History shall speak for itself

Caroline Monnet

Caroline Monnet uses cinema, painting, sculpture, and installation to communicate complex ideas around Indigenous identity and bicultural living through the examination of cultural histories. The Montreal-based multidisciplinary artist is deeply engaged with experimentation and invention, and combines the vocabulary of popular and traditional visual cultures with the tropes of modernist abstraction to speak to the intricate limbo of Indigenous peoples today.

Monnet’s dynamic large-scale mural, History shall speak for itself (2018), commissioned for the street-level windows of the TIFF Bell Lightbox, presents a collaged chronology of Indigenous female representation in filmmaking. Focusing on two ends of the spectrum, she interweaves archival film stills sourced from the National Film Board of Canada with a contemporary group portrait of Indigenous women working in the film industry. The black-and-white archival images typify traditional, Western methods of documenting Indigenous women involved in their various domestic tasks, disengaged from the camera. The contemporary image, by contrast, features a group of women looking directly at the lens, outfitted in Indigenous attire influenced by European aesthetics, and posed against a stark white background as if in a fashion shoot. The models include documentary filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin, Quebecois actress Dominique Pétin, costume designer Swaneige Bertrand, film student Catherine Boivin, as well as the artist and her sister.

Monnet physically brings together these two very different methods of representation by interweaving strips of images in order to emphasize the idea of layering information while suggesting a kind of timeline. They recall analogue film strips that have been cut and collaged back together to make a movie. As a whole, Monnet’s mural highlights the emerging sense of power and self-determination that is bringing Indigenous women to the forefront of mainstream discussions in Canadian society. By presenting this image in such a prominent public space at larger-than-life scale, Monnet invites viewers to consider who these women are and why they demand to be seen and heard, echoing a right that has far too long been overlooked.

Presented in partnership with TIFF

Curated by Bonnie Rubenstein