Inspired by the idea that sound travels and has purpose beyond the human ear, wnoondwaamin | we hear them is about the materiality of sound, the social implications of the transmission and reception of sound, and the politics of being or not being heard. Artists Autumn Chacon, Jeneen Frei Njootli, Melissa General, and Suzanne Morrissette create performance, video, and radio installations that reveal the nuanced meanings that sound carries.
Just as sound travels, the exhibition wnoondwaamin | we hear them has also travelled, moving north, then westward, since opening in the fall of 2016 at Trinity Square Video in Toronto. After exhibition stops at the White Water Gallery in North Bay, Ontario, the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba, and Paved Arts in Saskatoon, the show will complete its journey in Calgary, reverberating near the foothills of the Rockies at Stride Gallery.
Jeneen Frei Njootli’s performance and installation Herd (2016) changes and shifts between each venue. She responds sonically to the different contexts and spaces, creating an immersive chorus with power tools and with her voice resonating through her caribou-antler sound tool. Caribou represent a chain of relations in her community, as relative and provider. Frei Njootli will be performing as part of the exhibition at Stride, in conjunction with the Mountain Standard Time Performative Art Biennial.
Autumn Chacon’s installation Between Our Mother’s Voice and Our Father’s Ear (2016) uses low-wattage radio transmission to claim radio waves as indigenous space. In each city on the tour, Chacon transmits sound from the gallery where the exhibition is being held, while simultaneously broadcasting a collage of subtle field recordings, such as a monarch caterpillar eating milkweed, with more audible events, like the sound of Niagara Falls and beads bouncing off a wooden table.
Rivers have a conveyance function, and are a means of delivering not only items and people, but also other, intangible infusions. Melissa General’s video installation Kehyá:ra’s (2016) involves her collecting and carrying water from the Grand River that runs through her home territory, Six Nations of the Grand River. Her submerged recordings of bathwater suggest a need to access and protect something personal contained within the river—memories, histories, and knowledge.
Suzanne Morrissette documents sound and imagery from urban wilderness scenes. Her interactive installation one and the same (2016) creates a delineated space where audience movement alters the artwork’s composition. This motion-sensor, video, and audio installation focuses on the subtle, often unnoticed sounds of landscapes, highlighting how human life and land intertwine.
wnoondwaamin | we hear them creates a chorus and a conversation about the resonances that sound carries in and beyond the audible. These artworks build on the value of transmission and reception in transferring knowledge through generations, recalling how sound connects different times and spaces.
** Chi miigwech to anishinaabemowin speaker and teacher B. Jeff Monague of Chimnissing (Beausoleil First Nation) for helping me find the exhibition title wnoondwamin | we hear them.

FYI: The tour’s final stop at Stride Gallery (Calgary), from September 14 to November 10, 2018, is presented in collaboration with Contemporary Calgary. The National Music Centre will host a five-day residency for the artists. Trinity Square Video coordinates the tour. Funding for the exhibition and tour was provided through the Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council for the Arts.

Photo of Jeneen Frei Njootli’s Herd (performance, with remnants of antler, subwoofer, plywood, photo-backdrop paper, angle grinder, and sound) by Toni Hafkenscheid, courtesy of Trinity Square Video.