Friday Nov,18 2011 7.30-9pm
Mocap studio, Intersections Digital Studios, Emily Carr University

Aski, video, 2009
by James Nicholas and Sandra Semchuk

A female bear moves slowly and steadily towards you. The bear appears to question the conflicting relationship you have with her, your love, your curiosity and your desire to come close to her is contradicted by your fear. She appears to beseech you and rejected, leaves. James is praying in Cree, acknowledging the deep patience of the mountains and the ancestors. While humans, the double wise, become wise enough to care for the earth and all our relations, they become more than human.

Aski a video collaboration between James Nicholas (deceased) and his wife, Sandra Semchuk is a visual and verbal prayer to the ancestors, to the earth and to the mountains.

Sandra grew up in a grocery store in the northern town of Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan. Her father, Martin Semchuk, was a socialist who helped bring medicare to Saskatchewan. Sandra is a storyteller, photographer and video artist whose inquiry includes small animals that constantly count “coup” on her, coming close enough to make it impossible for her to video them. Her collaborations and video works use autobiography and dialogue as the basis for recognition and identity across generations, cultures and species. She collaborated with her father through four near death experiences. As a partner in Treaties (where there are Treaties in Canada), member of the settler culture and widow of a traditional Cree speaker, artist James Nicholas, Sandra disrupts myths that historically have shaped settler relations to First Nations. She works with personal experience as a basis for storytelling. She and James collaborated for fifteen years on photographic and video works that use flora and fauna to consider possible relationships between the indigenous and the non-indigenous. Recent collaborations include a billboard on 20th street in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan made with Cree healer, Archie Weenie and the Sturgeon River Bison Stewards. She currently teaches photography at Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver.

James Nicholas was a full blood Rock Cree from Nelson House, Manitoba. His great grandfather was medicine man Pierre Moose. Both of his parents, Lionel and Sarah, used traditional medicines to help their community. James grew up traditionally on the trapline. At the age of eight he was sent to residential school. In the ?70s he studied in British Columbia working with and exchanging ideas with Bob Manuel, son of native strategist George Manuel, while continuing his dialogues with political activists Rodney Spence and Phil Fontaine from Manitoba. When he returned to Nelson House, he provided leadership to his community in education, economic development and government-to-government liaison. In the ?90s James relocated to Vancouver where he engaged the arts of acting, writing, photographic installations and videography. He made many collaborative works with his wife, Sandra Semchuk, that challenge the known history of relations between First Nations and settler cultures, nation making, and assumptions in identity politics. James died Oct. 15, 2007 when he accidentally slipped and fell 30 meters at a fishing camp on the Fraser River. He continues to collaborate with Sandra in absentia.

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