BERLIN––Nadia Myre, ceramist—and archaeologist. Or is it the other way around? The ceramics here are archaeologically sourced: Pipe stems she’s collected from several shores, cast off by merchants of centuries past.
But the art of these ceramics, the language that speaks in a way––never intended or even anticipated by their 17th century mass manufacturers––was made by Myre, as she wove the bonelike shards into an array of elegant objects (nets, baskets, strings) and laid them across the chapel-like, glass-enclosed courtyard of the Art Mûr Berlin for her exhibition Code Switching (April 22 – May 27, 2017).
That title underscores the ambiguity of Myre’s role here. When is she an artist and when an archaeologist? Is she saying something, or simply channeling the voice in these pipes? If it is the pipes that are speaking, whose message are they giving? And the same question applies to Myre’s voice. All of this depends on which code are we intending to decode first—and at which time we should switch.
We do not know that information—not while walking through the courtyard, nor in this case while scrolling down this column. Without knowing, all our questions become impossible to answer. Without answers, we are left with our assumptions.
Since Myre is an Algonquin member of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation, I can only assume that if it is she who is speaking here, then we are listening to a representation of indigenous culture. On the other hand, since these pipes were mass produced for distribution to the Hudson Bay Company, then I can only assume the pipes—if they are the ones doing the talking here—are here to represent corporate conglomerates and colonialism.
But I don’t know for sure and as such I’m still stuck, mired by Myre’s sly withholding, caught in the container of my assumptions. Even if I did know which voice I was supposed to hear, as I stare into my screenshot of these pipes from long ago, how can I know I have assumed correctly about what each voice was supposed to mean?
I’m here to analyze this art for you, yet I’m afraid I’ll fall short because instead I’ve imprisoned you within a prism of my own prejudice, while in the meantime the corporate conglomerate has won. Or the indigenous people won? Or both won…or they both lost. Either way, defeated by a bunch of pipes, I’m at the end of my code here. My only hope for carrying on is to switch into another. I imagine Myre here shrugging, stating, “Not all things are willing to relinquish their stories…withholding is their right.”
Explore about this work here.