Hannah Claus's "interlacings"


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Hannah Claus's "interlacings"

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“interlacings,” a looped projected animation, features a red-bordered octagon centred within a black space. Inside the border, concentric rings rotate in different directions, resembling a kaleidoscope as each ring slowly transforms from one pattern to another. The unmoving red octagon frames the animation with intricate Victorian designs accented with white and orange details. While some of the images included here and the video of the piece that is accessible online may look like a decontextualized digital mandala, the work originally existed as an installation. In the gallery, “interlacings” was projected onto the gallery floor and surrounded by a bed of pine needles that dried out over time, alluding to fading memories of the local landscape.

Initially, the projection looks uniformly Victorian, bringing to mind the types of designs popularized by William Morris, but as the inner rings shift and patterns morph out from the darkness, they highlight edible plants and flowers native to the Secwepemc territory (Kamloops, BC). For example, the outer ring spins rosehips, root vegetables, and raspberry bushes into bloom, while an inner ring includes roses and berries. These subtle transitions make it seem as though the piece itself is breathing, with greenery expanding out through an inhale and contracting in again through an exhale, but always remaining bound by the confines of the border.

“interlacings” was originally created for the exhibition “Custom Made,” curated by Tania Willard at the Kamloops Art Gallery, and was made specifically for the Secwepemc territory on which the gallery is located. The imagery included in the decorative patterns is based on local vegetation commonly used in traditional cooking. By situating the piece in relation to its surrounding landscape, Prof. Claus acknowledges the territory and nations present in the area while also inviting the gallery’s visitors to acknowledge and connect with the territory and its nations. At the same time, the William Morris Co. carpet that provides the octagonal frame for the piece draws inspiration from elements that were indigenous to Britain, so the overall design of the patterns in “interlacings” brings together these two different territories. For Prof. Claus, the piece responds to two aspects of her own identity: her Kanien'kehá: ka heritage and her English heritage.

When viewers confront this immersive piece, the juxtaposition of the shifting rings of Indigenous food sources within an immovable Victorian border brings to mind the omnipresent and repressive nature of colonial influences on Indigenous ways of life. “interlacings” thus proposes both a personal exploration of Prof. Claus’s identity and a critique of colonial rule. It has potential to engage viewers in the complicated relationship between Indigenous and colonial experiences, moving them to consider how this relationship continues to shape individuals’ identities and surroundings in the present.

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Hannah Claus

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