With this dual-channel video installation, artist Thirza Cuthand pulls from her own familial history to connect two separate incidents which occurred over 100 years and 6,000 km apart. A story about the artist’s great-great-grandfather being doctored with bear medicine is juxtaposed with that of a Scottish woman who was executed for purportedly practising witchcraft. Correlations are drawn between the Christian colonial violence which sought to repress traditional Cree medicine and that which burned women at the stake.
Cuthand’s approach with Medicine and Magic is more subtle in comparison to much of her previous work and can be seen as a departure in some ways. Most noticeably in the absence of the artist’s own voice and image which is often featured in the form of voice-over essay or direct address monologue. This shift in tone does not take away from Cuthand’s keen ability to effectively impart her thesis with clarity and emotional vulnerability. In fact, the breathing room afforded to the viewer in Medicine and Magic with its slower pace allows for the work to wash over before sinking in, contributing to an almost meditative quality that is a new direction for Cuthand.
Funded through the Ontario Arts Council, Medicine And Magic is an imagineNATIVE initiative highlighting the practice of the 20+ year career of Thirza Cuthand curated by Ariel Smith. Over five months, Thirza and Ariel connected, sharing conversations about Thirza’s practice and the new work being developed. As a result, Thirza created the new media work, Medicine and Magic. Ariel composed a creative essay and curated the retrospective film program, Less Lethal Fetishes. This initiative was launched at the iN2020 Festival. The exhibition of Medicine And Magic was translated onto the iNdigital Space from the Bachir/Yarex Presentation Space due to safety concerns with COVID-19 and retrospective program Less Lethal Fetishes screened on October 22, 2020, on the imagineNATIVE online platform.
The familiar razor-sharp wit and DIY diarist aesthetic abound in this selection drawn from Thirza Cuthand’s prolific video art practice. Released over the past 20 years, the featured works present Cuthand’s voice and body prominently as both subject and object while taking up with and scrutinizing themes of queer Indigenous identity, madness, kink, and colonialism.
Any organizations interested in the retrospective program Less Lethal Fetishes please contact Artistic Director, niki@imagineNATIVE.org.
Named after a medical term for the inability to experience pleasure as a symptom of depression, Anhedonia marks the beginning of Cuthand’s long term and ongoing exploration of her own mental illness within her work. Performative and corporal, Anhedonia is an unapologetic first-person testimony on the experience of suicidal ideation and the effect of homophobia and colonialism on mental health.
In Just Dandy Cuthand recalls her own 2001 film Helpless Maiden Makes An I Statement by revisiting the latent eroticism and kink undertones of the “wicked queen” archetype found within fairytales. She tells us of a love affair gone awry and makes use of an effective tongue-in-cheek allegory of invasive European plant species in this hilarious and sexually graphic critique of settler colonialism.
Naked and raw in body and thought, Cuthand delivers a monologue drawing connections between gas mask fetishes, breath play, the ethics of exhibiting as an artist, and environmental racism in Canada.
Shot on super 8 and making use of cameraless animation techniques Cuthand juxtapose’s personal experience with migraine triggered vision impairment and mental illness with the story of a relative’s self-induced blindness. A sensitive and movingly vulnerable elucidation on the relationship between mental health and disability.
Blood, earth, and the filmmaker's own body serve as powerful visual metaphors in this deeply personal contemplation on mixed-race identity and anti-Indigenous racism. An emotional essay on both the privilege and pain of passing as white while Indigenous.
Medicine And Magic, presented by imagineNATIVE, with support from Ontario Arts Council and Vtape.