Silence, the absence of noise or of any sound at all, can have a negative or at least passive connotation; indeed, the absence of speech can be associated with censorship. That said, silence is also integral to thought. In today’s noise-polluted world, silence can be a powerful tool. Through The Silence of Sovereignty, Dylan Miner proposes that we listen to the silence of certain places as a form of resistance, a quiet strength of aboriginal sovereignty on North American soil.
Given that aboriginal resistance is often depicted, particularly in the media, as noisy protest, how can we envisage a silent aboriginal sovereignty? The silence of Miner’s work is not a total absence of sound, but rather an absence of noise and speech. The artist gathers sound samples from different aboriginal territories throughout Canada and the United States. Through these soundscapes, which are accompanied by etchings of the places from which they came, the land is given a voice. The silence here is necessary; we must be quiet in order to be able, not only to hear, but also to listen to these aboriginal lands. The soundscapes bear witness to the longevity of indigenous peoples’ presence on North American soil. As well as sounds, Miner collects plants and objects; these are included in the exhibition so that it becomes a point of convergence between different geographies, sounds, objects, and places.
Colonialism in Canada and the US has resulted in a system of apartheid (stolen territory, discrimination, and segregation); how, then, can aboriginal places be considered outside of binary spatial constructs such as reservation/non-reservation, urban/rural, colonial/post-colonial or de-colonised space? The different places chosen offer a heterogeneous panorama and represent a variety of types of space and of contemporary aboriginal experience; their diversity allows us to dismantle the fixed binaries that forge our conception of space.
North American borders between provinces, territories, and states are inherited from the colonial period and do not represent aboriginal geography. As cartography is the ultimate colonial tool of territorial expansion, thinking about the American continent outside of these imposed borders represents a form of anti-colonial resistance. Through his work, Miner proposes an alternative cartography based on experience rather than ownership and expansion. It is not a question of documenting, dividing, and allocating space—it is experiential. The series presented proposes an anti-colonial geography of the Anishinaabewaki (First Nation territory, notably of the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Pottawatomi nations) based on the aboriginal experience of land rather than imposed borders. This alternative geography is laid out in articule so that the different sites allocated throughout Canada and the United States are brought together in the gallery space. articule becomes the centre of this new cartography in the heart of Montréal—an unceded Mohawk territory. The silence requisite to think3 is the first stage of reflection; the silence of the exhibition allows other perceptions and a new listening to aboriginal lands. The gallery can therefore become an autonomous site of anti-colonial resistance, of reflection, and of coming together.