BRANTFORD – The much anticipated launch of the three-day exhibition of the Mush Hole Project took place over the past weekend from September 16 to 18, bringing in more than 500 people to view the masterpiece of displays by 35 artists that encompassed the grounds of the former Mohawk Institute.
Much like the title, the project did its best to shed light upon the impacts of residential schools as well as formulate a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission using non-Native and Native artist performances and site-specific artwork.
Dubbed “the back bone duo” of the project; Project Co-ordinators Sorouja Moll and Andrew Houston agreed that this project is one of the most immersive.
“Our work in a way is responding to what we found in terms of the building, but also what the norms are in interacting with this space,” said Houston. “So, we’ve created what we call a cycle that’s four simultaneous tours that engage with four areas: the outside, the basement, the first floor and the second floor. And so, four tours happen at one time and begin in four different locations,” he said.
Houston explained that tour guests would take about 30 minutes in each location, so the overall tour would last for an estimated two hours. He further mentioned that the tour size had to be expanded since the project has been “quite popular.”
But it isn’t just about being popular, as Moll explained that many or the survivors of residential schools are showing “true courage.”
“Particularly we have many people who are from inter-generational survivors or they are inter-generational survivors, and that is very immersive for them,” said Moll. “So, they’re going on their own individual journeys, which are risky and dangerous, but at the same time they are working towards something. And this is the process of healing,” she said.
“I think too, just the idea of being immersive, it’s not only for the audience to experience this space that we generated, but also for the artists it is really immersive. Not only do they have to delve into the space and the historical context, but also their own context, their own connection,” she said.
Their efforts brought forth more than 30 artists, one of which is the Artistic Director of the Woodland Cultural Centre, Naomi Johnson, who “paved the way” for visitors with spray chalk.
“Normally I don’t get to be an artist,” said Johnson with a laugh. “So, for me this is really great to be able to create again.”
Her piece will cover the driveway into the grounds and will iterate the Thanksgiving Address in Mohawk with purple and white chalk to resemble the two row wampum belt.
“The reason I chose Mohawk is because I am Mohawk and this is the Mohawk Institute,” she said. “Even though there are many different languages that were lost in this place, I am choosing Mohawk because that’s the one that I don’t have.”
“I think a lot of people in our communities struggle with that, you know, they don’t have their language. It hurts not to have your language, so for me, I wanted to do this in chalk — which is a material that would have been at this school. Also, it’s something that isn’t going to be permanent, so it’s gonna erode over time kind of like how our languages have eroded over time,” she explained, and mentioned that upon completion, she has been promised that her work will have an overhead photo taken with a drone.
The event was well received by many that attended, and hopes for future tours like this one have been requested.