Krista Belle Stewart

Syilx (Okanagan), based in Berlin, Germany

This audio-driven video is a new instalment of Potato Gardens Band, a body of work based on the recording of Krista Belle Stewart’s great-grandmother, Terese Kaitmeko, singing in the Syilx language. The songs were recorded circa 1915–1918 on wax cylinder by the Scotland-born Canadian-based ethnographer James Alexander Teit. On June 30, 2018, Stewart invited her family members to gather outside on their homeland near the Douglas Lake, to hear the digital version of the anthropological recordings amplified through two PA speakers.

The work on view here is the audiovisual recording of this sonic reunion. The image was shot on a mobile phone on top of the hill, where there was enough signal to connect to the Internet, and the sound was transmitted from the bottom to the top of the hill through three walkie-talkies and a microphone. In this work, Stewart re-contextualizes Kaitmeko’s original vocal recording and distances it from the gallery listeners in order to counteract anthropological use, transmission and appropriation of Indigenous knowledge. By withdrawing and withholding the content of the recording from the public space of the gallery, she reclaims control over her great-grandmother’s voice within and outside the Syilx territory.

In this site-specific wall painting, Untitled (2019), Krista Belle Stewart uses the earth of her family land, the upper Nicola band of the Syilx nation (near the Douglas Lake within British Columbia, Canada) as a pigment. Since 2010, Stewart has travelled everywhere with a bucket of this arid material, and has incorporated it into many of her installations and performances. Stewart considers her land’s soil as the oldest archive of all, a site where multiple historical traces are held and which may be recalled. The brushing and spreading of this material on the wall of the museum is therefore treated as an act of translation and mediation. Through this gesture the artist transmits her experience as a member of an Indigenous community living in North America, a complex reality that is often ignored and misunderstood in Canada and abroad. In this temporary occupation of the site at Bonniers Konsthall, she also re-establishes and reimagines the dialogue between her community and the Western world.

Image: Krista Belle Stewart, installation view Bonniers Konsthall, The World Is Gone, I Must Carry You, 2020