Stephen Foster

Images of ‘Indianness’ explored in Surrey exhibit

Stephen Foster to give free talk Saturday at the Surrey Art Gallery.

Get your 3D glasses on and step into an interactive installation at the Surrey Art Gallery where early 20th century ethnography meets 21st century technology.

In Remediating Curtis: Imagining Indigeneity, Stephen Foster explores the legacy of the film and photographic work of ethnographer Edward S. Curtis – famous for his depictions of First Nations in the early 1900s – and his influence on popular images of “Indianness” in contemporary culture.

Remediating Curtis: Remix works like a video mash-up where scenes from Curtis’s 1914 silent film In the Land of the Head Hunters are combined with selections of recent and past Hollywood films. The central image in the video is an animated reconstruction of the original set and characters in the Curtis film. The audience controls (remixes) the sound and video elements through their various movements tracked by motion sensors.

Keep your 3D glasses on for Foster’s photographic series, Toy Portraits, also on view. These large-scale, backlit inkjet prints for light boxes document toy Indian figurines in the pictorialist style of Curtis’s portraits. They also specifically connect Curtis’s images with current representations of indigeneity in tourist shops, children’s toys, and blockbuster films.

Foster’s work gives audiences an immersive experience common in the film industry’s obsession with 3D movies like Avatar, while also adding a kind of nostalgia for 50s cinematic pop culture. Additionally, it invites the viewer to question why this romantic construction of the “imaginary Indian” remains so resilient in the 21st century.

Remediating Curtis: Imagining Indigeneity launches April 11 with an opening reception from 7:30-9:30 p.m. At 6:30 p.m., Foster will give an artist talk about this exhibit and how it fits within the context of his work and upcoming projects. Admission to the opening reception and tour is free. The exhibition continues to June 14.

The Surrey Art Gallery is located at 13750 88 Ave. Phone 604-501-5566 or check www.surrey.ca/artgallery for more information.