Canadian Cultural Centre Paris

Centre Culturel Canadien | 5 rue de Constantine
F-75007 Paris

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The Canadian Cultural Centre presents an installation by Robert Houle which travels back in time to 1845 in Paris. Paris/Ojibwa evokes an exotic contact with the Ojibwa which impressed the Parisian imagination in the 19th century and inspired painters and poets, among them Delacroix and Baudelaire. The installation was conceived in 2006 during the artist's residency at La Cité des Arts in Paris. The work is a homage as well as a reflection on the theme of disappearance. The title of the work alludes to contact between Parisians and a group of indigenous people from Canada guided by a remarkable man, Maungwudaus ("a Great Hero"). "From April to December of 1845, Parisians saw authentic Ojibwa on the streets as performers and always as a curiosity. These Ojibwa, who were also called Mississauga or Chippewa, came from what was then known as Canada West. At the behest of painter George Catlin, Maungwudaus and his family and companions had left London to replace the Iowa, another aboriginal tribe, in the tableaux vivants that complemented the display of Catlin's paintings in Paris. The Ojibwa entertained king Louis-Philippe and queen Amélie at Saint Cloud. Paris/Ojibwa is an empty room made from deconstruction. It is Anishnabe history, which speaks of healing from the ravenous gaze of pending disappearance. The painted figures, a shaman, a warrior, a dancer and a healer become abstract monochromatic icons whose indigenous roots connect to the landscape in each painting. Together they are a poetic, symbolic, transatlantic return home through the magic of art, the spiritual aspect of memory." Robert Houle

Robert Houle was born in St. Boniface, Manitoba and currently lives and works in Toronto. Houle is a contemporary Anishnabe artist who has played a significant role in retaining and defining First Nations identity in Canada. He draws on Western art conventions to tackle lingering aspects of European colonization and its postcolonial aftermath. Relying on the objectivity of modernity and the subjectivity of postmodernity he brings aboriginal history into his work through the interrogation of text and photographic documents from the dominant society. He studied art history at the University of Manitoba, art education at McGill University and painting and drawing at the International Summer Academy of Fine Arts in Salzburg. Robert Houle has been exhibiting since the early 1970's. He was curator of contemporary aboriginal art at the Canadian Museum of Civilization from 1977 to 1981 and has curated or co-curated groundbreaking exhibitions such as New Work by a New Generation, in connection with the World Assembly of First Nations at the Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery in Regina in 1982, and Land Spirit Power: First Nations at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa during the Columbus Quincentennial. As a writer, Houle has penned many essays and monographs on aboriginal art and contemporary First Nations and Native American artists. He also taught native studies at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto for fifteen years mentoring a new generation of artists and curators.

An Installation by Robert Houle