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EXCLUSIVE: Mohawk-Jewish Art Curator, Steve Loft, Discusses ‘Ghost Dance: Activism. Resistance. Art’

Loft is the guest curator of a new exhibit focusing on indigenous and aboriginal cultures at Ryerson Image Centre.

By: Ashley Ramnarain
Published: October 4th, 2013 in Culture » Art » Interviews
Steve Loft

“The thing about this show is that it’s part of a larger body of research that I’ve been working on for quite a while. It’s about this idea of articulating an indigenous art history. One of the things about that is, you know, aboriginal art and indigenous art has been seen as an add-on to euro-western Canada. Which is so strange because it’s just colonizing our art. It’s not post-modern - it’s not this, it’s not that - fuck you,” Steve Loft articulates in an interview regarding his role as a guest curator at the Ryerson Image Centre for his exhibit, Ghost Dance: Activism. Resistance. Art.

Loft- an artist, writer, and curator with Jewish and Mohawk ancestry- has been lecturing at Ryerson for three years now, passionately dedicated to sharing his research and intimate knowledge of indigenous and aboriginal culture out into the public, to combat what he refers to as a regressing government.

Steve Loft

“But having said that then we have to articulate what it is. So that’s what I’ve been really concentrating on the last ten to fifteen years. Trying to write it down and get it and do shows because a lot of what was written about aboriginal art before there were aboriginal curators and aboriginal scholars was in that view, euro-western,” Steve Loft explains his while describing his motivation behind Ghost Dance: Activism. Resistance. Art, “So now that there’s more aboriginal curators, more aboriginal scholars are starting to write this stuff down.”

The dominant theme in Loft’s exhibit is the fact that until now, there has only been one perspective of indigenous and aboriginal cultures being collectively taught. The majority of us have only seen aboriginal art in government-sanctioned places, places that typically present only a certain stereotypical perspective to aboriginal and indigenous culture.


Untitled by Michael Abramson

“Well, you know, there’s a lot of people, unfortunately who still think aboriginal art looks a certain way and that’s not to take away from the woodland school or other movements that have people who have more knowledge about or see more of, but really to give you a look at some art that for a lot of people, not everybody, it doesn’t fall inside what they consider aboriginal art and we gotta break down those borders,” Loft shares.

During the tour of the exhibit, one can easily see that Loft is quite passionate about the subject and his way with words is able to resonate with any audience, especially in regards to his opinions about aboriginal art. His belief is that aboriginal and indigenous art is, in itself, a form of resistance. Loft has a unique perspective on aboriginal and indigenous rights, as he, unlike other aboriginal or indigenous scholars, focuses not on the wounded, victimized aboriginals we learn about in history textbooks, but rather acts of peace and understanding that are able to come forth from such struggles.

“Indigenous cultures and also one of the main things about them and why they have been treated so poorly historically by the euro-western. The markers of civilization that euro-westerners see are very different from the markers of civilization that we see. We have very complex societies - on every scale, very complex - but very different as well. Our method - at least in the old societies, because there were written indigenous societies - is this idea of cultural transferal through cultural production,” He explains.


“So story, dance song - these are all [art] - not only are they art, but they are the way of transferring knowledge - to generation to generation. The nice thing about them is the fact that they are not written down is that they can be in flux. Of course things change - the world is changes. So I think this is such a brilliant way. And new dances are added, but they still acknowledge dances that came from a long time ago or songs or stories and teachings. And these are the ways that, you know, that’s education - that’s our education system. I think it speaks that, I mean the Ghost Dance was a new dance and it speaks to that idea that when conditions change we also change the cultural transferal.”


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Related articles: Mohawk, Jewish, Art, Curator, Aboriginal, Native American, Canada, Indigenious, Steve Loft, Interview, Ryerson Image Centre, Ghost Dance: Activism, Resistance, Art
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EXCLUSIVE: Mohawk-Jewish Art Curator, Steve Loft, Discusses ‘Ghost Dance: Activism.

Loft is the guest curator of a new exhibit focusing on indigenous and aboriginal cultures at Ryerson Image Centre.

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EXCLUSIVE: Mohawk-Jewish Art Curator, Steve Loft, Discusses ‘Ghost Dance: Activism.

Loft is the guest curator of a new exhibit focusing on indigenous and aboriginal cultures at Ryerson Image Centre.

Top 20 Under 40 - Caitlin Cronenberg

Cronenberg’s photographs have been featured in every major Canadian publication, as well as Vogue Italia, L’Uomo Vogue, French Elle, German Vanity Fair, 25 Magazine, Bullett, Chatelaine, Hello! Canada, and Pulp.

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