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John G. Hampton

Artist 300

John G. Hampton

Installation art and Curatorship

The power of the space

John G. Hampton (born) is a Canadian Indigenous artist, a citizen of Chickasaw Nation who grew up in Regina, and is known for their ground breaking role as the first Indigenous person to run a major public gallery anywhere in Canada.

They are a curator and the artist currently living in Treaty 4 territory, Saskatchewan. Hampton is the Director of Programs at the MacKenzie Art Gallery and Adjunct Curator at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto. They will lead the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina, Canada.

They joined the MacKenzie Art Gallery in 2018 as director of programs, which have centered around radical diversity, cultural health, writing art histories, and transformation.

“The MacKenzie is my hometown gallery, and it has played an integral role in shaping some of my earliest understandings of the role of art and culture in our society,” Hampton said in a statement. “The MacKenzie has an exciting future ahead of it, and I intend to bring a spirit of interdependence, innovation, trust, wonder, and respect as we celebrate the deep art history of this land in tandem with the most innovative practices and conversations happening in Canada and beyond.”

Their personal practice explores the dialogues around critical race theories, non-human ontologies, and the ethics of virtuality.

For example in their video work ‘Footsteps’ which is an encounter with Indigenous romanticism, appropriation, assimilation, White NDN fragility, shame, rocks, nostalgia, and ambiguous authenticity. Hampton curates the multifaceted experience of being light skin and indigenous.

In another example Hampton curates his installation “Histories of Cape Spear,” by showcasing a 766 page binder documenting every iteration of the “Cape Spear” article and “Talk: Cape Spear” page on Wikipedia with a video of the sunrise at Cape Spear Newfoundland recorded by Duane Linklater and a rock from Cape Spear collected by the artist. Finally the last element was the dust gathered during the exhibition installation.

The dust from the installation spaces becomes an element of art in its own right for the artist. In ‘Four Objects’ three strands of sweetgrass (unbraided), the dust remnants from installation, and a disassembled sculpture, Stéphane Mallarmé’s Un Coup de Dés Jamais N'Abolira Le Hasard (A Throw of the Dice will Never Abolish Chance). 2012 is curated as one installation.

There is a level of curating in Hampton’s personal practice reflecting how multiple elements are needed to deal with the complex state of the world today.

‘I subscribe to the belief that museums are not neutral; neutrality sustains the status quo and perpetuates established power and inequity. I think that art needs to engage in the urgent and difficult dialogs that face us today, and that it helps us process concepts that we can’t comprehend or speak about in other ways.

Culture is the space where we debate and come to shared understandings of who we are as a people, it is the fabric through which we bind ourselves together as a society, so whether you intend to or not, art institutions are intervening— it’s a question of how intentional you want to be with it.’ John G Hampton on the role of art in today’s society.

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