11.20 Talkin’ Back to Johnny Mac (cancelled)
January 11th, 2015, marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. Kingston, Ontario, commemorated its connection with Macdonald through a year-long bicentennial celebration. As a response to the bicentennial, whose discourse was predominately celebratory, I curated a performance series titled “Talkin’ Back to Johnny Mac.” The series was dedicated to promoting alternative and critical discussions about Macdonald’s role in Canadian history, Indigenous/settler relationships, and issues of Canadian/Indigenous identities. The project fostered critical investigations into Canadian nationalism, the celebration of historical “icons,” and the erasure of Indigenous presence. Specifically, the series drew connections between Macdonald’s time and the present day in order to interrogate the ways in which Macdonald’s politics influence us in the present. These discussions were produced through the production of five new performance works by five internationally regarded interdisciplinary artists throughout 2015. Leah Decter, David Garneau (Métis), Tanya Lukin-Linklater (Alutiq), Peter Morin (Tahltan), and Adrian A. Stimson (Blackfoot) each performed critical site-specific performances in Kingston from January to April 2015.
This paper consists of a discussion about the series in general and its role as a public intervention into the celebration of John A. Macdonald’s birthday. Specifically, the paper will explore the role of the performances in interrupting the celebratory discourses of the bicentennial, the physical interruption of space by artists performing at the Macdonald statue, and the role of the public in the mediation of the artists’ messages.