Commemorations, by their definition, assume a truth about beginnings and endings. Through an assumption of singular national remembering, Canada’s celebration of its 150-year anniversary marks a symbolic violence against First Nation’s sovereignty and the effects of settler colonialism. In Jean O’Brien’s theorization of process called, “firsting and lasting” of Indigenous people and spaces, she details how settler national memory relies upon the myth of “non-Indian modernity and Indian extinction.” Following O’Brien, this essay examines a contemporary “first”: Anishnaabe artist Rebecca Belmore’s place as “the first aboriginal woman of North America to represent a country” at the Venice Biennale in 2005. Through a reading of Fountain, a performance that interrogates the weight of Canada’s colonial history, this essay shows how her performance destabilizes the singular event of colonial discovery by using materials, like water, blood, and fire, to show its messy, reiterative structure. In doing so, I argue for a reconsideration of the work of art and representation, such as the international Venice Biennale, as a site of staging mythical modernities.


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pp. 9-12
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