Phone Interview by Crystal Baxley
I had the opportunity to interview Sonny Assu, a Vancouver-based artist of Laich-kwil-tach (Kwakwaka’wakw) heritage. I was immediately attracted to the balance of criticality and humor that I saw in Sonny’s work, especially the Breakfast Series and 1884/1951. In other works I identified traditional Northwest Coast formline influences mixed with the bright colors and styles of Street Art, and I was very curious to ask Sonny about the melding of these two influences in his artistic practice. I also appreciated his criticality towards consumerism, exemplified by using modern pop-culture symbols such as the iPod and Coca-Cola sign. The recognizability of these symbols pushed me into learning more about the issues that they were representing, historical aboriginal rights issues like the use of Coast-Salish land for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and the history of the Potlatch ban in Canada. Sonny’s work combines aesthetically pleasing colors and forms with humor and modern imagery, a combination that is interesting to look at but also leaves the viewer thinking.
Sonny Assu, Coke Salish
Crystal Baxley: Thanks a lot for talking with me today. I’d like to start with a question about a specific painting in the Longhouse Series. The piece in that series that really sticks out to me is the Authentic Aboriginal 2010 Olympic Commission painting. The reason that it sticks out to me is the title because I’m not sure if it is sincere. Based on your writing and other works that I’ve seen, the title seems like it is probably being critical and I wanted to ask you to elaborate on that piece specifically.
Sonny Assu: You’re welcome, thank you for contacting me about my work. It is meant to be critical of the two week party that Vancouver hosted last year. The part in brackets isn’t really part of the title, it speaks to the series that it was an offshoot of, and the fact that it was an Olympic commission. I’ve actually had internal debates with myself about being commissioned for the Olympics. I never supported the games invading Vancouver, but once the ball was in motion there wasn’t really anything to do but sit back and watch it all happen. Unfortunately now we are looking at the system in Vancouver where we are seeing services being cut and people are not really understanding why. When you get down to it, it’s based on the fact that the Olympics came and we reallocated money towards a two-week party as opposed to paying for hospital beds, housing, helping homeless people or other social responsibilities.
Within the commission contract, there was a certain amount of wording stating that you couldn’t have a critical eye on the games and that you couldn’t really make any comments against the games. That was something for me that I struggled with in creating this piece, because personally, with my friends and even publicly on platforms like Facebook and Twitter I was very vocal against the games. So I definitely wanted to have some sort of commentary within the work itself.
The title, Authentic Aboriginal, comes from a failed initiative that was set up by a local Aboriginal business owner who had failed to win the bid to supply the games with all of the stereotypical trinkets and memorabilia (to be created by local crafts people) that panders to the tourist trade. Since he wasn’t awarded the bid, the production of all those trinkets; luggage tags, dream catchers and all of that stereotypical stuff that you see as “authentic indian identity” was farmed out, again to places like China, to be produced there because it’s cheaper.
I don’t remember his name, but he went on the news and proclaimed that he was going to launch a sticker campaign. The premise of the campaign was to denote that If you are an Aboriginal artist and you want to make work in British Columbia (or Canada), that there should be some sort of authoritative body that gives you a sticker and a license to give you the right to call your work “Authentic Aboriginal”. For me, that was something that I was not keen on at all. From my standpoint, I am an Aboriginal person and therefore the work that I make is apart of authentic aboriginal culture, authentic aboriginal art; I don’t need a sticker to say that my work is authentic.
For me it’s an interesting thing to say, because my work sits outside of the perceived notion of “what is authentic aboriginal art?”.
There have been artists interviewed on your blog, such as Terrence Houle and Nicholas Galanin, that are working in the same vein. They want to make contemporary culture that helps promote the idea of authentic aboriginal art and culture.
The piece is titled that way to be an intentional tongue-in-cheek jab at that campaign, which never got off the ground. All in all, it was a commentary on how the games promoted the stereotype of the Indian, the stereotype of the crafts-person over artist. Parading Canada’s aboriginal people out, exploiting their culture, yet ignoring all the problems of colonization.
I was actually pretty worried when I titled the piece because of the clause in the contract about any sort of negative comments against the games. I have a hard time titling work sometimes and I really didn’t want to change the title if they objected. I felt a little bit bound and worried they might not accept the work.
When I was speaking with the art director of the games and I sheepishly told her the title of the piece, she laughed. All the sudden, the anxiety and fear that I was feeling melted away. So I think it was very positive that the art director held up to the artistic integrity of that work and the title and recognized the humorous jab I was making.
Sonny Assu, Authentic Aboriginal
CB: I have questions about other pieces in that series and other pieces that you’ve done as well, which for me read as mixing aboriginal with an aesthetic that is based in street art or hip hop culture and those colors and styles. I was wondering if you could tell me more about the mixture of traditional influences with a contemporary twist?
SA: I think that my style or the direction for my work is definitely the way I need to go to help further the understanding of what is Aboriginal art and culture. Whether it’s Canada or the United States, we have the culture of Aboriginal people that has been now influenced by various outside sources. If you look at Canada’s history for the past at least 150 years, and take into consideration that colonization has been going on in North American for the past 500 years or more, we’re looking at an Aboriginal culture that has been decimated by Western culture but is now taking the influences from it.
I think a lot of aboriginal people, youth especially, are adopting hip-hop culture as their own as a way of expression. They’re taking cues from another oppressed culture. Hip-hop culture came out of the Black community as a way of speaking out against their own oppression and as a way to reclaim their own identity. I think that aboriginal youth are drawing parallels to that culture because they can identify with it. They are now starting to make it their own by inserting their own issues and culturally identify in what they are creating.
In terms of my work, I don’t really think that I’m overtly grabbing items that are being used by street-artist, like graffiti and tagging; I think that I’m appreciating the aesthetic that that street art has. And I’m trying to reinterpret it into my own personal forms to create a discourse on how Aboriginal culture is changing. I don’t think that I’m calling it graffiti; I don’t think that I’d ever call it graffiti, but I think it’s an influence for me, because I see it all around me.
I see my influences onto my own personal culture coming from various different levels. It’s my traditional culture and the Western culture that I grew up in; it’s how we use branding and how we adopt these items of pop culture to dictate our personal linage. It’s sugary breakfast cereals; it’s the brand of soft-drink and type of media we consume. With the iDrum and iPotlatch series, I’m using the iPod as a mode of totemic expression. The iPod its self is just a symbol really, it could be any form of device that has been toted as bringing us closer together as a society, yet drives us apart.
CB: What are your thoughts about artists who are making more traditional aboriginal art and really trying to move those traditional forms and styles forward into the 21st century in relation to artists more like yourself who make contemporary art with aboriginal influences? I was wondering what your thoughts are about how those two approaches communicate with each other and how they might be speaking to different ideas.
SA: I think they’re two conversations that are working parallel to each other. There’s always this notion, this understanding about what Indian art should be. Especially if you’re from the West Coast (Oregon, Washington, BC, Alaska) where they have this idea that Aboriginal art is Northwest Coast Form-line. I guess the question should be about where that understanding comes from, questioning the authority of the anthropologists saying “This is Aboriginal art.” Questioning the authority of the stereotype.
In terms of traditional vs contemporary, I think that it’s supremely important that we keep our traditional culture alive so that it can grow and develop into something even more unique, even more interesting to challenge ourselves to go past what is perceived upon us.
In all of this, I don’t want to refer to myself as an “Indian artist”; “Aboriginal artist”; a “First Nations artist” or a “Native American artist.” I just want to be an artist. That’s the conversation that I want to have. I want to be able to push the perceptions of what is Aboriginal/Indian/North American Indian art, I want to blow those perceptions out of the water so that people can appreciate the work that I’m doing and also have a better understanding for the traditional work that other people make. I think it’s great that these two conversations run in parallel to each other. I realize that, every once, in a while these two conversations are going to butt heads, and I say that from personal experience. But I feel that butting heads in supremely important in that dialogue to help us develop our culture.
CB: In looking at the iPotlatch series and the iDrum series and not coming from a background that is aboriginal, when I look at those works I understand that there is something there but I don’t have the history behind it; I had to do outside research to learn about what a potlatch is and I was wondering how you take that into consideration when you make your work and when you show your work in galleries that maybe your audience is not coming to it with that history or that education about aboriginal issues.
SA: I think it’s important, I think that it’s fresh, I think that someone who might not know the traditional roots of my work or might not know what a potlatch is will be challenged to go and learn about it. I feel my work has the power to educate from within the stylistic and conceptual developments that I’m posing in the work.
What I like about my work is that If the viewer doesn’t have an understanding of what I’m talking about, they’re going to go out and educate themselves on the issue that I’m bringing to the table. That is where I feel my work is successful, it’s not only aesthetically pleasing, but it challenges the viewer to take it upon themselves to educate themselves because they might not know the true history of the treatment of the First People’s of North America.
Sonny Assu, 1884/1951
One of the most important things that I discovered through conversations about the copper cups (1884/1951) piece, was that a lot of people thought it was a commentary on Starbucks. I guess in away, it was, but more a commentary on branding and recognizable symbols we relate to as a consumer society. At first, the reference to Starbucks was more on the tongue-in-cheek based on the choice of the size of the cups. I found it fairly satisfying when I went to the fabricator and plopped down a grande-cup and asked him to make it in copper. His first response was “you can’t drink from that, you’ll burn your face off”. All I said to him was that it was going to be an art project. “Oh.” He said, as he turned to fill out the paper work.
That piece was a huge work of discovery for me. It really opened up my abilities as an artist to start thinking about my work in a stronger conceptual context. And that self-discovery in the work came about through various conversations I had with the curator for the show, my art dealer, friends/family and the public.
But the most beneficial experience about that piece was its aspect of passive education. Where I was able to allow people to discover the beauty of the objects, yet discover a dark part of Canada’s history. Which also relates to the US’s history and treatment to it’s Native American population.
So it was interesting to talk to people who had never heard of a potlatch. It was interesting to hear people try and explain it as a “potluck.” Yes there is an aspect of sharing and eating food, but the potlatch is so much more than that. And in that challenge to self-educate, people were made aware that it was illegal for my family to practice the Potlatch (also the Sundance) in Canada for 67 years. Which is why there are 67 cups in the discarded pile. It’s not just about my family, it’s about the fact that all First People in Canada couldn’t practice their customs, speak their language, practice their religion or spirituality from 1884 to 1951. The ban lifted 60 years ago. That is recent history. This isn’t a thing of the past, this isn’t something that happened 500 years ago. This is something my grandmother lived through; I can talk to someone with first hand knowledge of cultural genocide. And that is what really blew people’s minds. They either had no idea the Potlatch ban was in effect under Canadian law or they thought it only lasted a handful of years. Nope, nearly seven decades.
The piece was also about how two dramatically different societies disseminate wealth. On one hand, you have the Potlatch Society, where they, traditionally, would save their wealth, hoard their wealth, only to give it all away. Everything, you’re wealth as a person in a Potlatch society was based upon how much you gave away. And the symbol of a Chief’s wealth is his copper shield.
Where, in our contemporary Western Society, our notion of wealth is the complete opposite. We collect our wealth, we save our wealth, we keep our wealth, and we display that wealth in the things we buy. iPods, computer, cars, condos… I boiled down our consumption into its simplest form: The Coffee cup. It doesn’t matter which company it is, mom and pop or corporate chain. We are able to walk into a place like Starbucks and drop $6-7 on a cup of coffee, only to discard that cup when we are done with it.
After a potlatch was done, the chief’s would gather and swap stories of their potlatches, essentially trying to one up each other by bragging about how much they gave away. This is why you’ll see copper’s that have been broken, sometimes pieces are broken off as a way to one up another Chief. One story that I heard that gave rise and relevance to the piece was of a group of chiefs one-upping themselves. Chief #1 turned to the other and congratulated him on his potlatch, but challenged him by saying the potlatch that he had was bigger. So he broke off a piece of his copper and tossed it in the fire. Chief #2, not to be out-done, broke of an equal piece to acknowledge the challenge. But in the background, Chief #3 stepped up and said “The potlatch I gave was bigger than all of yours. I have no need for my material wealth, this is how rich I am.” And he tossed his full copper in the ocean to symbolize how wealthy he felt.
Sonny Assu, iPotlatch: 5,000 Years of Ancestors in Your Pocket
CB: I also want to ask you about your own learning about aboriginal issues; I understand that you went to art school at Emily Carr, how did it influence your learning about art and styles to have aboriginal teachers in relation to non-aboriginal teachers while you were there?
SA: Well when I was attending Emily Carr there wasn’t much of an Aboriginal program at that time. We were talking about it, we were trying to get it going. Other than the aboriginal coordinator, I think there was only one Aboriginal teacher that I was taking classes with at the university; mostly around Art History. Dana Claxton, a video artist who taught contemporary aboriginal art history classes. It was great to learn from her, she’s very powerful in terms of her own work. Even though there wasn’t a full-fledged Aboriginal program at that point, I learned a lot about issues revolving around aboriginal art, culture and life in Canada while I was at Emily Carr. Not only from Dana, but my fellow Abo-classmates and the Aboriginal Program Manager, Brenda Crabtree. It wasn’t just about my learning experience at Emily Carr that shaped my drive and desire to learn about my history, I was able to take what I learnt at university and ask questions in the real world. I was able to take my learnt knowledge and talk to my Grandmother, and find out how it related to her. It was there I learnt about the potlatch ban and it was with that knowledge that I was able to ask questions about how it affected my family’s history.
In terms of my aesthetic, I’m self-taught in formline and it was my education and experiences at Emily Carr that helped solidify the humor and politics behind my work.
I think it’s important that the school has opened up a continually growing Aboriginal program to help facilitate Aboriginal students. I do occasionally work for Emily Carr and I have filled in the role of the Aboriginal Program Manager from time to time and I also work as an Alumni Ambassador. I basically get to go around and tell potential Emily Carr students about my career and how Emily Carr can help them achieve their goals. I also think it’s important to give lectures on my work.
In terms of learning from Non-aboriginal instructors, I think it was an important step in shaping my ability as an artist and my politics behind my work. As I’ve said before, I don’t want to be mitigated to being an “Aboriginal Artist” I’m an aboriginal person who makes art. Learning from a breadth of diverse instructors helped me formulate the direction I have taken my work.
CB: Is lecturing about your work and working with students a big part of your practice now as an artist?
SA: Yeah, it actually has been. I usually give around 4-5 presentations on my work every year. I have been for the last few years anyway. If there’s an exhibit that I’m a part of, I always try and take the opportunity to reach out to curators or to the institutions and ask if there’s a possibility to speak about my work. I like to share my ideas, I like to educate and I like the feed back of inspiration I get from people I speak to. It makes my life as an artist that much more fulfilling.
And I do like to speak with Aboriginal people who are going or want to go to post secondary. It feels great to give them inspiration to achieve their goals. Like I was saying earlier, I find it extremely important to be referred as an artist as opposed to a First Nations artist, or an Aboriginal artist because I think my work is more encompassing than just those specific issues. People pick up on that and challenge themselves.
CB: I want to ask you about the use of those terms; using the word “Indian” to “First Nation” to “Aboriginal”; when I was reading your website and thinking about how to pose these questions to you I used the word aboriginal because I kept seeing it on your website. I understand not wanting to be called an aboriginal artist or a First Nation artist or an Indian artist as opposed to just an artist, but what do you think the value of those terms are and why are they continuing to shift and how does that affect the way that you talk about your art?
SA: It’s politics, it’s political correctness.
When I’ve given lectures about my work in the United States, I know the terminology for Aboriginal people down there is Native American. But we’re, hopefully, starting to see a shift in the perception of how to address Aboriginal people.
Aboriginal is the latest politically correct catchphrase In Canada. Five years ago it was First Nations. Five years before that it was Native. But I don’t sit around with grandmother and say “We’re aboriginal People”, we still refer to ourselves as Indian or as we are doing more and more: Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw.
Sometimes when I say that word [Indian] I can see people grimace a little bit, like I’ve said something wrong, because they understand that that’s not the correct term. And it isn’t. It’s disrespectful, but its still part of our everyday lives. If you really want to get correct about it, if you know the specific nation that that person is from you refer to them in that way. I’m Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw, I have friends who are Cree; Salish; Haida; Blackfoot; Sto:lo; Anishinabe… Canada has 100s of language dialects on the West Coast alone. There are so many pockets of culture that it’s hard to remember which one everyone comes from. So we blanket people into groups because it’s easier for us.
In utilizing the term “aboriginal” on my website, I think it’s a way for me to allow people to connect to the work I am making through their own interpretations of who is an Aboriginal person or what is Aboriginal art. When they see the term Aboriginal, they’ll assume what my work is, but when they dive deeper into my work, they’ll discover I am much more. It’s also about personal politics, it’s about the affirmation that I am an Aboriginal person. It’s about breaking the perception that all aboriginal people have long black hair, dark skin and eyes. Let’s face it, I’m white, and I am that way because of colonization. I use to refer to myself as the whitest Indian you’ll ever meet. But I’m not, that was me being cheeky, that was me being humorous to draw people in, to give them a sense of comfort in dealing with the issues of colonization. I’ve met a whole bunch of fair skinned aboriginal people over my years as a professional artist… I’m not the only one in my family either.
Sonny Assu, The Breakfast Series
CB: Could you tell me more about that term “Urban Indian”?
SA: It’s just a class structure that the Canadian government has used to classify any aboriginal person living in Canada outside of their home territory, specifically living in cities. I am classed as an urban Indian because I live in a major urban centre. It’s also terminology I use to talk about my work in a contemporary context and I use it as a vehicle to classify the culture I am creating.
CB: I didn’t realize that was a government classification, that’s really interesting. I wanted to ask you about humor, and this idea of sugarcoating politics to make them easier to swallow and placing rants between more humorous pieces and I was wondering if that is possibly a strategy that you learned from watching television and growing up with so much pop culture? Or any way that you’d like to talk about the way that you use humor.
SA: That’s a good observation, I like that. I never thought about that before in terms of the tv aspect, having this kind of sugarcoated cartoony thing or some kind of light and fluffy programming and then all of the sudden there’s a political ad.
CB: I was thinking too about shows like sketch comedy or sitcoms that sometimes will deal with really intense political situations by making fun of them; I’m not sure if you guys have Saturday Night Live but that’s what I was thinking about when I was looking at your work.
SA: I can see how you can draw those conclusions. We don’t have our own Saturday Night Live, we watch it “live from New York”.
Canada’s sense of humor is different than humor that’s coming out of the United States. We do have our own political/satirical humor shows, think Cobert instead of SNL. I think that a lot of our humor is tied more tightly with humor from the UK, it’s more tongue in cheek, more satirical and it can be very biting.
I use humor a lot in my work because it draws people in, and I think you’re right where you take a situation comedy or even something like Saturday Night Live where they’re using the humor to draw you into that issue. I think it’s supremely important because I don’t want to implore or imply an “angry Indian” rant. I don’t want to be slapping people in the face by saying “My land was stolen. My culture destroyed” and generally just being ticked-off. It’s not who I am. I know where that anger comes from and I can talk about it, I can defend it, but it’s not mine to use completely.
I want to be able to bring people into the issues with the humor and that is where I was coming from with the Breakfast Series. I wanted to have people be brought in to the humorous aspects of “Salmon Loops”, “Lucky Beads”, “Salmon Crisp”, “Bannock Pops” and “Treaty Flakes.” They all have elements humor to them. But there’s also political conversation behind all five cereal boxes.
I always see it as the gambit of how we view ourselves as Aboriginal people, how we are perceived as the First People and how we are trying to break away from being Indians. I see it as a way to gently lure people in and lovingly slapping them awake to the issues they’d rather just ignore. It’s really all about dispelling the myth of Canada/America as Utopia.
Treaty Flakes, I see as the most political heavy piece of the five. In British Columbia, we are still dealing with the treaty issues. British Columbia, through its union with Canada, only signed a handful of treaties with Aboriginal people before or around the time of confederation. Not that it really made a difference when Canada continued to break treaties anyhow.
The piece was a way to bring out the frustrations in the Treaty process to a broader audience. The process continually stalls with every change of Provincial or Federal government. And we are looking at a system now, where the only people who will benefit from these treaties, if signed, are lawyers. Every nation currently signed into the treaty process is looking at massive crippling debt that will erode any benefit to signing them.
I feel if I present these politics in such a way that I’m bringing elements of humor to them, you’re going to be more willing to understand the issues that I’m trying to convey. It’s like there is almost an element of psychology to the piece as well.
That’s pretty much where I was coming from, that’s how I use humor in my work. I want to be able to make people laugh and to understand where I’m coming from. If I can make you laugh, and if I can make you smile, when I tell you the stuff that I should be angry about, in a calming manner, you’re going to be more receptive of that. You’re going to get it “oh, okay, I understand where Sonny’s coming from. I understand that his culture was decimated. I understand that his grandmother and grandfather both went to an Indian day school, and that his great-grandmother went to a residential school. I understand they were stripped of their culture, and they weren’t treated humanely. I understand now why Aboriginal people have the right to be angry.” I use humor to bring all of that stuff together, to hopefully help people understand. I want to use humor to draw you in so you can know the anger, so you can understand it and acknowledge it.
CB: Yeah that makes a lot of sense to me. I wanted to ask you next how you navigate being a professional artist, especially one whose work touches on all of these issues, and if you ever feel like aboriginal art forms, both traditional and the more contemporary, are ever recontextualized in the contemporary art world?
SA: I think for me I’m taking a cue from Bill Reid. It was pretty much one of his underlying mandates for his work that he wanted it to be seen along side of master artists of the western world. He didn’t want his work to be relegated to a craft from a perceived to be dying culture. He wanted to highlight the strengths of his culture. He has changed the way people view Aboriginal art and I’m taking that a step further deeper into the realms of contemporary art world.
CB: For you, what are the benefits or the problems with showing this kind of work in a gallery or museum system?
SA: I think it’s really important that my work is viewed in both the gallery and museum context. Whether it’s a commercial art gallery, a contemporary art museum/gallery, an artist run center, an Indian/Aboriginal/Native American/First Nations art gallery, whatever it may be, I think its important to flow in and out of all of those dialogues because it gives people an understanding of where our work can be and how it can be viewed.
CB: How do you navigate being an artist whose work comments on consumerism while producing commodities?
SA: I was reading that question right before you called and I think it’s a good one. It’s interesting, and I think as an artist I think there is this utopian vision that you have to be poor. I don’t want to be poor. I live in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Vancouver is a ridiculously expensive place to be living in. That being said, we all have to make a living. I’m not going to relegate myself to being a Sunday painter or working a nine to five and then getting back to the studio and trying to paint for a few hours. I’m in the fortunate position right now to be able to afford a luxury to live off my passion. This isn’t work for me, work is some place you go to. Work is something that drains you.
Commodity is a label, I create works that people want and it inspires me to challenge myself. I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to support myself off my passion for as long as I have. I think it’s important, as an artist, that I make work that sells. It not only supports me, but it challenges me to be experimental. It has given me the ability to produce a diverse body of work.
I also think its extremely important to keep track of where you are as an artist or what you’re doing as an artist and make sure that you take it upon yourself to stay true to your own vision of what your work should be and not to sell out or just make the work that people want or that people assume you’re going to make. That’s where it crosses the line of strict commodity and I don’t want to be there. I want to continually challenge myself to make interesting objects for people to appreciate whether it’s conceptually or as a commodity.
CB: Could you tell us about what you are working on next?
SA: I have a number of different projects right now.
I’m working on a new series of painted panels that stems from the Longhouse series. I haven’t titled the series yet but it’s going to be a series of work that’s based on the Chilkat blanket, which is a ceremonial robe, predominantly found in The Haida, Tlinglit and Tsimshian cultures. Those cultural groups are farther north than where my people come from. The essence of the new body of painting will deal with how we use social media and objects from consumer culture as forms of status. I finished one last night that has been titled “Status Update” and I’m working on another one called “Hashtag.” Like the longhouse series, they will deal with the creation of new culture and deal with the loss of traditional language while theorizing the creation of a pictorial/character based language by posing the question “what if we hadn’t been colonized?”
I’m working on two new sculptural installations one is of 67 stacked drums called Silenced. The first incarnation of the series can be seen on my site under the drum series. The stacking of the drums, and the iconography painted on them reference the giving away of Hudson’s Blankets at a potlatch. The HBC blankets were also used to spread small pox and tuberculosis amongst the First People to aid in the act of genocide western society would rather forget. It’s another reference to the potlatch ban as well with the stacking of the 67 drums and how they were rendered silenced for nearly seven decades.
The other installation I’m working on is tentatively called faceless where I’m going to be taking the wood scraps of the log home industry, pieces of wood look like Northwest Coast masks, that would have been tossed away. It’s a found-object installation that will question the authority of the anthropology institution by challenging them to collect the remnants of our consumer culture.
On top of my busy production schedule, and getting ready for three exhibits within the next six months, I’m also set to move to Montreal for a couple of years. It’s going to be interesting to see how that side of the country will view my work. I was always worried that my aesthetic was so centric to the west coat that it might not translate well. Although I’ve had successful exhibits in Ontario, so mainly I was also curious to see how the Francophone community would view my work. I had a taste of it this summer and the response was positive and interesting.
CB: I think that those concerns about working in another part of Canada is going to be really interesting, and I’m excited to see how it plays out in these future series.
SA: Yeah, I’m really excited about it too. It’s going to be really interesting to see how my work plays out over there and how I’m going to draw in those different influences. I’m just really excited about being in a city that has a different mindset than Vancouver. Quebec has great support for the arts, which I’m super excited about. Don’t get me wrong, there’s support for the arts in Vancouver as well, but that support comes from the arts community, not the province.
CB: Well thanks a lot for talking with me today.
SA: You’re welcome.
You can learn more about Sonny Assu at his website, http://sonnyassu.com