Vanessa Dion Fletcher’s artistic practice includes the use of porcupine quills and her own body in performance to examine issues related to Indigenous language revitalization, feminist Indigenous corporeality, land as pedagogy, decolonization, and neurodiversity. She is one of JHI’s Artists-in-Residence for 2020-21.
Vanessa’s work confronts the ways that Indigeneity, the queer and gendered body, and disability are rendered expendable. For Vanessa, quills are evocative of Land, where porcupine becomes teacher and/or co-learner. As a practice of honouring Land, quill work is about reciprocity and relations between human and more-than humans where language is sentient and felt, not merely coded and transcribed.
Vanessa shares why she wanted to be a JHI Artist-in-Residence and what she's working on, including her online series, Quill Conversations.
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The JHI Artist-in-Residence program is a fantastic opportunity to work among a group of thinkers to learn from their knowledge and experience. I am excited to be able to engage theoretically and artistically. I'll be spending part of my residency making new work which is always an exciting time.
I want to broaden my theoretical and conceptual influence and bring them into my artwork. I have started new work that uses quillwork and drywall. I've been wanting to make this work for a long time and this residency is providing the space to finally do it.
This week, I have the opportunity to speak with three amazing artists (Julia Rose Sutherland, Jean Marshall, and Dyani White Hawk) who use quills or quillwork. Working on the collectives' theme, I wanted to reach out to other artists and have some conversation within the medium of quillwork. There aren’t many discussions or writing about contemporary quillwork; I am happy to be able to build that collective knowledge and hope that it can continue after this residency.
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Vanessa’s Quill Conversations continue Wednesday, October 28 and Friday, October 30 and the talks are open to everyone. Co-presented by the OISE Indigenous Educational Research Centre and the Jackman Humanities Institute.