Installation | Kent Monkman’s ‘Scent of a Beaver’

Posted in exhibitions, today in light of the 18th century by Caitlin Smits on February 21, 2016


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Now on view at the University of Michigan:

Scent of a Beaver: An Installation by Kent Monkman
University of Michigan, Institute for the Humanities, Ann Arbor, 21 January — 26 February 2016

Based on the rococo masterpiece The Swing by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Scent of a Beaver is a sculptural installation that features the artist Kent Monkman’s alter ego Miss Chief Eagle Testickle dangling on a swing between a French and English general. With Miss Chief dressed in an opulent silk and fur gown, the work functions as a metaphor for the power relationships between the major players that shaped the social fabric, political structures, and economy of North America. True to Monkman’s modus operandi, Scent of a Beaver takes on white-washed, colonialist notions of history and overturns them, employing kitsch as a path toward self-determination and veering away from painful, misrepresented histories. It is this sort of conversion that is at the crux of Monkman’s powerful work—the transformation from age-old traditional stories which distort and oppress into something a little fantastical, a bit cathartic, and ultimately redeeming.

Kent Monkman is well known for his provocative reinterpretations of romantic North American landscapes. He explores themes of colonization, sexuality, loss, and resilience—the complexities of historic and contemporary Native American experience—in a variety of mediums including painting, film and video, performance, and installation. Monkman’s glamorous diva alter-ego Miss Chief appears in much of his work as an agent provocateur, trickster, and supernatural being who reverses the colonial gaze, upending received notions of history and indigenous people.

More information and installation photos are available from a piece by Sarah Rose Sharp for Hyperallergic (18 February 2016).

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