An artwork by Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory features a gauzy black dress, a caribou antler and a glowing red heart.
Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, Sarfaliuut (Generator), 2021, silk, caribou antler, bowhead vertebra, electricity. Courtesy of the artist.

Artist creates dance through stationary object

For the exhibition Atautchikun | wâhkôtamowin, guest curators Kablusiak and Missy LeBlanc invited artists who have ancestral connections to to Inuk artists represented in Remai Modern’s collection or with connections to territories located across the Prairies to create new or alter existing work. The addition of their work creates “familial conversations across time and space illustrate what Inuit art is and can be outside of colonial frameworks of monetary gain.”

One of the invited artists is Saskatoon-born, Iqaluit-based Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory. Her installation features a dress she has worn for years in her performance practice. In the exhibition the dress is presented as a installation, with the artist adding a caribou antler, bowhead vertebra and glowing red heart to the garment.

“Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory affronts societal expectations of both Kalaallit [the largest group of Greenlandic Inuit], and of arnait [women].”

– Kablusiak and Missy LeBlanc

Entitled, Sarfaliuut, the installation is an internalization of Inuit politics and identities, and a study of how to create dance in a stationary object. Sarfaliuut is a spirit figure that slowly moves with drafts of air. The head is a vertebra of a bowhead whale. The arms are caribou antler. The glowing heart is a reclamation of emotion. The pregnant viscera is a cracked globe, with Nunarsuup qalasersua (the North Pole) correctly placed as a navel. The gauzy black dress is the garment that Laakkuluk wore for many years as she performed Uaajeerneq. The dress is now worn out after years of Laakkuluk crawling over thousands of theatre seats, creating wonder of the unknown, crouching face to face with audience members and playing out the themes of fear, humour and sexuality that define Uaajeerneq. All the colours of the spirit figure are Uaajeerneq colours. Finally, the spirit figure offers and spews spirit blood — menstruation, birth, wounds, death and sustenance all in one, only to be plugged into the wall . . . we still have so much work to do to decolonize. 

Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, Sarfaliuut (Generator), 2021, silk, caribou antler, bowhead vertebra, electricity. Courtesy of the artist. Installation view, Atautchikun | wâhkôtamowin, Remai Modern, 2021. Photo: Carey Shaw.

Remai Modern first worked with Williamson Bathory in 2019. She created a web commission for the museum’s website and visited Saskatoon for a sold-out performance in the Riverview Room with cellist and composer Cris Derksen.

About Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory

Laakkuluk is a Kalaaleq (Greenlandic Inuk) artist living in Iqaluit, Nunavut. Her wide-ranging art practice is often collaborative and focuses on challenging boundaries, celebrating individual expression as a path to decolonization and creating safe environments for equality and feminism to prosper. Renowned for her award-winning work in Uaajeerneq (Greenlandic mask dancing), Williamson Bathory is the winner of the 2021 Sobey Art Award. 

Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, Avatini Oqaatsit/Words at the limbs, 2019. Web commission for Remai Modern.

Additional reading/watching: