Duane Linklater



Not on display

Duane Linklater born 1976
Digital print on paper and plastic
Overall display dimensions variable
Presented by the artist and Catriona Jeffries 2019


Accession 2016 is a wall-based work by the Omaskêko Cree artist Duane Linklater. It is composed of a printed digital scan of a typewritten museum accession document, framed in white and draped in a clear plastic sheet. The accession document catalogues the acquisition of a pair of baby boots, made circa 1980 by the artist’s paternal grandmother, Ethel Linklater (1932–2004), into the collection of the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, an art museum located in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. The document indicates the work’s medium, dimensions, valuation, classification, description, use, provenance, cataloguer and date of cataloguing.

The provenance section of the typewritten document notes that the boots were made in Moose Factory, Ontario, and form part of the ‘From Our Hands’ Collection developed by the Ontario Arts Council and gifted to the gallery by the Ontario Government in 1985. This collection emerged from an exhibition of the same title presenting a selection of Indigenous crafts which toured Ontario between 1982 and 1985. The fur baby boots were among five of Ethel Linklater’s works included in the exhibition and subsequently gifted to the gallery as part of this collection.

The boots’ valuation at $22.00 Canadian dollars in 1985 is considered low relative to the value of works curated into touring exhibitions and acquired by museums that are exemplary of artistic and material cultures. At this time, tendencies towards the monetary devaluation of crafts as art objects and of the material cultures of colonised populations were both common, despite the exhibition presumably having been established to celebrate these works. In making this valuation figure accessible to the public in Accession, Linklater calls attention to this historical practice of devaluation and prompts the question of the degree to which it has changed.

The accession document at the centre of the work is both framed and draped in plastic, suggesting that it is an object to be protected. The work was made at the same time as and connects with the artist’s creation of a dedicated platform that could serve as a barrier between the audience and his work in his installation entitled Speculative apparatus for the work of nohkompan and nikosis 2016, also in Tate’s collection (Tate L04334). The large-scale installation was made to hold, display and re-frame the five works by Linklater’s grandmother in the Thunder Bay Art Gallery’s collection, including the boots catalogued in Accession. The artist’s specific composition of Accession, using ready-made, generic gallery materials of frame and plastic sheeting, also imbues the work with strong formal and sculptural qualities, whereby the draped plastic comes to break the rigidness of the frame and direct the eye downwards.

Accession can be exhibited alongside Speculative apparatus for the work of nohkompan and nikosis or independently. When shown together, it adds another dimension to the installation by showing the low valuation of Ethel Linklater’s works at the point at which they were accessioned into the Thunder Bay Art Gallery’s collection in 1985. This adds nuance to Linklater’s gesture of creating custom-made armatures and a platform to barrier off these works in order to re-frame them as fine art and emphasise their value and need for protection.

Exhibited autonomously, Accession inserts itself into a lineage of artworks anchored in making museum practices and documents transparent to audiences, both as a form of institutional critique and as an exploration of the vernacular language of gallery displays, specifically drawing these frameworks into dialogue with the conditions of indigenous communities and their approaches to materials. Accession is representative of a series of assemblages Linklater made in 2016 which amalgamate institutional documents, such as proof of bloodline letters, into formal compositions by draping them in the clear plastic sheets often used to wrap or protect artworks.

Further reading
Duane Linklater and Tanya Lukin Linklater: A Parallel Excavation, exhibition catalogue, Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton 2016.
Frances Loeffler, ‘Duane Linklater’, Frieze, no.184, January–February 2017.
Eugenia Kisin, ‘Durable Remains: Indigenous Materialisms in Duane Linklater’s From Our Hands’, ARTMargins vol.7, no.2, June 2018, p.100.

Carly Whitefield
August 2019

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