Gesig Isaac and Jamie Ross propose an interdisciplinary social practice and time-based project grounded in the art of healing. Reacting to a political climate in which our survival as queer people, witches and contemporary artists is consistently rendered precarious, the concept of magical self-defense drives this work.
The discourse around a diversity of tactics to affect political change is one of the primordial and best elaborated debates of past hundred years within progressive politics. To fight pipelines, it’s widely agreed upon that signatures on petitions and direct action to physically halting pipeline production are both valid responses to ecocide. Beyond simply cataloguing queer and indigenous responses to state, vigilante and corporate violence in this way, Isaac and Ross pose a provocative question to those in the our communities of magical practitioners: what are the spiritual ethics of stopping violence? – to say nothing of responsibility to speak truth to power. What tools and traditions have we inherited in our respective traditions related to ending violence – when can poisonous plant medicines create peace?
Gesig Isaac is a 28 year old Queer, Mi’gmaq multidisciplinary artist. Gesig’s art practice
explores themes of Indigenous language retention, ecology, and land-based
knowledge. These themes take form within a material based artistic practice centred
around basket weaving, hide tanning, textiles, and ceramics. She hopes to investigate further the narrative potential between her knowledge of plants and the natural world, and her artistic practice. Gesig lives in Kjipuktuk aka Halifax.
Jamie Ross is a contemporary artist, diviner and witch. His award-winning video works have screened on four continents. He works as a professional card diviner, a consulting spellworker and as the chaplain for men incarcerated in federal prisons in Quebec. Creating and documenting queer community based on a sincere engagement with magic, grafting himself onto the rich artistic traditions of his cultural and biological ancestors is fundamental. He lives in Tiohtià:ke / Mooniyang (Montreal). Jamieross.org
For years, Ross aimed to keep his work as a preschool teacher and pagan prison chaplain
distinct from his more conventional visual arts practice of film and installation video-making. In
2016, he formally bridged the two domains, participating in a group exhibition curated by Amish
Morell at the Doris McCarthy Gallery (University of Toronto) Outdoor School and was invited to
exhibit in his capacity as a professional witch and a contemporary artist at Verticale and Eastern
Bloc in Montreal to mount a solo exhibition featuring his social practice chaplaincy work in
greater Montreal (April-May 2017).
In a similar vein, Gesig’s years of deep expertise in Mi’gmaq traditional art forms of black ash basketry and professional herbalism have rarely been consciously presented in a contemporary art framework, let alone in her nation’s territory in the Maritimes, where she has returned to live. The ability to execute this project on her traditional territory is crucial to grounding it in decolonial practice.