Digital print on plasticore
collection of the artist, courtesy of the artist and the Equinox gallery.
Curatorial statement by: Neal E. Nolan.
Coke – Salish, featured here, embodies an expansive identity of Aboriginal culture, the term Coast Salish itself applying to a variety of Nations; encompassing the Georgia Basin and Puget Sound including British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon.
Evidence of established Coast Salish settlements were discovered at Xa:ytem (Hatzic Rock) near Mission BC, dating back as early as 9,000–8,000 BCE. A historical legacy to this land’s past is definitely owned by it’s indigenous people and is embodied in the message.
Though all world history holds a narrative of warring over land, the work pays as much attention to the agitated struggle for recognition as it does to a harmonious resolve within a peaceful gesture.
The piece’s strength lies in its inclusiveness, reflecting an entire territory of peoples, at the same time illustrating the contentious history often glossed over by the commercialization and consumption of culture. The term appropriated into iconic corporate signage acknowledges the original image’s connection to a duality of nostalgia connected to a land divided by assimilation and sharing two individual sets of heritage.
As much of our more contemporary cultural identity has been largely connected to corporations and marketing, Sonny presents a reverse appropriation of culture. In this way the concept itself, in the utilization of the appropriated corporate identity, reverses its notion, draws parallels, and reminds us of our past and yet still remains inclusive to all cultures in suggesting the continued enjoyment of the land.
Born in 1975, Interdisciplinary artist Sonny Assu is Laich-kwil-tach (Kwakwaka’wakw) of the Wei Wai Kai First Nation. Graduating from the Emily Carr University in 2002, his work has challenged borders in contemporary Native Art and expanded boundaries previously considered impassable within aboriginal culture.