider that The Winnipeg Effect may refer to the difficult process we're all a part of, wherein a once-banished people come home again.

And without further adieu I would like to introduce our first panelist, Suzanne Gillies.