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Stephen Foster: Remediating Curtis—Imagining Indigeneity

Explore the legacy of Stephen Foster's work on popular images of Indianness in our culture.

Get your 3D glasses on and step into an interactive installation 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 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.

Read more in the exhibition brochure.

About the Artist

Stephen Foster is a video and electronic media artist of mixed Haida and European background. His work frequently deals with issues of indigenous representation in popular culture through personal narrative. In 2009, he was nominated for Best New Media Project at the imagineNative Film + Media Arts Festival for his interactive DVD video project titled The Prince George Métis Elders’ Documentary Project. Foster is an Associate Professor in the Creative Studies Department and Director of the Summer Institute for Interdisciplinary Indigenous Graduate Studies at the University of British Columbia−Okanagan. He is also the coordinator of the CanWest Global Centre for Artists’ Video and instructs courses dedicated to video production, digital media, and visual and cultural theory.

Curator: Brian Foreman
Origin of Exhibition: Surrey Art Gallery

Image credit: Stephen Foster, Portrait of a Sioux Scout (2013), inkjet print for backlit light box, 22”x18”, image courtesy of the artist.