Announcement: John is happy to announce that his application to receive a CRD Equity Grant was a success! With gratitude, John will be able to organize an event for Redress this coming October. The project’s title is “Walking Art Installation.”
“Walking Art Installation” refers to the concept of John Aitken walking to pre-booked venues on Mayne, Pender, and Galiano Islands in October of 2020. During these walks, John will hang red dresses which he will have collected prior to the project’s start date and will carry with him in a backpack. An invitation will be sent out in advance of the walk to interested community members to join him on the walk. They will be invited to bring their own dresses and they will assist him with the hanging of the dresses. A discussion (walk and talk) will be a natural part of this portion of the project. When John arrives at the destination, he will screen the film he created in 2019, “Washed up!” This viewing will act as a provocation piece to continue the conversation begun during the walk. The discussion will be carried out in a “talking circle” and will have a focus of the “why?” Why do so many go missing and are murdered from this specific marginalized group in Canada? One of the outcomes of this discussion is the exploration of what actions we can take to decrease these numbers.
John is prepared to make necessary adjustments according to the status of the pandemic come October!
February 2019: John Aitken and Marie Weeks
Santa Fe Art Institute Residency
Fumbling Towards Reconciliation
John Aitken and Marie Weeks began collaborating in the summer of 2017, but their lives had always been intertwined due to their connection with the community on Mayne Island in the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia (part of the unceded traditional territory of the Coast Salish people). They share a passion for social change and exploring ways to shift the many power imbalances that exist in our current society. They both have a deep desire to be active participants in the evolving relationship between Indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in Canada.
John, (Coast Salish Nation) and Marie (British, Irish, French descent settler) had separately been bringing settlers together to facilitate the education and understanding that is required to create sustainable change. John’s activist work is drawn from a broad skill set including First Nations family services, community outreach, physical acting, dance, script writing, carving, film-making and photography. Marie’s focus has been on group facilitation, relationship building and academic research through the First Nations and Indigenous Studies program at the University of British Columbia.
Marie and John are thrilled to participate in Santa Fe Art Institute’s Truth and Reconciliation Residency 2018-2019, and look forward to learning and growing with the community of artists convening at the residency.
John Aitken is a physical actor, carver, film-maker, photographer, and educator. He identifies as Indigenous with a mixed ancestry of Coast Salish, Haida, and Scottish.
John has a rich background in performing arts, including dance, acting, and film production. He is also a prolific self-taught wood carver, working within Coast Salish traditional styles as well as exploring his own contemporary style.
As a dancer, he has been a member of Stages Dance Company in Victoria BC. He has also danced and performed extensively with renowned contemporary dancer and Victoria native, Lynda Raino.
John’s work in film and video has focused on issues of great social and societal importance. While working with the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, he produced and directed a short documentary titled “Breaking the Silence of AIDS.” He also directed a short documentary for the Songhees Nation titled “Diabetes Then and Now.”
All the work I create as an artist has some spiritual connection to who I am as an individual. Art is an external manifestation of my core being and reflects my values as a member of society.
We are all teachers to some degree. Some people are catapulted into positions where their personal life experiences can be utilized to educate others. I believe I am one of those people.
I feel compelled to take action in regards to Indigenous, Metis, and Inuit issues. I need to engage with the community in some way which moves society as a whole towards reconciliation.