8-Bit Wampum – Wally Dion
September 14, 2018 @ 8:00 am - February 18, 2019 @ 5:00 pm
Born in Saskatoon and currently based in upstate New York, Wally Dion is a member of the Yellow Quill First Nation (Saulteaux) whose multidisciplinary art often employs repurposed circuit boards as a means of exploring cultural identity, environmental issues, and technological impulses.
Dion’s latest work monumentalizes the traditional wampum belt— stringed shell beads used for commercial, ornamental, ceremonial, and diplomatic purposes — to suit the massive scale of The Bentway site. Its installation on the shared lands of The Bentway and Fort York calls to mind such significant Indigenous-settler agreements as the Toronto Purchase, the surrender of lands in the Toronto area by the Mississaugas of the New Credit to the British Crown. An agreement that remained in dispute for over 200 years until its settlement in 2010, the Toronto Purchase reflects the all too real potential for friction as lands, and their populations, grow and change.
Comprised of a patchwork of circuit boards, 8-Bit Wampum’s materiality also references the city’s prospective future as a tech hub, and the similarly inevitable shifts in land value, ownership, and environmental stewardship as times change and new “digital settlements” emerge. The belt’s patterning evokes an ascending pathway as it meanders, splitting into two divergent paths before rejoining in an optimistic symbol suggesting future compromise.
Hosted by Fort York National Historic Site.
Part of The Bentway’s Fall Art Exhibition If, But, What If?
Wally Dion, b.1976 Saskatoon Saskatchewan, is a visual artist living and working in Binghamton, New York. He is a member of Yellow Quill First Nation (Salteaux). Dion holds a BFA from the University of Saskatchewan and an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design. Throughout much of his career, Dion’s work has contributed to a broad conversation in the art world about identity and power, and can be interpreted as part of a much larger Pan-American struggle by Indigenous peoples to be recognized: culturally, economically, and politically, by settler societies. Utilizing large scale portraiture, found object sculpture, site specific installation, and kinetic sculpture, Dion has expanded upon this practice to include themes of personal history and spirituality.