This article analyzes an art installation performed and exhibited in 2018 by the Séliš u Ksanka/Salish and Kootenai artist Corwin Clairmont: Two-Headed Arrow/The Tar Sands Project. Clairmont is a printmaker and creator of inventive and playful installations that follow conceptualist principles, which designate ideas and action as inherently aesthetic, but he is also and primarily a traditionally oriented Séliš u Ksanka artist. Concerned with petromodernity in the North American Rocky Mountain West and Great Plains, Clairmont’s installation charts the material and ideological routes of the oil flow between the Flathead Indian Reservation (and Missoula, Montana) and the Fort McMurray tar sands site located adjacent to Abathasca Chipewyan and Mikisew Cree First Nations land in Alberta. The history of energy extraction in Indian Country is largely occluded in the newly emergent interdisciplinary field of “energy humanities” and similarly rendered opaque in most official and unofficial discourses of the “West.” Clairmont’s installation responds to this social silence around indigeneity and petroleum production in this “sacrifice zone” via a collage of artworks that includes, among other things, gummy bears (a key oil commodity), lava lamps, prints, and photographs. The installation creates new historical and affective insights in the unsettling juxtapositions of its materials. Plastic functions in place of hides in Clairmont’s new “winter counts” and the focus on gummy bears allows for the unveiling of the longstanding kinship between the animals and Indigenous people. The installation participates in a powerful and historically long-standing tradition of Indigenous resistance, by challenging state forms of extractive settler colonialism.


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pp. 152-195
Launched on MUSE
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