Crazymaking Exhibit

by Teagan McFarlane

Crazymaking is about sharing our stories, the beauty, the anger, the confusion and the protest of living in between worlds…. [it] is a visual journey through aboriginal experience, history and healing of mental health issues.

Tania Willard, Introduction to Crazymaking, 2007

man in ceremonial clothing with child sheltered under robes, path leading to woods behindprint with black background and small figure on right looking upred stars, crosses, bottles, wings, faces in print collageblack and white print, hand stretching upward to words Ive found a reasonblue and white print with skeleton in tree and ocean and mountains behindcoloured print with city on one side and woods on the other and 3 butterfly women in the forefrontprint, black background, old sailing ships at sea and words tear for us! written in frontblack and white print with words, arrows, clouds, movement everywhereprint with white church on fire, bear in sky, persons face

Crazymaking was an exhibit created by a group of nine young Indigenous artists in 2007, and was hosted by Gallery Gachet, a Vancouver outsider/dissident artist-run centre dedicated to fostering dialogue on mental health and social and economic marginalization. The Crazymaking contributors participated in a five month residency led by exhibit curator Tania Willard, learning the technique of relief printing and producing art for the exhibit.  This accessible medium created a visual unity for the exhibit, but was also selected by Willard because of its association with socially conscious art and its resemblance to traditional and contemporary art practices of many Indigenous groups in Canada. The result was a compelling set of twenty-six works, each powerful piece bringing its own perspective to conversations about mental health and Indigenous communities.

The Crazymaking project offers an important Indigenous lens on mental health in Canada, in an era when decolonizing artwork grows alongside radical critiques of psychiatry and the disability rights movement, among other struggles against institutionalized power. Unlike participants in anti- psychiatry projects like Shrink Resistant or Still Sane, Crazymaking contributors did not have stories to tell about the mental health system or “mad culture.” Instead, a “what makes me heal” theme is immediately visible in the Crazymaking exhibit, as are questions about power, historical trauma, and very real mental health effects from a different kind of authority – a persistently abusive settler society frequently blind to its own brutal colonial legacy.  Because the project was designed to showcase the art of emerging young Indigenous artists, themes of youth and the experience of being a young Indigenous person in the city also emerged.  Powerful, multi-layered, and highly expressive, the work of the Crazymaking artists provides a much needed glimpse into subjects which are too often missing from consumer/survivor publications, exhibits, and other forms of publicly released creativity.Crazymaking exhibit poster with graphic with a woman with long flowing hairYou can read a 2007 article about the exhibit, titled, Ideas, Dreams, Struggle & Vision: Crazymaking and the Art of Healing, from Briarpatch Magazine.

The Two Worlds residency and the Crazymaking exhibit were funded the Canada Council for the Arts, the City of Vancouver, Vancouver Coastal Health, Redwire Native Youth Media, and private donations.

DEDICATION: This exhibit is dedicated to the memory of Erick Greene.