Peasants Under Glass
Folkloric costumes for stage, sheet of glass
Digital photograph of archival intervention, series of 6
Costumes lent by the Poltava Ensemble of Song, Music and Dance
Photography by Noel Wendt
Documentation of exhibition by Laura Findlay
It was also presented online through Empathy/Empathie Art History Symposium curated by Maegan Gaudette through Concordia University (Montréal, Canada).
Peasants Under Glass
Peasants Under Glass is a series of photographs that document six arrangements of Ukrainian dance costumes for stage stifled beneath a sheet of glass. This archival intervention responds to an eponymous Maclean's Magazine article published in September, 1981 that critiques soviet involvement in the Afghan war by targeting a Ukrainian folkloric dance group called Veryovka that was touring across Canada. The author, John Ayre, writes disparaging remarks about the dancing troupe, while erroneously aligning Soviet propaganda with desires of naturalized Ukrainian-Canadians to experience their heritage. As someone who was raised learning Ukrainian dance and often taught by former soviet-state dancers, this article resonates deeply. In contrast, participating was painfully apolitical. It was not only about performing; it was about family, community and belonging.
The veil-lifting schema in the Maclean’s article is echoed through Peasants Under Glass. I respond by considering Canada’s strict immigration policies in parallel to its seemingly welcoming diversity initiatives. Such facades both celebrate cultural identification while filtering it. The Multicultural Act of Canada was implemented from British Policy in 1988 and is still undergoing transformation today. My hesitations lie in its promising didactics and their alignment to rhetoric within contemporary cultural theory. Its parceling of culture has led to an incubation and contrived remembering of Canadian colonist history. Focus on visible symbols, reductive collectivism, over-codification and ethnographic codes of representation distracts from belated narratives including those of internment camps and enemy alien cards; stores of resilience and cross-cultural interdependence.