The Performance as Protest: Exhibition Tour with Elizabeth Diggon

The Performance as Protest: Exhibition Tour with Elizabeth Diggon at the Esker Foundation opened the conversation about performance and performative gestures in art as a form of protest.


Diggon is an author and used to work at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. She is the current Assistant Curator at the Esker Foundation, working directly with multiple artists.


Indigenous art as protest

Jeffrey Gibson, one of the artists who had artwork on display at the Esker Foundation event on Oct. 25, uses his platform to bring awareness to his Indigenous background.


“He grew up feeling kind of divorced from his Indigenous family and his Indigenous identity,” said Diggon.


Because Gibson grew up in a military family, he spent his childhood all around the world.


“When he returned to America as an adult, he felt quite ‘other’ as an indigenous queer man, which was sort of a disorienting experience for him,” said Diggon.

Gibson’s work expressed every aspect of that.


Diggons recited a quote by Hélène Cixous, a professor, poet, playwright, and philosopher. She said Cixous summed up Gibson’s approach to garmentsin a perfect way.


“Garments, not clothes. Their intention is not to cover or hide, but to make manifest the riches of the body, its treasure of signifiers.


“Like actors’ costumes, they are a visual speech, a confided secret or a confession of desires and fears.


“These fine outfits do not veil. They exalt, they celebrate, they translate feelings into jewels.”


Reactions to the tour

A member of the tour asked Diggon if the show had received different reactions in the cities it has been hosted in, and if audiences in different parts of Canada would see the relationship of Gibson’s art to the missing Indigenous women.


“The show has been received differently in different cities,” said Diggon.


“It’s important to see these kinds of collaborations.”


“This obviously has a very religious viewpoint,” said Dee Harper, an art fanatic who has attended multiple art exhibitions at the Esker Foundation.


Harper finds it problematic that there were no explanations with the artwork. The viewers must make up their own minds and interpret their own thoughts. 


She found these unanswered questions while looking at the artists’ work made her critique it further.


Erika Pablo, who was a part of the exhibition tour with her friend, a textile student, found it educational and enlightening.

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