UNCEDED Voices of the Land

Simon Brault at the
2018 Venice Biennale in Architecture

May 24, 2018
Photo: Mustard Shop

Simon Brault
Speaking notes
2018 Venice Biennale in Architecture
May 25, 2018

I am delighted to be here with you today. The Canada Council for the Arts has supported Canada's representation at the Venice Biennale for many years, but this year it has doubled its investment to $500,000. This increased financial support is part of our strategic commitment to enhance the international profile of Canadian art and artists. I am particularly pleased that the Canada Council not only supported the remarkable exhibition UNCEDED: Voices of the Land, but also went well beyond its usual role as a funding agency in this adventure.

First representation led by Indigenous peoples

And yet my feelings about this first official Indigenous-led architecture representation at the Venetian Arsenal are somewhat divided because, while I salute this accomplishment, I feel it is important to admit that Indigenous leadership should have been reflected in our presence in Venice long ago. For many years, I have travelled through the land called Canada and I have met important Indigenous leaders in the arts community. I therefore feel confident that today is only the first of many future representations to be led by Indigenous people. I would like to thank Douglas Cardinal, David Fortin and Gerald McMaster for having paved the way for future generations. In fact, I couldn’t agree more with the curators for the 16th International Architecture Exhibition at the Biennale who, in speaking of the theme of FREESPACE, concluded with this Greek proverb: “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

The human, the built, the land

UNCEDED, orchestrated by curator and internationally renowned architect Douglas Cardinal, with the support of Elder Patrick Stewart and in collaboration with writer and professor Gerald McMaster and architect David Fortin, showcases the vision and accomplishments of many Indigenous architects and designers from Canada and the United States. The project puts forward a vision of the world that is timeless and resilient.

At the core of their exploratory work is the idea of being human. More specifically, the co-curators remind us that our built environments and the land on which they are erected are not without history or meaning. UNCEDED is a call for openness, and for understanding the traditions and stories of what these lands have experienced. UNCEDED is also a call to recognize the inextricable ties between these lands and the identity, culture and destiny of First Peoples, and indeed of all human beings alive today.

The project is remarkably inclusive. The Canada Council for the Arts hopes to stimulate dialogues that promote a society that is more just, more inclusive and more innovative, and I am certain that this exhibition will contribute to this end.

A common future: Turtle Island

At the Canada Council, we have committed to investing in the renewal of relations between Indigenous artists, and between Indigenous and non-Indigenous audiences, to work towards the emergence of a common future – and to accomplish this in a way that respects and promotes the artistic expression and cultural protocols of the Indigenous world, as well as Indigenous rights, traditions and visions. I agree with Gerald McMaster, who said that the Turtle Island Pavilion will contribute to restoring an experience without borders.

Art and culture have an incredible capacity for provoking, connecting and reconciling people – and can often eliminate distances between individuals and peoples. The Venice Architecture Biennale is a place where individuals, peoples and some of the greatest contemporary architects can meet. UNCEDED is not only a gathering place, but also a truly moving and captivating experience.

The Canada Council for the Arts is honoured to be the commissioner for this historic project, which we are certain will give rise to much-needed conversations about the rights of Indigenous peoples.

Portrait - Simon Brault 2014
Simon Brault, O.C, O.Q.

Director and CEO

Simon Brault is the Director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts. Author of No Culture, No Future, a collection of essays on the rise of arts and culture on public agendas, he has participated actively in initiatives such as the Agenda 21C de la culture au Québec. An initiator of Journées de la culture, he was also a founding member and chair of Culture Montréal from 2002 to 2014. In 2015, he received the Quebec CPA Order’s prestigious Outstanding Achievement Award for bringing together “two worlds that were once disparate – the arts and business – an alliance that significantly benefits society at large.” Follow Simon Brault on Twitter: @simon_brault

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